We are delighted to have Julian Hall from Calm People providing a great blog post on working with stress in intense environment
This article was prompted by a conversation with a colleague who is an expert and specialist in running teams that set up and run events. These events are often one offs or form a series of events in different locations such a rock concerts.
With the nature of the events being strictly deadlined (you can’t start late unless it is part of the diva experience) the amount of kit, the complex nature of the equipment being set up and taken down, these events are the epitome of intense teamwork and intense periods of stress.
With such a complex series of interactions and challenges taking place this article will seek to highlight areas of concern, challenges that may affect different people and offer some helpful tips and advice to both the team members in these events but also the team leaders.
Sources of stress
As an expert in Emotional Resilience my pat answer to this sort of question is normally that 80% of the issues with stress are those of the individual. In other words I am well aware that my relationship with stress is personal to me and affected by my mindset and my general levels of resilience.
That said events management is so intense that it has to be experienced to be believed. The sheer pressure of bringing a disparate group of contractors together for a short period of time and asking them all to do their respective roles perfectly and on time is immense. Then if you factor in issues like the weather and hardware failures you have a recipe for success.
In a 2012 National Labour Force survey the top 3 cited reasons for stress at work were as follows -
Workload (inc. tight deadlines, too much work,pressure or responsibility)
Lack of managerial support
All of these figure in the pressurised environment of events management. Often where team leaders who get squeezed between organisers and teams feel unsupported and decide to pass the stress down the line the levels of bullying are increased compared to other industries.
Signs of stress
Before I launch into list for you to tick off for your own symptoms I would like to make the point that these are for the attention of team leaders as well. There is a commonly held view that in environments where most of the workers are contractors that there is no responsibility for their health and wellbeing required. I would challenge that and will cover it later in more detail when I ask the question “why look after a temporary team?” We categorise the classic signs of stress in two main categories those of Physical signs and the Behavioural/Emotional signs of stress.
High Blood pressure
Sudden changes in behaviour
Increase in habits such as eating, smoking, drinking
Dealing with stress - The Individual
When you are on the job it is difficult to sit down, contemplate your navel and assume a zen like pose to deal with stress. It is just not done as the rest of the world runs around you. There are a couple of things that you can do when you are beginning to get those feelings of being overwhelmed -
Stop and breathe for 2 minutes. If your role requires any element of mental work at all then being overwhelmed with stress and fear will not help at all. Taking 2 minutes to stop and focus on your breathing will clear your mind and allow you to think clearly going forward. That 2 minutes will result in many more minutes gained in quick thinking. Try this - either close your eyes or focus them on a fixed spot. Then take a deep breath in and count for 7 and then exhale slowly counting out for 11. All the time count to yourself and concentrate on breathing from your abdomen.
Take a reality check
This stress you are under is a temporary thing.there is a fixed deadline to achieve and after that the stress stops, at least until the next job. Knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel will always make things appear more achievable rather than hopeless.
Once the event is over - When you are on the bus to the next one you have a short amount of time to rest and recuperate. How quickly and healthily you relax will dictate what shape you are in for the next Adrenalin fuelled set up and take down at the next venue. Using relaxation apps such as Headspace or meditation CDs and self hypnosis recordings will all help quicker, drug free relaxation and proper rest. Your ability to relax will be your weapon of choice against the stress you will be up against at each event.
The team leader
As the figures above show lack of management support is the 2nd biggest contributor to workplace stress so you can have a profound effect on the stress levels within your team. Helping with stress does not necessarily mean taking work away from people. Managers can support teams in the following ways -
● Being absolutely clear about roles, responsibilities and expectations. Clarity helps. Lack of clarity is really unhealthy.
● Clarity around behaviours is essential. When stress comes in respect often leaves the team. A team leader who gathers their team and agrees with them the team charter of respect, positive regard, supporting each other and challenging behaviours but not the individual is the one who is putting strong foundations in place. The team leader who does this at every event irrespective of how often is the one who will have consistently high performing teams
● Checking in with people and seeing how they are getting on with support in mind. There is checking in order to cover yourself and blame others and there is checking with a view to encouraging. Choose which you think is most effective. I know which is for me.
● Being solutions focused and encouraging others to be so.
● With new teams be aware of the stages of teams development which are named as Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Research the different interventions that a team leader can make at each stage to help. For some of you this is a new team every event so it is well worth knowing.
● Recognise people for their contribution to the job. Praise is a huge motivator and the words “thank you” do not put you in debt.
Why take of care of a temporary team?
● Stress causes behavioural challenges. Event management is a risky enough environment without putting other issues in the way.
● Unhealthy stress saps energy and diverts focus away from the job in hand. Teams working under decent pressure but less stress perform at their optimum.
● You do not have a endless supply of labour. The economy is changing and people are beginning to realise they have a choice about where they work.If you do not take care of the contractors they will contract to someone else.
● The fact that you do not have an endless supply of labour also means that while there will be constant changes you will have team members that are continually with you for long periods. They may be contractors and your responsibility is low but one day soon there will be a court case where a contractor takes the main contractor to court for stress.
So there we have it. Doom, gloom and stress everywhere………..Actually it is not all that bad. Remember a healthy amount of stress is a performance improver and many people thrive on it. Keeping balance and looking after people will stand you in good stead and bring you plenty of success.
Visit www.calmpeople.co.uk for more information on emotional resilience