Finance teams can be stressful! A little advice from HBR & Barden might help...

We all can see that the scale and speed of business is increasing at an alarming rate. On one hand, the rapid pace of digitisation, hyperconnectivity and globalisation enables business success, which as professionals, we’re all in favour of, but at what personal cost? 24/7 working, the difficulty of not being able to ever fully disconnect, and an increased sense of accountability to be as responsive as possible, all the time? Which, in turn, comes with an increasing occurrence of workplace related stress and a high risk of employee burnout.

Rich Fernandez, in his recent HBR article, “5 Ways to Boost Your Resilience at Work”, argues that building resilience is a key factor in managing stress and reducing burnout. It’s an interesting concept; resilience, defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty, is undermined by stress. As your mind and body become stressed, even the most resilient amongst us will find it more difficult to recover from the impact hyperconnected working lives have on us. Therefore, it’s a logical argument to say that by building resilience, we will cope better with stress. But how?

Optimism and objectivity in practice

We’ve all heard of practices such as mindfulness, and even if you’re not a follower, you will surely see the value in taking time out of 24/7 connectivity to gain perspective and restore your energy. Much as we ‘used’ to have weekends to disconnect, ensuring that you do set aside time, during the working day as well as during ‘down time’ to totally disconnect from technology and your work stressors is vital in being able to step outside of your issues and look at them from a fresh and less involved perspective. This objectivity, in turn, leads to optimism in problem resolution, which build resilience, and reduces stress.

Build the ability to stay balanced and manage your emotions

When you’re managing a heavy workload and high levels of problems, it’s likely you’re switching between cognitive tasks repeatedly: emails to strategy meeting, Board teleconference to difficult performance appraisal. This rollercoaster of tasks and focuses stresses your cognitive functions, causing a feeling of stress and imbalance, and heightened emotional sensitivity.

Try to ‘chunk’ your workload. Break your day, and week, into 2 to 3 hour sections were you can manage similar tasks together. Do all 1-2-1 performance chats in the same afternoon, or block out a morning to think through some difficult strategic issues.

Remember to create a sense of safety and collectiveness

My last point is simple in concept, but easily forgotten in a high stress environment. When you’re stressed, it’s easy to forget the personal touches that make your team feel ‘safe’ and connected to a collective purpose. When a leader is visibly stressed, it creates tension, which in turn, breeds stress and can create discord and dissent. Remembering to keep those communication channels open will not only create less stress around you, it will make you and your team more resilient and responsive to managing difficult situations.

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