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How to improve your team’s mental wellbeing without spending any money?

Working as an occupational health psychologist and consulting in the field of work and organizational psychology, I often encounter ideas on how to make the team members feel better. When I have encountered ideas on how to make people feel better, I also have noticed that people are often a little bit lazy when they think about interventions for better mental wellbeing at work. Many of them think that only working less makes for better mental wellbeing.

This type of thinking gives raise to flawed confrontational thinking between productivity and mental wellbeing. Our societies are based on the idea of increasing the overall productivity and many people see a direct conflict between the interventions to increase mental wellbeing and productivity because of the misunderstanding that only working less makes for better mental wellbeing. However, this is not the case. In this blog, we will tell you about three easy options to do something when people think their workload is too high.

1. Make sure your team members have clear goals

Every team and every team member should have clear goals as having clear goals helps to steer resources to right tasks and to having an appropriate workload. Group discussions about the goals are time well spent and will increase the productivity and mental wellbeing of the team.

Here is how you can have a discussion within your team about this topic. First, you should have a discussion on how to define goals. It is helpful if the whole team can list all their goals for the week. This is something that helps with reflection. For example, each team member can reflect after each day whether their goals for that day were realistic and how they felt that day. When a team member feels that the goals were not realistic or too easy to accomplish, it makes sense to adjust the goals. After this exercise you could get back to the discussion of how to define appropriate goals and pick up the best solutions.

Note, if you are a team lead, it is wise to check from the team members if they have been following the process daily. It is important that the team follows the process, but it is also important that any potential problems or questions are raised or discussed.

It is helpful to share best practices on when certain tasks should be done. For example, most people have the most energy during the morning and this is when they should do the hardest tasks.

Naturally, following specific goals is sometimes difficult, as we are all human, so make sure team members have support for self-regulation should they need it. Do not leave those team members alone that have problems with concentrating on their goals. It is always beneficial to understand the reasons and any motivation for not meeting goals or not progressing with them.

2. Share knowledge within the team to distribute work more evenly

It is important to share knowledge within the team, because if team members have access to each other's knowledge they can work on each other's tasks. It is also helpful with offering variance for everyone and helps to avoid situations where someone on the team is extremely busy and is blocking the project from continuing. Normally in these kinds of situations the person whose resources are blocking the project from continuing, tries to work longer hours and gets burnout and then there is no one to do the work.

When you want to improve the knowledge sharing within your team, there are certain things you can always do. First, you should have a discussion, as a team, on what kinds of processes, rewards and structures for knowledge sharing help to distribute work more evenly. You should also discuss if there are some ways to make team culture more encouraging for sharing the workload. Sometimes the issue is also in how people are compensated. In those situations, it is helpful to consider a team results-based wage or bonus model.

The typical problem in many expert organizations is how the knowledge sharing is done from the more experienced team members to the less experienced ones. Ideally, the more experienced people should have an active role working with the people they share information to. This can include them being coaches or having more responsibilities allocated to them. 

The knowledge sharing should always start with one person. Choose a team member that typically has the heaviest workload or a unique skill set. At the start of the process, you should choose what skill or knowledge will be shared from the first team member to other team members. Remember that the goal is to take workload off the person in question. Other things to consider are to whom the skill or knowledge is shared and how the knowledge sharing is done.

Make sure to help the person who is sharing their knowledge in any way you can. You can do this by creating the agenda for the knowledge sharing sessions or reviewing the materials together. Team members participating in the knowledge sharing should also take notes. Make sure to promote an open attitude.

3. Have a better process for setting deadlines

Unrealistic deadlines cause harmful stress. Better process for setting deadlines helps to avoid it. Overall, understanding the relation between resources, planning and timelines is key to any good process for setting deadlines.

Any improvement starts with acknowledging the current situation. You should discuss, with your team, past projects in which deadlines were set up with unrealistic or too aggressive expectations. What did these projects have in common? Naturally, do not forget to discuss any good examples the team members have had about deadlines made correctly.

When you start working on defining a better process for setting deadlines, make sure that the process for setting deadlines has a step where the available resources are compared to the project timeline. Aggressive deadlines should only be allowed if you have enough resources available. List the possible factors that cause delays in projects by comparing to previous projects. Try to find common themes and make sure to write those down.

When you work on the process it is important to make sure that the process also has a step for a buffer for unpredictable delays and that the project planning process involves individuals who have in-depth knowledge about the subject matter of the project. Lastly, it is also very helpful to know the overall workload of team members when planning projects.

It is common that teams have good conversations on topics such as this, but nothing really happens afterwards. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the process born out of the discussions among the team is properly documented. Also, make sure that team members do not fall victim to perfectionism. Perfectionism can lead to situations where it is difficult to meet deadlines. In order to help the team members, identify when something is good enough, you can share examples of when something is ready enough. Lastly, do not forget that people need positive encouragement and rewards when meeting deadlines.

I hope that these three tips help your team organize your work better and to be more efficient in the future.

When you want to make your team’s work smoother and to have better mental wellbeing in your team, try our tool here.

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