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Wikis are everywhere. Now that global media institutions have started embracing the phenomenon, wikis have become more than a buzzword. Wikis are at the leading edge of what tomorrow's internet will look like.
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2006/11/07

How a Wiki may help reduce stress in your company

Stress at work is becoming an increasingly important problem for many companies (unsurprisingly : it costs UK industry £3.7 billion each year). This has led to many solutions being proposed by various consultants firms, often at an expensive cost. However, recent surveys show that basic organizational and training issues are playing a role in a large number of stressful situations. This article will argue that some of these issues can be successfully tackled by using a corporate wiki.

Why stress ?

Basically, stress is as much a physical as en emotional problem. Facing a high level of demand or a feeling that your workload is getting out of control weakens your body's resources and leaves you more vulnerable to other illnesses. It may occur in the form of headaches or stomach pains. Conversely, emotional fragility means that you are likely to react to situations in ways that will surprise others, either because you are concerned too much with minor problems - or the opposite.
Stress occurs most of the time when individuals are faced with situations they fell they cannot handle although they should be able to, or when the level of personal investment in the success / failure of a project is high. A typical stress - provoking situation occurs wherever a bundle of complex information has to be dealt with in a limited amount of time, without proper support.
It is a real concern for companies because it may affect as much as one in five persons in a given workplace and is the principal responsible factor for sickness absences.

What can you do ?


In a recent Guardian article, you can find an outline of a broader research that has been conducted on stress-causing situations and how to relieve workers. The study found out that one of the most important purveyor of stress where poor management practices. This comes as no surprise given the lack of specific training of most people that get access to management responsibilities. A few best practices have been identified, and this is where I think wikis have a role to play (You can find out what a wiki is there). By providing organization with a lightweight virtual structure, wikis allow staff empowering at a low cost and boost work effectiveness by cutting on coordination costs. Here is a list of the practices and the way wikis can help implement them :

  1. Better management of employees workflow. Managers tend to give their employees important amount of work without considering their current workload. A wiki would allow people to contribute to project in a common place they can access at any time, from everywhere. This means that instead of assigning one project to one person, you may name a coordinator that will administrate the project working space, where staff can log-in at any time when they are able to and contribute. Hence people with less workload than others would have more time to go there, have a look and get things done. Even though this does not suppress work involvement problems, it leads people into managing their rhythm of work and give them back control, which is important to avoid stressful situations which course we feel we cannot influence .
  2. Engaging employees in decision-making. This is a direct correlate of the previous point. If people can regain control on their workload, they will be more willing to participate and take their share of what has to be done. We tend to be more involved in projects we can effectively influence. A wiki helps building a structure where everyone can contribute and add his own brick to the whole building.
  3. Effective communication. "Why am I asked to do this ? What is all this for in the end ?" are common questions popping into our brains when asked to perform tasks which purpose we do not understand at first. The answer to this set of issues lies in communication. Telling people why they are asked to do things, asking them whether they could be done in a more efficient manner, reviewing their attitude towards their current work is really important. A wiki offers a space that all of them can edit to make suggestions, build a common idea, reflect on their practices and how to improve them. Most important, if read and contributed to by managers, it shows people you care about them and you feel interested in what they are doing.
  4. Considering people as full-scale human beings. We do not need to go back to Kant and his theory that people have to be considered as ends by themselves, not only means to accomplish things to understand the validity of this point. We are working with people who experience feelings, who have ideas, and so on. Valuing their contribution to the community, working in collaboration with them on the space wikis provide to tap into their knowledge and potential are opportunities a company has to consider.
  5. Last but not least : Show empathy ! This is what this article is all about, and this is what a wiki may contribute to. Interact with people, work collaboratively, value their contribution, show them why what they do is important for the company are things a manager should not forget to do. Getting the best out of people is a really thrilling experience, and this is what a wiki can do. By centralizing information, having all people to contribute to, taking into account eeveryone views and transforming them in a useful piece of work, wikis offer a real solution to a real problem.

These solutions are aiming at reducing the occurence of stressing situations and helping corporate environment running more smoothly by increasing the level of awareness between members of staff. As a collective entity, a company contains much more useful information than any of its members. The core issue lies in getting all the dots to connect. Stressful situations happen when this connecting process is understood as a matter of hierarchical relations, orders and lack of concern for people. Using a wiki provides a way towars the acknowledgement of the importance of everyone place in a company.

Conclusion

The hardest part of this schedule is likely lying in the fact that, given they lack specialized training, many managers still fail to acknowledge these core issues in people management. A good way to have them realize how the abilities of people can be used by using a tool that allow them to interact in a flexible way, build strong work-related documents, communicate effectively and coordinate their tasks. By giving back some control to the base, wikis helps getting people involved in their jobs. And, in the end, reduce the global level of stress. There is no perfect solution to stress problems. But there is interesting ways to try to reduce them.



Want more ? Stay tuned.

© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC


References

Frost, Vicky (2006), "Can your manager manage ?", Saturday Guardian, Work 2 Section, 21/10/2006, pp. 1&2