How to Keep Your Agile Team Stress-Free

16 June 2023

Veronika Nedashkovskaya

Content Manager

At Rocketech, we follow agile software development practices, prioritizing Scrum for most of our projects. According to the 2022 16th State of Agile Report, Scrum is hands down the top dog when it comes to Agile frameworks. A whopping 87% of the people surveyed follow Scrum at the team level, which is a big jump from a mere 54% just two years back.

The infographic giving an explanation to the term Scrum.

It’s not a secret for anyone that it’s impossible to avoid work-related stress. However, by knowing the causes of stress and having a healthy, analytical approach to the matter, it’s possible to keep stress under control. A well-organized internal communication is key to successful agile team collaboration.

Our Scrum Master Anastasiia Musil explains how the Scrum Master methodology deals with tension at work and shares her expert insights on the ways to reduce stress.

Who is a Scrum Master and what does a Scrum Master do?

Realistic Goals, Different Types of Productivity, and Empowered Teams — Is It Possible to Work Stress-Free?

Do you agree that it’s impossible to keep a Scrum team “completely” stress-free? 

I believe an agile team in Scrum cannot be stress-free. Stress comes from the rather rigid framework that a Sprint imposes on us. The team has a goal that has to be achieved by the end of the Sprint. It creates tension. While the team is thinking positively during the Sprint Planning, it can feel like a race at the Sprint’s end. From Sprint to Sprint, it creates pressure, and the team starts to get tired. A mature team knows how to manage the workload they can do per Sprint, but it takes quite a long time to get there.

Do you think working remotely increases stress?

I’m a big fan of working remotely. It’s more stressful for me to come to the office. (Smiles). But I know some guys in my teams have small children or no space for a home office — they prefer working outside the home. 

It’s important to create an informal and supportive environment even if you are far away from each other. You can achieve that by creating a community, establishing one-to-communication, or making informal calls. Even the Sprint Retrospective can be helpful because it’s not only about the reasons why we failed to complete a task within the Sprint. It’s about people’s emotional states and just human interaction.

Creating informal chats or a short “How are you?” message (if, during the Daily Scrum, you feel that someone is tired or upset) also helps you understand how people in your team feel and whether you can help in any way.

How do you notice when a team member is stressed and needs help?

There are times when a person (usually outgoing) is not active during meetings, throwing sarcastic comments, or even not showing up. In these situations, I usually send a private message to the person to find out what’s going on, offer to give them a call, and try to be open to any discussions.

It’s important to let people know that:

  • You are ready to listen and help them in any way you can;
  • Your conversation will remain private.

Sometimes it’s impossible to miss that the entire team is under stress when there are tough deadlines. Then, it’s vital to give people moral support, thank them for their work, acknowledge the results and the team’s success, and not overload them with extra activities and meetings. And, naturally, the team should have the chance to celebrate the completion of a challenging project.

Do you have any personal life hacks or tips on keeping your team stress-free?

According to my observations, stress most often comes from deadlines or internal conflict situations. Deadlines are something we can control. A team that is constantly racing against time becomes tired quite quickly and loses speed and quality. I see my job as helping the team analyze the agile team capacity and set realistic goals.

At Rocketech, we work very closely with our clients and try to make the development process as transparent as possible.

Our clients become our Product Owners, and we help them manage the backlog. My goal is to help the client single out the most valuable thing we have to do now and to help the team decide how much they do within a Sprint. With openness, we can effectively manage expectations and set deadlines to achieve our goals successfully while still being a resource for new tasks.

How do you personally deal with stress? Could you share your personal tricks?

Sleep helps me with short-term stress.  A new day gives me new hope, and I regain strength. And a fresh perspective allows me to re-evaluate the situation and find additional solutions that were not apparent when the stressor occurred.

Accumulated fatigue sometimes causes stress. A simple and effective way to deal with it is to take a holiday and go somewhere (even just to a neighboring town) for a while. Usually, it’s enough time for me to start missing work, my team, and the hustle and bustle, and I come back with a desire and willingness to work.

A couple of years ago, I found an article about different types of productivity people have. There are those who can work at the same pace for long periods of time. They are not at their peak but working quite steadily and efficiently.

And then there are those who have activity “peaks and troughs”. I belong to the second type. During some periods of time, I feel an extraordinary burst of energy, and I know that I can work virtually around the clock, with high efficiency, and without harming my mental and physical health. Such periods last for up to a few months. Then comes the slowdown. And I try not to overload myself with additional tasks and projects for a month, working at a quiet pace. It was essential for me to realize this cyclical pattern and focus on it on time.

There is a study saying “empowered teams cope better with stress”. Would you comment on this statement?

I believe in the wisdom of the group. I also believe that highly motivated professionals united by a common goal and respecting each other can offer the best solutions in difficult situations.

Everyone in a fully empowered team has the opportunity to show leadership and sometimes come up with truly great solutions.

I really enjoy working with such teams. They have a team spirit, strength, and the belief that any challenge can be overcome together.

Rocketech Agile Philosophy

We base our expertise on process-building and the analytical approach. And we understand that stress is an inevitable part of success and don’t fight windmills. Instead, we use stress and crisis management techniques and the Scrum framework best practices to increase the agile team efficiency and ensure the well-being of each team member.

The Rocketech team consists of Middle+ and Senior level professionals with years of experience. We appreciate excellent communication skills, diversity of meanings, and dedication to the project. Our core values helped us create the company workflow and establish our processes to reach maximum productivity without losing to stress.

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