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Adding resources alone will not reduce stress in organizations

  • Between 2010 and 2015 a 70% increase in stress and psychiatric related sick leave days was reported. Many organizations see the solution as adding more resources but this results in more complexity, additional processes and longer lead times for decisions. Stress levels are not always lowered. Improved working environments are achieved by creating real and efficient teams.

Stress-induced sick leave is sky-rocketing. Adding additional resources alone, which is a common reaction, is not a long-term solution for this growing problem. Rather, organizations need to focus on team efficiency and co-operation within the existing set-up of people, not adding additional resources.

Improved knowledge integration and efficiency in teams helps to alleviate workplace stress.

Most groups spend about 40% of their time on the actual task they are set to perform, the rest is lost in managing social interactions. With the right methods, social interactions can be improved to free up resource to focus on productivity.

If adding resources solved the problem of time pressures and stress, the results of this would already be evident. However, without simultaneously applying a focus on efficient co-operation and knowledge integration to provide more support and time to complete tasks, stress is compounded by increased complexity. This becomes difficult for both employees and managers to navigate.

Studies show that both health and economic resources can be better utilised when the ability to co-operate is enhanced. In a study of teams on hospitals in England it was shown that some teams lost fewer patients, made fewer mistakes, had lower number of sick leave days and were more satisfied and happy team members. These teams were defined by three common criteria:

  • A clearly defined goal
  • Members needed each other to fulfill the goal
  • Team performance was constantly discussed and reviewed.

The study also showed that teams not fulfilling these criteria would achieve better results by letting members work alone.

Teams are essential in solving the increasingly complex challenges facing the public sector. However, teams are not efficient by default. We know time spent on the actual task can be greatly increased when investments are put into developing both individual and team co-operation abilities. It follows that the solution to reducing stress levels is not simply additional resources, it must also include developing the organization’s ability to co-operate - or its Collective Intelligence. Only then can efficiency increase and sick leave decrease. As a bonus, this will also contribute to more satisfied and happy employees.

Madelen Porserud