How Stress Can Help Your Productivity At Work

We all know that stress is listed among the main health risk factors together with smoking and alcohol. We consider stress as a really bad thing. We blame it for sleeping disorders, anxiety, weight gain and literally everything else.

Also, we use stress as an excuse for a low productivity at work. If only we could eliminate stress completely from our lives, we would immediately become more productive and efficient. But what if we change our mind and review stress as a stimulus for our productivity?

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Professor Ian Robinson, the author of the book “The Stress Test: how pressure can make you stronger and sharper”, says that a moderate level of stress at work is a good motivator. It feeds our curiosity and urges us to try better.  The dependency between stress and productivity is known as “The Yerkes-Dodson Law”.

Low level of stress leads to the low level of productivity. People don’t have enough reasons to push themselves and spend too much time on the tasks. On the contrary, the increase in stress level leads to better performance.

But the productivity keeps increasing only to a certain level. If the peak point of productivity in achieved and the stress is still very high, the performance starts to drop, leading to stressed-out, anxious and inefficient worker.

What The Stress Levels Actually Depend On

First of all, the optimal stress level depends on the complexity of the task. Imagine a routine task like checking email — you could spend two, three hours on it, but knowing you have other things to do urges you to complete that task quicker. In this cases, stress in only beneficial for keeping the work pace fast.

On the contrary, performing complicated tasks is already a challenge and requires more focus, which can be best achieved in a non-stressful environment.

A recent study of 2,000 Americans — summed up in a short video by Harvard Business Review — showed that on average, the perceived stress level is estimated as 13 points on a scale of 0 to 40. Fortunately, that level of stress is also most beneficial for work performance.

With age, the stress levels tend to decrease. This is generally explained by a higher position and better control over your own job. Or might it be just the seasoned wisdom?

One of the factors affecting perceived stress level is gender. It turns out that women are slightly more likely to feel stressed than men. Income and education matter, too. People with higher annual income and education levels are more prone to stress, the study finds.

Manage Stress For Better Performance

Using stress wisely, you can boost your team’s productivity and get your employees engaged. Here are some recommendations on how to get a healthy dose of stress:

  • Set deadlines. While being a significant stress factor for employees, deadlines keep your project moving forward. But unreasonable deadlines put too much pressure and can provoke procrastination, anxiety and even sabotage. So be realistic when setting up the deadlines. Involve your team in the time estimation process. It will let them take responsibility for the final result.
  • Set higher goals and expand responsibilities. New challenges are vital for employee motivation. Without them, your team might get bored, and the performance level would decrease. Create new tasks and introduce new responsibilities that match the skill level of your employees.
  • Observe. Use the “Hawthorne effect” also recognized as the observer effect to increase productivity. This effect means that people behave in another way when they know that they are being watched. However, putting cameras around the office or tracking each keystroke would be too much and would feel like an invasion into the personal space of your employees. Instead of that, try a time tracker. It will trigger the observer effect and also will provide additional information about your team’s performance.
  • Use diverse forms of collaboration. Try out a different kind of collaboration than one that you were using before. For instance, organize a brainstorming, create a mind map together with your team. A change of routine creates a small amount of stress and encourages new ideas.

Challenging, But Not Overwhelming

It is true that the extreme amount of stress is destructive to our physical and mental health. However, we often tend to think that stress should be avoided entirely.

Learning how to use moderate stress to your benefit can boost performance and make us more creative. So go ahead and find new challenges for you and your team!

If you are interested in even more lifestyle-related articles and information from us here at Bit Rebels, then we have a lot to choose from.

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