Work related stress has become a major public health issue in many Western countries. For business this is bad news. A stressed workforce can lead to decreased productivity, which potentially could have damaging effects on a company. Now more than ever, companies need to find effective ways of working that reduce, rather than increase stress levels.

Some companies are proactively taking steps to modernise their office culture and the way they operate. To achieve this, forward-looking businesses are evolving to become social businesses. This approach encourages employees, and their clients, to openly engage with each other. Businesses that integrate social collaboration tools increase transparency and promote open communication, which can contribute to the overall wellbeing of employees.

Here are some tips on how to succeed with, and stress-proof projects.

  1.  Start with collaborative planning

Today’s project managers control, make decisions and act as the information hub for an entire project. A project can often be dependent on a project manager’s capacity and accessibility. This can lead to stress, which could have a damaging impact on a business. Put simply, often the project manager is the project linchpin. This can be destructive for co-workers, who are unable to work without instructions from the project manager. Exclusion from the project-making decision process can also cause stress and is ultimately inefficient.

Collaborative planning is the solution to this problem. The idea is founded on participation; all project members should share responsibility and contribute equally. No individual should be excluded or only given access to selected information. All employees involved, directly or indirectly, with a project should be invited to actively participate. By encouraging transparency and active involvement, project managers demonstrate their confidence in the project team.

When all project members are involved in the planning process, they develop an in-depth understanding of the project. When engagement levels increase, stress levels decrease.

  1.  Learn project management for the next generation

Social Project Management is a definition of project management for the next generation. It is, undoubtedly, a prerequisite for a successful project. Managers need to appreciate what motivates people, encourage trusting work relationships and understand how the right tools can lead to greater engagement in a project. This will give people personal responsibility and in turn passion for their projects.

When people share the same information, the risk of the unforeseen is minimised. This helps to reduce the sudden spikes in workload that can lead to stress. Social Project Management represents a dramatic shift, which puts collaboration at the heart of all project management. Transparency and continuous dialog will help to make all project members feel involved and motivated, which will yield better results.

  1.  Create the right conditions using the right technology

Social technology has the potential to reduce stress. By combining visual planning with open and transparent communication, people are more engaged and stress levels decrease. One prerequisite for collaboration in the virtual project space is access to intuitive project tools; working together must be easy. It is also important to visualize progress towards a project’s completion. Project Managers should always have a digital action board that visually supports project planning. This gives project members and stakeholders a quick and clear overview of the project’s objectives, and how it has progressed. For benchmarking purposes, a project manager can connect action points to steps on the visual timeline. That way, it becomes easy to see what is complete and what is outstanding in order to reach the next milestone.

  1.  Planning is a dynamic process

Project management experts are sometimes confronted by unforeseen events within or outside the project that are out of their control. When a detailed plan is not followed effectively, it puts stress on the project members. By beginning with an overall plan that has been developed in collaboration with other team members, it will remain intact and avoid unnecessary stress. Planning is a dynamic process and the goal is collaborative learning, rather than predicting the future in great detail.

When someone shares their experiences working on a project, that knowledge needs to be taken into account, regardless of what has been said or done before. It is time to stop planning in detail alone, but collaborate and get inspired by co-workers.

As a project manager, it is easy to take on too much responsibility and become stressed. However, this is avoidable by planning and collaborating with tools that provide an easy project overview. This also empowers project workers with the ability to influence the process.

It is rarely the technology that makes a project fail but the communication between humans: Project management is all about shaping people’s behaviours. Nothing else!