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The impact of pressure

In recent years most businesses have come to accept that they operate in a world that is continually changing. Our June 2022 Business Club discussed the pressure this brings and the effects this has on organisations and their people.

Today’s fast-changing world brings both challenges and opportunities to organisations and their ability to compete and be successful.  Change is often seen as a harbinger of pressure.

For businesses currently, many face market pressures in the form of evolving customer behaviour post-pandemic and the impact of competitors’ actions. There are also the economic and political pressures with the inflationary and cost of living rises, higher taxes and the effects of the war in Ukraine.

And within businesses, individuals are facing their own pressures. Current labour shortages in some sectors mean many employees are taking on more responsibilities. There’s also a stronger focus to get things done more quickly so businesses can gain a competitive edge and operate more efficiently.  This had led to the tightening of deadlines. 

The hybrid working environment is an exciting development but still brings with it a learning curve, as many adjust to a new way of working.  On top of this any traditional ‘seasonal’ factors for businesses obviously increase the pressure and workload of its people at a given time.

Is all pressure bad?

Pressure is often associated with stress and typically has a negative image, however when we look back at history  it has led to the achievement of many great things. Here are some examples…

Marvel – From 1986-1996 the Marvel brand faced significant pressures as its first film (Howard the Duck) flopped spectacularly. Marvel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but in the early 2000s merged with Toy Biz and started producing the globally popular Spider-Man and X-Men franchises.  Disney bought Marvel in 2009 for $4billion. 

Netflix – In the financial crisis of 2008 Netflix recognised that entertainment spending was reducing. It introduced video streaming — a move that resulted in a 57% increase in stock prices by the end of 2009. In January 2021 Netflix’s market cap was $176.07 billion.

Pandemic pivoting – During the early phases of the pandemic many businesses quickly diversified in response to new market conditions.

Examples here included distilleries switching to producing hand sanitiser, and engineering and manufacturing companies switching production to ventilator parts/machinery.  The lockdowns also prompted businesses to rapidly implement remote working, which many later said would have taken them years to do.  It even enabled some companies to recruit employees from further afield to attract more talent to their teams.

The pros and cons of pressure

In our June session, which was facilitated by Steve Foster and Dean Hardy, club members discussed examples of pressure in work and their impact for organisations and individuals.  Here are some of the insights that were shared.

The power of deadlines

People often work better when they’re under pressure to hit a deadline. Tight timescales can bring additional focus and productivity.  A prolonged period of multiple tight deadlines can however cause burnout.  It’s therefore important for people to have breaks and for employers to find ways for deadlines to be realistic and manageable.

Rethinking productivity

The pandemic has caused businesses to rethink productivity.  Many were impressed with how productive employees were when working from home.  Now businesses are adopting a hybrid environment, the office is being used slightly differently – for example for meetings, training, and in-person team interactions.  Traditional associations of productivity across the different working environments are being challenged.

The influence of culture

How an organisation copes with pressure is heavily influenced by its culture.  If there’s a culture which lets people ask for help when they feel overwhelmed, the resilience and agility of that organisation greatly improves.  Those organisations which have a suppressive culture will find it more of a challenge to remain resilient and retain their staff.

Club members agreed that in times of pressure it greatly helps if there are good communication channels, clarity of expectations and help for people so the right things are prioritised.

Not all pressure is bad

There’s often confusion around pressure, being busy and stress.  Sometimes they’re all seen as one and the same.  People can however be busy but not stressed.  Others say they relish and thrive on pressure.

People react in different ways to pressure, and some find it hugely motivating.  Leaders and managers need to recognise the differences in their team members and play to people’s strengths. 

A good thing to come out of the pandemic has been a greater focus in organisations to help their employees’ wellbeing.  Long may this continue.

Tips for dealing with pressure at work

Club members also shared their tips for dealing effectively with pressure in the current working environment.  These included:

  1. Have a structure and routine that allows you to take breaks during the working day.
  2. Start the day by actioning the difficult or challenging things first.  You’ll feel more motivated when they’re out the way.
  3. Put less pressure on yourself.  Sometimes a lot of pressure stems from ourselves, and not others
  4. Ask for help if you’re struggling.  That means learning to be alert to situations when you need help.
  5. Chat with your colleagues about the pressure each is under.  As a team can you re-allocate anything?  Can you play more to strengths?
  6. When you feel stressed by the pressure you’re facing it helps to stand back, take a break and prioritise.  Going for a walk, doing some physical activity or having a change of scene for a short period can help you put things into perspective.  Use the break to step back, analyse the situation and then you’ll be in a better place to  deal with it.

Summary

Businesses will continue to face pressures but it’s how they react to them which will determine whether the impact is a positive or negative one.  For businesses and individuals alike it’s important to ask for help when they feel overwhelmed by pressure.

Colleagues, advisers and suppliers can all lend a helping hand to minimise the negative effects of pressure and help maintain productivity.  In time this can stimulate innovation as well as greater resilience to future changes.

Thank you to all the Club members who joined us at our June event.  If you would like to attend our future Business Club events, please contact the Shipleys’ Godalming team for more information.


Specific advice should be obtained before taking action, or refraining from taking action, in relation to this summary.

Copyright © Shipleys LLP 2022

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