"Stressful." This is the word most people use to describe their work. In fact, studies show that 80 percent of people feel stress on the job. So if you ever feel that gnawing pressure when you think about work, know that you are not alone. You are among the stressed-out majority.
Sure, you do your best to manage the symptoms. (Another aspirin, anyone?) But if you really want to eliminate work stress, I suggest you dig deeper and look outside of yourself. And new research supports this approach.
Science reveals a surprising tactic that can help: team spirit. Researchers in Germany conducted a large-scale project focusing on different methods of mental training and the effect that training has on the brain, body, and social behavior. What they found is that focusing on social connectedness can reduce your susceptibility to stress.
Training your brain to think more in terms of "we" than "I" helps with empathy, compassion, and the ability to see from various perspectives. In other words, the more connected you feel with your team, the less stress you will feel. It makes sense -- team spirit is about believing in your company, the people you work with, and what you are trying to accomplish together.
I have seen the power of this firsthand. But I also have to admit that team spirit was not always on my radar. When we were first building our entirely remote team at Aha!, we looked for a few essential qualities in candidates, but team spirit was not initially on the list. This was a mistake. Without team spirit, you could end up hiring a slew of talented jerks. Now team spirit is one of the key traits we look for in new hires.
Here are three meaningful ways you can encourage more of it at work:
You need to start by taking personal responsibility for your work and action. This means working hard to improve yourself and helping your teammates do the same. If you are struggling, admit it and turn to your teammates for help. The more you work to connect with your team, the easier these challenges will be to overcome. You should also try to recognize when those around you are struggling. Sharing your own knowledge and skills with your team helps everyone get through tough times -- lowering stress levels for all.
Truly hearing your co-workers helps you see things from their perspective -- again shifting your thoughts to "we" instead of "me." This kind of close listening helps you become a more compassionate and empathetic teammate. So when differing opinions inevitably arise, you do not need to let your blood boil or restrain yourself from shouting, "No!" Rather, you will think about the viewpoint through the eyes of your teammate -- giving it careful consideration and a meaningful response.
This may sound contradictory, but giving 100 percent to your team and company can lower your stress. Of course, this only works when you can trust that the people around you will also give 100 percent back. It goes both ways. So, if you are working for a company that feels like it just takes, takes, and takes -- without giving you anything in return -- try refocusing your energy on your team. Be the positive and supportive team player. This kind of attitude is rewarding for both you and the people around you, even if your company culture is less than ideal.
Yes, the majority of workers say they are "stressed out." But you do not need to be a statistic. Work to make those connections strong, and you might start to see your stress levels fall.
Team spirit is not about walking into the office each day and shouting, "Rah rah!" It is about the connections you make and what you can achieve together.
How do you build team spirit at work?