Stress is one of the main things that people cite as the cause of their problems. When you are worried about too many things, your focus lowers and you cannot work well. We also blame it for a plethora of other problems as well. Things like sleep disorders and anxiety are often “victims” of stress. However, one of the biggest issues that people have due to stress is a lack of motivation and productivity.
This is an important problem that employers and project managers face – amplified by the current health crisis. As COVID-19 spreads around the globe, more and more people are getting worried – about their health, their jobs as well as the health of their families. This, in turn, causes a decline in productivity that is harmful to so many.
But what if we were able to look at stress differently? Is there a way to make it work for us, from setting up a good project execution plan to even boosting productivity? Is stress that bad? These are the questions that we will explore today!
The Yerkes-Dodson Law Gives Useful Insight Into Stress
We start at the beginning of the 20th century – in 1908, to be precise. Two psychologists, Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham examined stress (they called it “arousal”) and the ways it affects productivity – or “performance,” as they called it. What they found was an empirical relation between these two – and called it the Yerkes-Dodson Law. The conclusion was that, contrary to popular belief, people perform better when they are under a certain amount of stress.
However, it’s important to note that they found that there is a certain stress threshold that you should not cross. If you do, then the productivity drops down as easily as it was climbing up. If you graph it, you get a bell curve which increases and decreases as the stress levels grow, with its peak being the threshold.
This Law Doesn’t Apply The Same Way
Of course, you need to remember that this stress threshold is not the same for everyone. It can significantly vary from person to person. Someone can deal with a lot of stress and still come out on top, while others crumble with the slightest pressure.
The other factor that can change and shape up this graph is how complex a task you need to do is. You might have even realized that you do routine tasks easier. And so, these are the ones you do faster when your stress levels are high, while more complex things require you to focus on them – thus a lack of stress is a must.
What this means, though, is that – up to a certain point – you can use stress to boost your productivity. It’s up to you to adjust how you stress yourself when compared to the complexity of the task, of course. But how does this finding translate to the workplace?
Setup Deadlines to Boost Productivity
One of the most common causes of stress is deadlines. You might be perfectly content to just relax at your home and do nothing – but as a project deadline approaches, you will have to sit down and start working fast and hard. So, even though you might not like it – the ever-approaching deadline is what pushes you forward. Conversely, if you had no end date in sight, then you might be tempted to keep relaxing never even finish anything!
So, you can stress your team a little by setting a project deadline. Naturally, the closer this deadline is, the stress levels will be higher. However, this “technique” can be a double-edged sword. If you set up unreasonable deadlines, you can cause too much stress – which will lower the productivity down, or even make people quit the project! Consider all these aspects when creating a project timeline.
Monitor Your Team’s Progress
While on the topic of creating timelines, this can be another great thing that you can do to encourage your team to work. There are two big perks for monitoring the way they use their time when working.
First, it will stress your workers – when they know they are being “watched” – and so, their productivity levels will increase. Secondly, you will get a clear and detailed insight into where your resources are going, how they are divided and just how much your workers spend on each task. What’s more, you might end up learning a lot from monitoring the time, and later changing up the workflow. This will make your team more productive and efficient, and the working environment better for everyone.
Luckily, all you need for this is some reliable time-tracking software or a better project management app. Many of these will allow you to do both – set up the tasks and deadlines for your team, while also giving you real-time updates on the project completion. This will also give you a bonus since it will make reporting easier. Thus, your clients and shareholders will also be able to get an insight into your process, which they will highly appreciate.
Setting Up Goals & Expectations for the Team
Other than stress, the second factor that can cause unproductivity is boredom – and some even say that its effect is higher than the prior! Unfortunately, when working from home, people tend to get bored very fast – seeing the same things every day and doing the same things day after day can do this. To fight this, you need to keep your employees busy.
What is the best way to fight boredom? Stress – of course! A great way to do it is to offer complex tasks to your team. These will raise the intellectual and skill levels in your team – and cause them just enough stress to keep working!
And so, start relying on your team more, and giving them bigger challenges. Not only will you build up your team and empower them, but you will make them productive. After all, they will want to prove that you were right for trusting them! What’s more, you will also be able to delegate your chores to them. This way, you reduce your workload and make it easier for you! In the end, you will come out on top with a stronger team!
Make Stress Work For You!
As you can see, stress does not need to be bad for your productivity. Instead, you can use it as a powerful tool to boost your team’s efficiency and motivate them to work! A thing to keep in mind, though, is not to overwhelm your workers with unreal expectations.
This will cause the opposite effect and might even make them quit working on the project. However, if you are smart about it, using stress will give you a productive team ready to tackle any challenge!
About the author: Content writer at Nifty, leading project management tool. Petar Djordjevic is also a Math student working to become a professional novel writer. In the meantime, he is learning about online writing, content optimization and ways to boost client’s website users’ experience.