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Cost Effective Ways to Enhance Engagement and Reduce Stress in Your Team

Research has shown that an engaged workforce is a productive workforce, Yet, faced with multiple demands, information glut, and an expectation that team members be available 24/7, for many, work has become more about a list of to-dos rather than a meaningful and passionate experience. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, job pressure is the number one cause of stress in the United States.
The Cost of Stress
Stress reduces employee engagement, limits productivity and breakthrough thinking, and  may create conflicts among team members.

It’s also expensive. In 2014 alone, the cost to employers in stress-related healthcare and missed work was $300 billion. Although it is the individual’s responsibility for how he or she relates to pressure– the energy of change–if you want your associates to be engaged, high performing, and healthy, you need to create an environment that supports wellbeing.

Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Programs and Their Impact on Productivity
1)Many large organizations, such as Aetna, Google, Goldman Sachs and Best Buys are offering mindfulness meditation and/or yoga programs to help employees at all levels deal with often overwhelming pressure. At Aetna, more than one-quarter of the company’s work force of 50,000 has participated in at least one class, and those who have report, on average, a 28 percent reduction in their stress levels, a 20 percent improvement in sleep quality and a 19 percent reduction in pain.
They also became more effective on the job, gaining an average of 62 minutes per week of productivity each, which Aetna estimates is worth $3,000 per employee per year. Demand for the programs continues to rise; every class is overbooked.

Other organizations such as Cellular One, The Wharton School, the Marines and a world-class beauty company , which chooses to remain unnamed, has offered what they call mindfulness in action programs  based on Aikido, a Japanese martial art,  which teaches the harmonious resolution of conflict.  These programs teach participants how to remain calm focused and centered under increasing levels of pressure by developing muscle memory and reprinting their nervous systems to override reactive patterns for more effective responses.

Other Examples of Building a Culture to Enhance Engagement and Reduce Stress
Beyond these mind/body approaches there are a multitude of ways to build a culture that enhances engagement and reduces stress.  Here are a few examples from my recently published book, Stress Less Achieve More: Simple Ways to Turn Pressure into a Positive Force in Your Life.

2)Tim Arnst, Sr.V.P. of HR International at Universal Studios Parks and Resorts recognized that people’s attention becomes scattered when they are unclear of the organization’s  strategy.  Unable to determine what assignments or aspects of their work are crucial to the organizations’ success, they become less engaged and unproductive because they don’t know if their work makes a difference.

In most organizations, the C-Suite’s objectives get filtered down through the organization with leaders telling their teams who in turn tell theirs.  Like the old game of telephone, the message becomes so filtered  it’s not only hard to know what’s real, the message loses its initial vitality.

Tim counteracted this by bringing the entire human resource group together — his VPS to his coordinators –for a strategy session. He explained why the strategy was important, what he saw each division doing to get them to their goals, and the three critical things that needed to be done in each area including why they were important to the overall business strategy. “I could see the relief on their faces. I could see them thinking I see how I fit; I see how I am a part of this bigger thing. And the bigger thing is not just HR, it’s the business. ”

3)Vishen Lakhiana, is founder and CEO of Mindvalley, a small personal development company in Malaysia that is doing big things. His leading edge organizational practices create a positive work environment that engages people while decreasing stress and raising revenues.

Here are a couple of ways he does that:

When things go wrong at Mindvalley– the server goes down or someone makes a big mistake– instead of focusing on the negative and how to fix it, employees make vision boards showing where they want their project to be. This approach helps them release their inner critic and invites breakthrough thinking.  In most cases by focusing on their vision they come up with solutions that make the problem irrelevant. This approach develops “positive stamina.”

“Awesome Reports” are another approach used at Mindvalley.  Instead of the usual meetings in which people focus on what went wrong, their weekly meetings focus on what went right and honor that week’s outstanding employees. A day before the meeting, employees send Vishen a weekly update that includes sales records that were broken, innovations, new product launches etc. as well as amazing things they did outside of work.

These are compiled into a motivating and uplifting PowerPoint that celebrates their successes. Mindvalley understands that positive feelings are contagious and thus does their best to spread them.

4)A fourth powerful approach was used by then start-up company Cellular One back in the 1980s. Every start-up knows the excitement and stress that comes with launching a company. It is even worse when the industry is new and you’re racing through unmarked territory.

At these times, people’s shadow– the unacceptable and often negative emotions and impulses of our personality like power striving, greed, envy and selfishness–emerges. When leaders operate from their shadow they send ripples of negativity throughout the company, which increases stress and limits performance and employee engagement. To counter this tendency, consultants Chris Thorsen and Richard Moon, met with Cellular One’s senior team and had them explore their shadows.

Leaders identified their conditioned responses, their anger triggers and the subsequent behaviors that demonstrated when their shadows had taken over. They also made agreements regarding how they wanted to be treated at this time. For example, did they want to be immediately confronted or left alone for a day? Knowing upfront how colleagues wanted to be treated saved individuals and the team a lot of energy, time and aggravation. It prevented interactions that would spark and transmit the shadow from further rippling through the organization.

These common sense approaches enhance relationships and performance. What are some of the ways you reduce stress on your team? Please leave a comment.

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About the author: Aimee Bernstein is a change accelerator in the areas of leadership, organization and personal development  as well as  trail blazer in the field  of stress reduction/mindfulness in action.  She is the author of Stress Less Achieve More. She can be reached at www.openmindadventures.com or at www.stresslessachievemore.com.

Additional information: The Talent Managment Certification Program (TMCP) provides you with the best practices in Workforce Planning, Talent Acquisition and Branding, Creating an Employer Value Proposition, Hiring and Selecting Strategies, Behavioral Interviewing, Onboarding Processes, Career Development, Engagement Practices, Retention Strategies, Performance and Feedback Processes, Creating a Talent Pipeline and Career Development Strategies, Developing High Potentials, Creating a Talent Pool, Conducting Calibration Discussions, and Identifying Metrics to Measure Results.