How can I help colleagues with stress?

There are many reasons why colleagues may be stressed, some of which can be changed, and some that can’t, where you need to help people manage as well as possible

Here are three ways that you could start to work on this with your team: using ‘stress and support’, using the ‘doughnut’ and doing a person-centred team review.

Stress and Support

A way to start to support individual colleagues is to use a process called ‘stress and support’. This builds on one-page profiles, and thinking about ‘good days and bad days’ and helps each person to think about what areas of their work makes them feel stressed. You start by identifying the key areas of the person’s work that are the most likely to cause stress, and list these in the first column. It is easy to assume that everyone will know when someone is stressed, but team members may show that they are stressed in different ways. When I am stressed my sleep pattern changes, and I may become snappy and irritable. Here is Vicky’s stress and support.  Once you tease out together how the person shows that they are stressed, (so that colleagues can spot this if it is not obvious) the next column helps the person to think through what they can do about this personally, and what they would like their colleagues to know or do to support them. My blog illustrates how I have used Stress and Support in my  life.


Research suggests that one of the biggest stressors for people at work is not knowing what is expected of them. Most job descriptions give only the broadest description of what the person’s responsibilities are. The doughnut is based on the work of Charles Handy and is a way to discuss and describe what the person’s core responsibilities are, where they can use their judgment, experiment and be creative, and what is outside of their responsibilities. Here is an example for the people who support Ben, and this became part of the person specification and job description. You can use the doughnut for individual roles and responsibilities, or for a whole team to look at their responsibilities in relation to the teams purpose.

Person-centred team reviews

Another source of stress can be how colleagues work together. One way to find out what is happening in the team in relation to stress is to discover what is working and not working for each team member. One way to do this is through a person-centred team review.  You might already be familiar with using person-centred reviews with individuals. Here are the headings that are used:

  • What we like and admire about each other and the team as a whole
  • What is important to us at this point in time
  • What is important in the future
  • How best to support our team
  • What is working/not working from different perspectives
  • Questions to answer and unresolved issues

These three processes can be used individually, or as part of becoming a person-centred team. The way that your team works together would be recorded as part of a person-centred team plan. Here is the HSA team’s person-centred team plan, and it includes stress and support, and the outcomes and actions from their person-centred team review. You can read more about person-centred teams in this book .

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