Stress management group activities that build camaraderie

Stress management group activities that build camaraderie

Twenty-eight percent of full-time employees reported feeling burned out at work "very often" or "always," and 48% feel burned out "sometimes." Employee burnout has been growing in severity over the years, but 2020 took it to a whole new level. For many, remote working has blurred the lines between work and home life, making it hard to set boundaries, and employees find work getting worse than in previous years.

Organizations need stress management group activities to mitigate burnout—especially if the company is remote. Teams can rest, recharge, and reset while feeling more connected to their coworkers. Here are eight stress management group activities to help you get started.

1. Open up with icebreakers

Icebreakers encourage employees to get to know each other, build rapport, and establish a safe work environment, particularly important when employees are new to the company. Icebreakers are also easy to host via Zoom if working remotely.

According to Jennifer Moss, author of The Burnout Epidemic, “loneliness is a major predictor of professional burnout.” When employees know each other on a personal level, it can help them feel more at ease and supported, mitigating loneliness. In fact, Moss says having close friends at work can mimic the same behaviors and feelings as we have with friends outside of work—having a best friend at work makes someone 50% more likely to stay with a job.

How can you help employees know each other on a personal level? Ask questions or gamify the process—for example, two truths and a lie. Here are some examples of icebreaker questions that dig deep:

  • What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
  • What do you want your legacy to be when you leave the world?
  • What's the most challenging part about working virtually?
  • What's the best book you've ever read, and what did you love about it?

Keep the process informal so employees can answer on the spot and others can ask follow-up questions if they’re intrigued by someone’s response. You don't have to direct these questions toward only new employees—icebreakers are stress management group activities that can help with team-building too. Atlassian found that 55% of high-achieving teams “have a culture of sharing who they are and what’s going on outside of work.”

2. Encourage teamwork through trivia

According to psychologists, trivia can have a positive impact on mental health. Playing trivia games can help increase employees' motivation and establish a bond between team members, and the game's easy to play virtually or in person.

If you're hosting an online trivia night, use an application or a website like a random trivia generator to choose the questions. Pick someone who's not involved in the planning process (and who doesn't need to participate) to be the host; he or she can ask questions and calculate the scores between rounds. Next, group employees into teams—if the event is company-wide, consider sorting each department into teams. Each team can create separate group chats before the game on Slack, Google, or Skype—whichever communication platform your company uses—to discuss before submitting their answers.

To make trivia night worth employees' time and encourage participation, provide an incentive. The prize could be as simple as a gift card.

3. Share common interests during movie nights

Host a company or team-wide movie night (or day) once in a while. Movies are a fun way for team members to bond over shared interests, and you can host them virtually using Netflix Party or in person.

California-based drone manufacturing company Skydio hosted a socially distant movie night for its employees, in addition to regular Netflix watch parties, during the 2020 pandemic. "Company culture is important to us and we don't want to lose that due to the new change," said Jacqueline Sharma, Skydio's vice president of communications.

Make the movie night as engaging as possible, even if it’s a virtual event. Order snacks to be delivered to team members’ homes, or have everyone on a group chat to discuss their thoughts as they watch the movie so they avoid speaking loudly during the film and interrupting the experience for others.

Classic movies like Twelve Angry Men and To Kill a Mockingbird are relevant and offer valuable insights even today.

4. Bond over food with team lunches

A study by Oxford University found that "the more often people eat with others the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives." But "the average adult eats 10 meals out of 21 alone every week. Busy lives and hectic work schedules are the main causes of this solitary dining trend." So why not give employees a chance to disconnect from work for a short period?

Team lunches can help employees informally connect, so organize them regularly. Employees might also feel more comfortable speaking freely (and disconnecting) outside the office, so try to host team lunches away from where employees work.

The various benefits of taking breaks at work are well-known—in fact, taking a break when needed can improve performance. If the team's on a time crunch, even a 15-minute coffee break can help.

Considering present circumstances, it's possible that your team's remote. But it doesn't mean you can't enjoy a meal together. Many companies offer employees a monthly lunch stipend; consider adding a lunch stipend to your company benefits, and encourage employees to use it. All they have to do is hop on a virtual call to share a meal with a colleague. Alternatively, you could make monthly team lunches a part of the organization's culture.

5. Schedule “team health” check-ins to relieve stress

One of the most effective ways to relieve stress is to talk about it. Provide opportunities for your employees/team members to discuss what's on their minds: roadblocks, stressors, and even wins—this is a stress management group activity that can bring team members closer. Doing so regularly can help employees feel comfortable and safe enough to speak up openly.

Atlassian offers a Health Monitor that enables teams to honestly reflect on their work and identify strengths and growth areas. Using it from the beginning—be it the start of a new project or a newly formed team—you can establish a baseline and regularly gauge how well your team works together based on set attributes and determine the next steps accordingly.

Alternatively, you could schedule check-ins weekly or every other week, during which you could informally (and transparently) discuss what's on everyone's mind and find the best way to address issues. If you already have regular team check-ins, consider extending the duration to allocate time to chat about everyone's mental state with work. Establish your own set of attributes or processes to host this in the best possible way to reach the desired outcome, whether that's team members' well-being or workplace happiness.

6. Reduce stress with physical exercise 

Encourage team members to participate in virtual or in-person fitness activities. Prioritizing physical activity is a great way for team members to reduce the effects of stress in the workplace, manage stress, and promote mental health stability. Physical exercise can help team members reach their fitness goals while creating a sense of camaraderie as they share their progress and support one another. 

  • Step count challenges provide a fun and engaging way for team members to reduce stress. Encourage team members to take walking breaks outside during the day and have them practice mindfulness while walking, focusing on their breathing and surroundings. 
  • Stretching breaks are a helpful stress relief activity, especially for employees working remotely. Share quick stretching routines or video demonstrations for team members to follow throughout the day.
  • Online or in-person workout classes can help relieve work stress and promote a sense of community. Whether it's dance workouts, yoga, or strength training, classes are available to suit different preferences and fitness levels. Invite employees to join classes together or organize group sessions where they can virtually connect and exercise as a team. 

7. Promote mindfulness through meditation and deep breathing exercises

Consider scheduling regular mindfulness sessions where employees can engage in guided meditation or deep breathing exercises. Mindfulness activities are a helpful relaxation technique for managing stress, enhancing focus, and promoting a sense of inner calm. 

Encourage participants to find a quiet and comfortable space for meditation. Have them focus on “belly breathing,” allowing their breath to anchor them to the present moment and let go of any negative thoughts or external stressors. Provide team members with helpful resources such as recorded guided meditations or recommend meditation apps that offer a variety of sessions suitable for different levels of experience.

8. Foster creativity and connection with art workshops

Art workshops offer a unique opportunity for employees to express themselves creatively while promoting stress management. Consider organizing creative workshops, including virtual painting, drawing, or crafting sessions, where employees can explore different artistic mediums and connect with their colleagues in a meaningful way.

During these workshops, provide team members with a list of recommended art supplies or send art kits to their homes to ensure everyone has the necessary materials to start. You can invite a professional artist or art instructor to guide the session, or facilitate a collaborative art project where team members contribute individually to create a collective piece. 

Ask employees about stress management group activities

When you host a stress management group activity, try not to assume employees are enjoying it or want to be a part of it. Ask them how they feel about the activities, and, based on their feedback, make changes.

One way you could go about this is through regular company-wide surveys. Surveys are a great way to check in with your employees, and because surveys offer the protection of anonymity, employees are more likely to be honest in their feedback. Based on employees’ responses, improve your stress management group activities accordingly.

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