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10 Tips to Stabilize Employee Experience During the Pandemic

In an outlook where the future looks bleak, only true leaders guide their team through the storm and come out stronger on the other side. And only the best leaders will focus on employee experience during that storm.

That leader needs to be you.

During an unprecedented crisis such as COVID-19, your leadership becomes even more valuable. With so much uncertainty, your employees will look to you now more than ever for stability.

How Can You Maintain a Positive Employee Experience?

Here’s how you can provide stability for employees while keeping your business operating at maximum efficiency…

1. Foster Transparent Communications

During times of crisis, transparency becomes essential. If your employees think your business is in trouble, they’ll feel anxious.

As the person in charge, you need to keep everyone in the loop. That means sending regular updates about how the business is doing, what problems you’re running into, what you’re doing to deal with them, and more.

2. Keep Communications Positive and Hopeful

Since employees will be expecting to hear from you often, make sure any communications you send out don’t make your employees feel anxious any further.

For example, if you have daily or weekly meetings, start them off by talking about successes within the company. After all, recognizing your employees’ efforts becomes even more important during times of turbulence. And those people and teams recognized will certainly appreciate being recognized, a key aspect in improving overall employee experience.

3. Offer Ways for Your Employees to Relieve Stress

Since the lines between the office and home have become blurred, it can be a smart move to provide your team with ways to relieve stress such as:

  • Providing your employees with additional time off and breaks if needed.
  • Setting up team virtual game nights or remote “after-office” clubs. (That said, make sure to be considerate of parents and others who may not have the same flexibility with evening get-togethers.)
  • Encouraging your team to talk to each other about how they’re handling all the changes. Make it easier to share how colleagues in similar positions are managing — what’s working, what’s not.

Happy employees tend to be better at their jobs. Helping your team relieve stress shows them you care, and it can foster in-office ties.

4. Adjust Your Internal Processes to the “New Normal”

Nothing is the same as it was months ago, so the internal processes that help you deliver products/services and accomplish tasks also need to adapt to the new normal.

For example, now might not be the best time for performance reviews as few people may be thriving during the pandemic.

5. Be Empathetic and Patient with Your Team

The pandemic and near-global quarantines have had a massive impact on most people’s mental health. One of the key reasons is that a lot of employees don’t know if they’ll have a job in a month or two.

On top of being transparent about how things are going within the business, you also need to be patient with your team. Few people are performing at 100% now, so empathy is key.

Don’t simply assume you have empathy. Chat with three to five trusted people for their honest feedback and ask if they perceive a sincere effort to accommodate the team.

6. Ramp Up Employee Feedback

Although you may know your industry inside and out, your team probably has insights that you might not have considered.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, encourage everyone who works for you to come forward with any feedback they might have. The best way to do that is to provide multiple channels for inbound feedback.

7. Set Up New Channels for Inbound Feedback

Some examples of the types of channels you can set up to encourage employee feedback include:

By providing multiple channels, you increase the chance employees will share concerns and also information about protocol violations.

8. Promote New Safety Protocols

If part of your team isn’t working remotely, then it’s your job to enforce security protocols.

That means giving your team all the information they need to perform their job safely without adding to their stress levels.

So don’t make it sterile and forgettable. Promote your safety protocols in a fun way that’s “on-brand” and will click with your employees.

9. Help Your Team Recalibrate Expectations

Although it’s your job to ensure that employees don’t feel anxious, you also need to be forthcoming about what the pandemic might mean for the employee experience now and in the future.

Some companies are putting off raises others are cutting hours, and more. Being transparent about what the business is going through will help your team keep their expectations in line.

Your team will have the confidence to adjust if they see a transparent management that is doing everything to keep the ship afloat. And that confidence will become a huge element in their employee experience.

10. Recognize the Small Things

Now more than ever, your employees need to know that you recognize the work and effort they’re putting in.

Without people showing up to work every day (even if it’s from their living room) your company wouldn’t survive. By fostering an environment where hard work is recognized and praised, you can help your team weather the storm.

Your Leadership Can Make the Biggest Difference

No industry is coming out of the pandemic unscathed. So how good your footing is after everything is said and done will depend on the level of stability instilled into your employee experience during these times.

By fostering transparency, encouraging employee engagement, and by being more empathetic, you can ensure that your team knows you’re on their side.

Workplace Stress—What’s Your Level?

Can a 100-year-old experiment in stress teach us about today’s workplace productivity? In 1908, psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson described an experiment in which they were able to motivate rats through a maze using mild electrical shocks. They found that if the shocks were too strong, the rats would lose their motivation to complete the maze and instead move about randomly trying to escape. Yerkes and Dodson concluded that increasing stress and arousal levels could help to focus motivation and attention onto a particular task, but only up to a certain point—then it became ineffective. In modern psychology, this is known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law.

Research from the 1950s to 1980s has largely confirmed that the correlation between heightened stress levels and improved motivation/focus exists, though an exact cause for the correlation has not been established. More recently in 2007, researchers have suggested that the correlation is related to the brain’s production of stress hormones, glucocorticoids (GCs), which, when measured during tests of memory performance, demonstrated a similar curve to the Yerkes-Dodson experiment. Also, it showed a positive correlation with good memory performance, suggesting that such hormones also may be responsible for the Yerkes-Dodson effect.

More recently, companies have noticed a relationship between stress and productivity in the workplace. Science Times’ recent study links constant email notification to stress, while several sites have released several studies regarding stress in the workplace. “Constant stress” at Amazon centers are making workers sick, according to the U.K. Union, while Amazon’s “brutal workplace” is an indicator of an “inhumane economy,” according to the L.A. Times. The Nation reports that it’s not just Amazon, stress is a factor of the modern workplace. On the other hand, Google’s perks have been shown to alleviate stress and boost employees’ morale, and FastCompany.com reports that happy employees are 12 percent more productive.

Stress has been known to sneak up on us, so how do we know if we’re stressed? The International Stress Management Association says that psychological signs can include worrying; depression and anxiety; memory lapses; or being easily distracted. Emotionally we can be tearful, irritable, have mood swings or feel generally out of control. Stress can even affect us physically, with weight loss or gain; aches, pains and muscle tension; frequent colds or infections; and even dizziness and palpitations. These signs can start to affect our behavior, with no time for relaxation or pleasurable activities, becoming a workaholic, being prone to accidents/forgetfulness, insomnia, or increased reliance on alcohol, smoking, caffeine, and/or recreational/illegal drugs.

Obviously, some signs are more severe than others, with 75 percent of Americans report experiencing at least one of the following symptoms of stress in the past month:

  • irritable/angry: 37 percent
  • nervous/anxious: 35 percent
  • lack of interest/motivation: 34 percent
  • fatigued: 32 percent
  • overwhelmed: 32 percent
  • depressed/sad: 32 percent

The Mayo Clinic has identified two types of stress triggers: acute and chronic. Acute is the basic human “fight or flight” response, the immediate reaction to a perceived threat, challenge, or scare. It typically is immediate and intense, and in certain instances (skydiving, roller coasters, etc.) it can be a positive and even thrilling thing. Chronic stress is a more long-term variety of stress that, while it can be beneficial as a motivator, can pile up and become negative if left unchecked. Persistent stress can lead to health problems, and while it generally is more subtle than acute stress responses, its effects can be longer lasting and more problematic.

Signs of workplace stress can include a change in the employee’s normal behavior, such as irritability, withdrawal, unpredictability or generally uncharacteristic behaviors, a sudden change in appearance, a sudden lack of concentration/commitment, lateness or even absenteeism. Healthy amounts of stress are difficult to aim for, as stress is an individual issue, but there are some management methods that could lead to too much stress in the workplace. Helpguide.com says that unequal delegation of work; giving out unrealistic deadlines; listening to employee concerns, but not taking action; inconsistency/indecisiveness in approach to employees; panicking and not forward planning, and not being aware of pressures on the team can all lead to a high amount of stress in the workplace. Additionally, job insecurity can lead to a 50 percent increase in the odds that someone reports poor health; high work-related demands increase the odds of having an illness diagnosed by a doctor by 35 percent; and long work hours have been shown to increase mortality by 20 percent, all according to FastCompany.com.

Companies, however, are trying to find ways to combat workplace stress. Appster regularly funds employee outings and even has a workplace dog to help relieve stress, but the company realizes that perks alone often don’t do enough to effectively relieve stress. The company has instituted a “weekly vent report,” an online board where employees can anonymously, but publicly, post complaints and concerns. These are followed up by monthly town hall style meetings where issues raised on the vent boards are addressed openly. There also are monthly one-on-one check-in meetings for all employees so that they have a chance to talk about themselves on an individual basis.

Google also recognizes that perks are not the be-all-end-all of stress management. To further combat stress, the company offers classes to employees such as Meditation 101, Search Inside Yourself and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Google also has created a combination virtual and in-person community called gPause to help support and encourage the practice of mediation through methods such as daily in-person meditation sits at more than 35 offices, “mindful eating meals,” and occasional day meditation retreats.

FastCompany.com reports that stress relief is about more than offering employees an increasing number of perks; there must be active efforts specifically targeting stress, rather than avoiding the issue and hoping employees remain happy. In fact, people who reported having emotional support during times of stress, according to APA.org, reported an average stress level of 4.8/10, and only one-third reported being depressed or sad due to stress in the past month, compared to those who report not having emotional support. They report an average level of 6.2, with one-half reporting that they have felt sad or depressed in the last month.

If your employee has eustress, then he or she could potentially be showing signs of being at their most productive state. Eustress means “good stress,” as opposed to distress, which is negative stress. Signs to look out for in the eustress state include focusing on the task at hand, using time most efficiently, self-managing his or her work and increased motivation. Positive personal stressors could include receiving a promotion or raise at work, marriage, moving, taking a vacation or learning a new skill. However, sometimes it can be difficult to differ between eustress and distress. Here are some key characteristics to distinguish between the two:

  • short-term vs. long-term
  • perceived to be within our own coping vs. perceived to be outside our own coping
  • motivates and focuses energy vs. demotivates and focuses energy
  • feels exciting vs. feels unpleasant
  • improves performance vs. decreases performance

Distress doesn’t necessarily have to stem from the workplace; it also could be the result of multiple life factors. Ask if there is anything you can do to help alleviate the stressors, such as simple modifications to the employees’ workflow for a short period of time. Perhaps Appster Co-Founder Mark McDonald said it best: “The cheapest, most effective way to help stress is simply listening to staff.”

A version of this post was first published on bryan.edu.

photo credit: Ausgebrannt 23/366 via photopin (license)

Addressing Your Employees’ Holiday Stress

It’s that time of year again: Fourth quarter results are almost finalized, companies are wrapping up contracts, evaluating the successes of the past year, and developing strategic plans for the coming year. This means it’s a busy time for your employees. When you add to the equation busy social calendars, kids getting out of school for holidays (and working parents scrambling as a result), along with holiday financial commitments—stress levels for your employees inevitably rise. What can you do as an employer, a manager, or even an HR pro, to help ease that holiday stress?

Let’s discuss.

One study in the UK found that nearly three quarters (73 percent) of people are more stressed ahead of the holidays—but the stress doesn’t end there. Nearly one in five workers (18 percent) actually returns to work more stressed than when they left. For most of us, this isn’t exactly news. The holidays are generally jam packed with engagements and massive to-do lists. The thing about stress, though, is that it can have a serious impact on our health, as well as overall productivity at work; it’s actually easy to spend more time stressing out than actually getting things done.

So, how can senior leaders help reduce stress and keep everyone’s momentum going? The answer is a combination of smart technology use, and making sure employees have time for things like fitness, yoga, or even meditation. Here are some ways you can help your employees handle holiday stress.

Give Them Ideas: Help Your Employees See Possibilities

“Take a break” means different things to different people, so keep that in mind as you toss out ideas that might be potential stress relievers. For some exercise is key, and getting out of the office for a walk may work. But for another, leaving their desk for 10 minutes will only escalate their worries over whether tasks will get done. For some, a quick game of ping pong or shooting hoops outside for twenty minutes will be a perfect release, so think about that as you design work spaces and encourage regular breaks.

Humor and creativity also activate the brain and release endorphins. Think about designating one afternoon a week for a “creative” session and let employees paint on canvases, color, design their own holiday cards using supplies you provide, or some other creative task that will let their brains relax. Bring in a local comedian during lunch or knock off early one day, and let your team enjoy some laughs together. Encourage them to do a holiday play or work in teams to create a holiday video and make it into a contest. These are all things that don’t have to cost a fortune, but the benefits they can deliver in terms of not only team-building, but also in terms of stress reduction, are huge.

Even better? The best ideas and sense of well-being often happen when individuals are in a state of creativity, feeling relaxed and comfortable. Your employees will likely return to work after a creative break feeling happy and energized and that will no doubt result in not only less stress, but also greater productivity. A win-win for all.

Focus on Health and Make it Fun

Anyone who’s ever tried to eat healthier or exercise more knows from experience that it’s a marathon not a sprint. Especially during the holiday season, which is fraught with land mines in the form of parties, tins of popcorn, and too many sugary snacks just begging to be sampled. All these things are a source of stress for employees, and striving to stay fit and healthy is typically an ongoing challenge. This is a perfect time to perhaps bring people together by way of a fitness or healthy eating challenge. Using a combination of wearable devices, smart phones, and apps, it is easy to track progress, encourage one another, or even compete if desired. The great thing about wearables is that they often have functionality that nudges you to stand up regularly, measure and evaluate your sleep habits, and track your fitness. Many apps allow you to connect teams and to be motivated by others as part of the fitness process. Helping your team stay fit with fun fitness challenges and rewards for progress keeps them feeling good about themselves, less stressed about work, and less frazzled about fitness and weight management.

Measuring Progress: Ask for Feedback

Don’t assume that what you’re doing in terms of working to reduce stress during the holidays is helping. Ask your team for their ideas and feedback about your stress-reduction experiments. Encourage them to put forth their own ideas as well, and make them part of the process. Programs, even fun ones, are only as successful as your team thinks they are, so make sure you’re soliciting feedback about the programs you put into place, as well as encouraging your team as a whole to come up with their own suggestions and ideas. An empowered, engaged team is a powerful thing; you might be amazed at some of the cool ideas that come up as a result of involving them. Make sure that beyond simply asking for feedback, endeavor to use that feedback to measure and evaluate the impact your stress-reduction programs are having on your team.

Whatever you do, make sure your employees are aware that you understand the pressures they’re under, and that you are committed to making stress reduction, fitness, fun, and relaxation priorities. Doing so will help them take the actions they need to remain productive and happy through the holiday season and into the New Year.

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4 Reasons Your Best IT Pros Are Leaving

It happened again. One of your best IT employees found another job and is taking it—leaving you with a big talent gap to fill. Information technology skills are in high demand, and your IT team is on the lookout for new and better opportunities.

You’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by my company, HealthITJobs.com, 74.8 percent of health information technology professionals said they were planning to look for another job within the next year.

Are your IT superstars leaving because their skills are in demand, or because they’re unhappy? Here are four compelling reasons your best IT team members are heading for the door:

1. There’s no leadership

Your IT team needs a strong leader who will motivate them, solve problems, and keep them happy at work. Ask yourself: is your team getting what they need from their manager or supervisor?

Leadership is a major problem in the workforce. The Global Workforce Leadership survey conducted by Workplace Trends in February and March found that almost half of the companies surveyed said that leadership is the most difficult skill to find in employees. Among the 1,000 employees surveyed, just 36 percent felt leadership was a strong point in their workplace.

The leadership crisis extends to the tech industry, as well. In the HealthITJobs.com survey, 51.3 percent of respondents rated their supervisor’s ability to lead and engage at a five or below on a scale of one to 10.

Evaluate your current leaders and train new ones early to keep your IT all-stars around. When looking at leadership, focus on communication.

In a survey published by 15Five in March of 2015, 81 percent of employees surveyed said they would rather join a company that values open communication than other popular perks like free food and gym memberships. Another survey, conducted by SHRM and Globoforce in 2013, found that 94 percent of organizations surveyed believe positive feedback improves employee performance.

2. They’re burned out

Workplace stress is a major problem, and IT professionals are feeling the pain. In the job satisfaction survey, 52.2 percent of health IT employees surveyed said that, on a scale from one to 10, they feel chronic stress levels at a six or above on an average workday.

Employees know the negative effects of stress and may want to leave when they feel too pressured. Information technology professionals who feel overworked will burn out and disengage from their work. When that happens, they’re bound to look for the next best, less stressful opportunity.

Instead of burning your IT team out, help them succeed in a less stressful environment. Regularly check in with the team to see if there are any resources they need or if there are ways you can help lighten their workload. Encourage your team to take breaks, mental health days, and time off — especially after busy and stressful periods.

3. They’re not growing

Technology evolves on a daily basis, and IT professionals who don’t keep up lose their relevance. IT professionals want to keep learning and growing their skills to advance their careers. However, the HealthITJobs.com survey revealed that 64 percent of health IT professionals rated professional development opportunities provided by their organizations at a five or below.

If you’re not helping your IT team grow, they will look for new jobs to advance their skills. You can offer your team more development opportunities by allowing them to learn from senior employees, try out different roles, attend conferences and industry events, or offer other training options.

4. They hate their schedules

If your IT team comes into the office from 9 to 5 every day, they’re probably unhappy. In HealthITJobs job satisfaction survey, 40.9 percent of respondents said the option to work from home was the most important perk a health IT employer could offer, followed by flexible work hours.

The nature of IT and the resources available to employers and employees makes flexible working options feasible. Allowing your IT team to choose when and where they work will make them less inclined to leave. Give employees the option to work from home when possible or set their start and stop times, as long as their work gets done.

Although opportunities abound for IT professionals, understanding their wants and needs can help to keep talented professionals around.

What do you think? How do you keep tech employees happy?

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5 Ways To Reduce Workplace Stress

Earlier this year, CareerCast shared its list of the least and most stressful jobs for 2014, based on factors like physical demands, hazards encountered, deadlines, and environmental conditions.

Some of the least stressful jobs included seamstress, dietician, and multimedia artist. Unsurprisingly, professions like enlisted military personnel, fire-fighters and police officers were ranked as being some of the most stressful due to the unpredictable conditions and risks involved.

But although some jobs are certainly more harrowing than others, we all deal with work-related stress on a daily basis.

According to the annual Stress and Wellbeing Survey by the Australian Psychological Society, stress levels were significantly higher in 2013 than in previous years, with nearly half of working Australians rating issues in the workplace as a source of stress.

In the US, a work stress survey by Harris Interactive found that 83% of Americans were stressed at work. Unreasonable workload, poor compensation, and frustration with co-workers and commutes were cited as some of their top stressors.

Fortunately, over the years research has uncovered a number of strategies for tackling workplace stress. Here are some simple but effective ways to manage stress in the workplace.

1. Organize your workspace and schedule

Taking control of your environment and schedule can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and stressing unnecessarily.

A study from University College London found that when faced with a messy work environment, people immediately experience a rise in stress and anxiety levels. Before you start work each day, take a few minutes to tidy up your papers, remove any day-old coffee cups, empty waste paper baskets, and open a window to let in some fresh air.

When it comes to your schedule, figure out what you can control (such as when to take your lunch break or the order in which you’ll complete certain tasks) and what is set in stone (the meeting with your boss, for example). This will help you manage your time more efficiently and maintain as much control as possible over your everyday routines.

2. Step outside

Nature can help people respond better to disruptive events, and a study led by the University of Edinburgh shows that people’s stress levels are directly related to the amount of green space in their area. In fact, the researchers found that for every 1% increase in green space, there was a corresponding steeper decline in participants’ stress levels.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try taking a quick stroll in the park. If there isn’t much green space near your workplace, you could make an effort to take a nature walk before heading to work each day.

3. Tune in to distractions

Noisy office environments can be difficult to cope with, but strangely enough, trying to block out the conversation that’s happening two desks over or ignore the sound of your colleague tapping their pen on the table may actually be more stressful than paying attention to it.

Mindfulness experts, like author and journalist Dr. Danny Penman, believe that tuning in to a distraction can prevent you from feeling stressed out. This is because being aware of a distraction and observing the effect it has on your body (tense muscles, clenched jaw, etc) tends to rob it of its power and helps you to relax.

4. Talk it out

Healthy and supportive relationships have been shown to reduce stress, and a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that chatting to your mum on the phone reduces a key stress hormone and causes oxytocin, a feel-good chemical, to be released.

Of course, you may not want to call your mother every time you’re having a difficult day at work, but chatting to a friend or close relative can lower your stress levels and also help you to see your situation from another perspective.

5. Adopt a more positive outlook on stress

Stress is bad, right? Well, not necessarily – according to a research study from Yale University, it all depends how you look at it.

The researchers presented some experiment subjects with information showing that stress can be beneficial, while others were told that it is debilitating. Those who had been exposed to positive information about stress reported improved psychological symptoms and better work performance.

So not only could adopting a more positive attitude toward stress can help you to deal with it more effectively, it could even transform your stress into something good that enhances your performance, health and personal growth.

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(About the Author: Marianne Stenger is a writer with Open Colleges. She covers educational psychology, career development and workplace productivity. You can connect with her on Twitter and Google+, or find her latest articles here.)

photo credit: Kerri Lee Smith via photopin cc

How to Build Your Network Without Burning Out

(Editor’s Note: All of us in the TalentCulture community mourn the loss of our dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. The following is the last post she contributed to our blog, only 10 days earlier. Her message and her life are a lesson for us all.)

The unthinkable happened during the first week in January.

TalentCulture CEO Meghan M. Biro had gone missing. She hadn’t returned a tweet from me for more than three days. Unheard of, I tell you.

Naturally, I was concerned about her well-being. I actually considered contacting Boston area hospitals. But instead, I did what any good friend would do. Resorting to an antiquated strategy, I picked up the phone and called her.

“Seriously Judy, I’m taking a break. I don’t want to burn out,” Meghan told me.

“What? A break from your BFF?” I almost blurted. Then, a calm washed over me, and instead I said, “Good for you.”

This sparked a conversation about how busy professionals like us can continue growing and navigating our social networks without compromising our stress levels. Connection and communication have taken on new importance in today’s 24/7 world of work. Those who manage the energy and minimize the stress are able to stay ahead of the competition, and sustain high performance. But it’s not easy.

Everyone manages a social network differently. It’s an intimate and personal process. We all have close connections with whom we can exchange ideas and openly vent. That’s typically not a burden on our time and attention. But in this era of digital exuberance, our social circles are growing rapidly. We need to find the signal in our niche, while filtering out the noise of a much broader network. Keeping pace requires a strategy:

8 Tips to Reduce Stress In The Face of Digital Exuberance

1) Schedule Social Sessions: Timing is everything. And quality time counts. When does your network naturally buzz with activity? If you’re a rock star, you might be inclined to check Twitter in the late evening, but if you’re into talent management and business news like me, you’re probably trolling Twitter from 7-8 a.m. Instead of trying to pay attention 24/7, pick one or two intervals each a day to dip into the stream. Don’t just “fly by” with retweets — really dive in and engage in conversations that build relationships. But when your scheduled time is up, move on. Eventually, you’ll adjust to an established rhythm, and so will those in your inner circles.

2) Take Breathing Breaks: Twitter and Facebook interactions can become surprisingly intense. Periodically, take 5 minutes to literally sit back and just follow your breath. Close your eyes, or look away from the screen. Simply being aware of how you are breathing helps regulate cortisol, the “stress-producing” hormone. Count as you inhale – one, two, three. Then hold your breath for several seconds, and exhale to the count of three. Better managing stress “in the moment” gives you more energy later, when you may need to tap into your reserves.

3) Stand Up and Stretch: Once in a while just walk away. Yes, leave the computer behind. This is important to get blood circulating in your body, which delivers more oxygen to your brain. If you prefer not to stand, push your chair away from the desk. Inhale and raise your arms above your head, clasping your hands in a “steeple” position. Look up and gaze at your hands for several moments. Then exhale slowly while your hands float gradually back down to your sides. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to shift back into business gear.

4) Hum with Purpose: That’s right — make noise. Humming actually calms the mind and body. It’s an ancient yogic technique that helps focus attention prior to meditation. The sound reverberates in your skull, and helps your brain rewire your attention. Here’s how: Plug your ears with your fingers and inhale deeply. Pause. Then as you exhale, hum for the reminder of the “out breath.” Repeat two more times. If you feel dizzy, stop. But ideally, it will help release tension and help you focus.

5) Let Filtering Tools Work for You: Sometimes we need to look beyond human behavior for help. If we opened every link that came our way we’d never sleep. Aggregation tools help consolidate and organize the chaos — news sources, blog posts, and other information sources of interest. I’ve set up Google alerts to deliver breaking news on keywords that matter most to me. For less critical topics, I receive news feeds once a week. You can use Hootsuite, Buffer Tweetdeck and Aggregation tools and dashboards to identify relevant content and create a delivery schedule that works for you.

6) Harness Hashtags: Hashtags are the fastest way to share and find relevant information on Twitter. For example, professionals who participate in the TalentCulture community share HR and business leadership knowledge by adding the #TChat hashtag to their tweets. At any moment, anyone can search for #TChat, to see the community’s latest tweets. It’s like round-the-clock access to the most popular human resources conversation on the planet. If you follow a hashtag like #TChat in your Twitter dashboard, you’ll quickly and easily find helpful peers, ideas and advice. Also, when you schedule Twitter posts, be sure to add hashtags that reflect your area of expertise. Your posts will reach people in your niche, even when you’re offline.

7) Leverage Human Relationships: Sometimes, all of us need to unplug for several days or more. When you do, plan ahead. Just because you’ll be off the grid doesn’t mean your networking must come to a standstill. Reach out to several people in your immediate network. Let them know that you’re taking a break, and ask for a little extra support in sharing your work on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn — wherever you’re most active. You can even form ongoing support alliances and develop common “social back-up” guidelines. Just remember, you’re not alone.

8) Create a FOMO Free Zone: Perhaps the most important advice I can offer is to honor your social self. Competitive pressure shouldn’t drive your social brand development. Don’t let yourself become obsessed with how other people behave on social channels, or about whether volume or frequency of their activity trumps your own efforts. Whatever your message is, you’ll succeed when you deliver it through your own lens, with your own voice, to an audience that is naturally interested in you. Forget #FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)!

Of course, even with healthy habits, it often feels like we’re networking at the speed of light. But hopefully these tips help you slow the pace a bit, focus on what matters, and generate more energy to fuel your social success.

Do you have tips for reducing stress and improving productivity in the age of social networking? What techniques and tools work for you? Share your ideas in the comments below.

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

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