Stress doesn't mean workload

Every team from time to time has a period of over-normal workload. This might be a huge project they are running, unplanned increase in customer service requests or, best to have, a huge growth of the business that the team was not prepared for. Almost everyone feels stress when facing up the huge demand and responsibilities. That’s natural and it’s a great opportunity for growth as you usually push the team outside of their comfort zone in such cases.

However, stress is not only correlated to the amount of work. When the times are dynamic and there is a strong pull for more work, a manager’s job is to motivate, enable progress and cheer the team. One of such activities is of course conversation, especially about stress and how to deal with it. If you are a manager, you should keep the conversation open. Don’t ask why are you stressed by the workload, ask why are you stressed. Let people talk and understand their perspective. The truth is that your team might be satisfied by the amount of work, feeling challenged and on the run. But the true reason might be the question what will happen after that, or how does it move them forward in their careers, or anything else.

On the other hand, when the times are slower, as a manager don’t let yourself forget about stress. Solid but moderate pace doesn’t mean that nobody is stressed. Don’t avoid conversations about the feelings or assume that if you are happy, everyone else is. If you are a team member, you should raise the flag whenever you feel unsafe.

Burnout and stress don’t always mean workload. Always watch out for stress signs, even if workload in the team is moderate. One of the common failures of the managers is to not probe and drive conversations about stress assuming that everyone feels like the manager himself. Even if you feel that you have everything under control, the workload is moderate and everyone is safe, don’t assume - ask.