Can Stress Be Good for Us: Put the Right Amount of Pressure on Your Team

Talks about stress and pressure often comes with a negative undertone. It’s not entirely wrong – too much stress from unhealthy expectations and micromanagement is, beyond doubt, a “productivity killer”. But too much of anything is never good. As stated in a Harvard Business Review, “if you’re trying to drum up new business, get a customer’s order out on time, or hit your numbers for the quarter, a little stress goes a long way.” And when done right, it shouldn’t be intimidating at all.

Are There Advantages of “Pressure”?

Notwithstanding the common notion that stress is bad, have you ever considered that stress might actually be good for us? Let’s first remind ourselves that everyone is different in the way we approach work. For example, task-oriented individuals tend to perform better when there is structure in place – whether that be a ticking clock or a directive plan from their managers. For them to be driven at their jobs, pressure might actually work in their favor.

Knowing now, especially, that many of us won’t be returning to the office completely, pressure in the form of discipline can also give remote employees a better sense of direction moving forward. This isn’t a call for leaders to micromanage teams per se – rather, setting expectations and boundaries where employees aren’t over- or under-working is important. A right amount of push can help eliminate the uncertainty and lack of clear goals people face when working from home.

To find the right level of pressure, you need to implement the right strategies. Here are three tips you should follow:

Tip 1: Identify Your Team’s Stress Level

Of course, whether stress is really good for you is subjective. What may be a high-pressured situation to one person may not be the same for another. Hence, the first step to proper management is identifying the stress levels on your team. Perhaps you’ll need to push more or pull back, starting that conversation with your employees is key.

Tip 2: Set Clear Deadlines & Expectations

Applying pressure is a tricky form of art. Mature adult professionals certainly don’t need anyone to breathe over them every fifteen minutes just to “check-in”. As a leader, there are ways to put pressure on your teams without intruding their creative and work freedom.

For example, allow your employees to set their own deadlines. Individuals with higher levels of control over their work tend to have more positive effects on their overall well-being and job satisfaction. Under appropriate expectations, give them the option to choose when they get their work done. This can also train them to become a more proactive planner.

Tip 3: Provide Enough Support

When there’s pressure, there needs to be support. As explained by the Job Demands-Resources Model, work engagement is achieved only when there is a balance of high job demands and resources. Managers of each teams must know what is needed for your employees to thrive. Is it greater flexibility? An upgraded software? Or new equipment? Perhaps they need better recognition and incentives?

Remember, when there’s too little pressure, employees are more likely to procrastinate, get distracted, and struggle to concentrate. Healthy amounts of “good stress”, however, can help your team stay focused and productive. So don’t’ wait and set a deadline to get that conversation started with your employees now!