The implementation of hybrid or remote work requires a model, with standards and procedures known to all team members. It is also important to invest in the training of leaders, so that they are the ones who drive the change towards new ways of working. Many companies believe that these new ways of working represent a mere consolidation of the model used during the pandemic. That is a very serious mistake since sooner or later the connection between people will be lost and their stress levels will increase. To avoid the unwanted consequences of hybrid work, it is also very important for these leaders to understand the relationship between stress levels and team performance levels.

The Yenkes-Dodson law.

For this, we can help ourselves with the Yenkes-Dodson law. This is the result of the work of two psychologists (Robert Yerkes and John Dodson) at the beginning of the 20th century on the influence of pressure (which can be understood as the level of stress) on performance in tasks that involve complex mental operations. .

This law states that the relationship between stress and performance can be represented in the form of an inverted ‘U’. In this way, performance will be optimal when the stress level is moderately high. But if it is too high or too low it has a negative effect on performance.

The relationship between stress and performance

Thus, according to Yerkes-Dodson we can establish three types of stages in this relationship:

  • When we carry out tasks with a low level of stress or alertness, we become bored and less productive. Taken to the extreme it spawns zombie workers. These are those whose body is kept in business but whose mind has long since caused low. This is what we can call the boredom zone.
  • At the other extreme, when the demands on a specific worker are very high and he does not know how to manage them, his mental clarity and his ability to understand and stay attentive in his tasks falls. Then he tends to experience feelings of anxiety and general psychological discomfort, generating stress that has a tremendous impact on productivity, and burnout problems may appear. This, then, is the burnout zone.
  • In the center of the curve, the worker is in his flow zone, totally focused on what he should do, like a surgeon who is focused on the operation, completely oblivious to everything that is happening in the operating room. And it is that when the task is stimulating, challenging and we have the knowledge and skills to do it, we concentrate more. The flow zone will be our target zone.

The three key factors to keep the flow.

Therefore, the objective should be to keep our team workers in the flow zone, avoiding boredom and burnout zones as much as possible. And how is this done?

There are at least 3 factors that play a very relevant role in this:

First, the complexity of the tasks. If the tasks we have to carry out are more difficult, we will need to invest more cognitive resources than if they are not. Consequently, complex tasks require a lower level of pressure to achieve optimal performance than simple ones. The consequences in the assignment and follow-up of the same by the manager are evident.

Second, the skill level of the employee Taking into account the skill level of workers is critical when determining the ideal environmental pressure. It is evident that the greater the individual’s mastery of the tasks, the less subjective difficulty they develop.

Third, the manager’s motivational skills. The best way to boost performance is to increase motivation to carry out the target tasks. It’s about achieving sustained levels of commitment to work.

Thus, adjusting the complexity of the tasks to the skills of the workers, and maintaining adequate levels of motivation contributes decisively to keeping team members in their flow zone for as long as possible in their working day.

Therein lies the skill of the leader.

Author: Ricardo Alfaro
Other articles by the author: