In the first article, we introduced one theory of workplace stress, the demand-control model. Now we will attempt to show tools that can be used to measure and reduce stressors. By making visible and continuously optimising the demands, control and peer support required by the job, we can create a healthier work environment, where work stress is significantly reduced and the people become more productive.
Measurement with agile tools
Personally, I was exposed to group dynamics and theories of workplace stress earlier than I became agile. The Agile Manifesto and the Scrum Guide caught my interest after first reading because they basically contain a lot of elements that pave the way for effective group functioning and prevent workplace stress. I will first introduce these agile tools, principles and their measurement and then a concrete tool to see requirements and control from the team members' perspective.
Knowledge matrix, mentoring
Let's first look at the control over skills (the ability of the employee to expand and use their knowledge in their work). To measure this component, we can use the knowledge matrix: the columns are compiled by Architect and PO, and are used to list the competences needed to deliver the Definition of Done. And the rows are filled in by the team members themselves, based on their level: 1: never seen it, 2: medium, 3: would teach it.
Once this has been outlined and discussed with the PO, incorporate development opportunities such as mentoring into the next Sprints - with the help of external experts if needed. This will significantly increase the control over the skills for team members and the delivery according to the Definition of Done will be more reliable.
In iteration (Sprint) planning, the team identifies the tasks they need to complete, estimates their complexity and duration, and at the end, undertakes the tasks they think they can complete in one iteration. This phenomenon naturally supports decision making and gives team members a sense of control. It is crucial that as Scrum Masters we make sure that the team is not influenced by external factors (POs, stakeholders) when committing and that they actually put their vote in favour of deliverable tasks.
A useful tool in planning is the so-called confidence vote: team members vote on a scale of 1 to 5 (where 1 is not at all confident, 5 is absolutely confident) on how deliverable the commitment is, if this number is below 4, it is worth rethinking the tasks to be delivered.
By taking on the complexity and time estimation, the team takes control of the decision and the psychological stressors are significantly reduced. Although the team decides, it is the Scrum Master's job to ensure that the commitment meets reality and to facilitate the planning based on lessons learned from previous sprints to avoid the dangers of overcommitment. What are the experiences and indicators to look out for? We have put together a few that we take into account when preparing a sprint report and can also be useful when measuring stress in the workplace.
Team satisfaction questionnaire
It is worth measuring team satisfaction at certain intervals (every Sprint). In 2015, Katalin Nistor and colleagues validated the Hungarian version of the Copenhagen Questionnaire, which is suitable for assessing psychosocial factors at work, including stress. From this questionnaire, I have selected questions to measure demands and control, and it may be worthwhile to include one question from each of these topics in the satisfaction questionnaire items.
The five-point Likert scale (a scale between two extremes, to measure attitude) can also be used to plot changes on a spider web diagram, which is also a great way of showing differences between the different dimensions.
1. Always or very much
2. Often or to a large extent
3. Occasionally or somewhat
4. Rarely or to a small extent
5. Never / almost never or very little
Questions on quantity requirements:
Pace of work
Support from your colleagues
We can significantly reduce stress in the workplace by using the agile methodology. However, to do this, we need to be aware of how the team is functioning and, through measurement, we need to continuously see and visualise the indicators that (also) make it visible when the team is exposed to increased work stress.
Source:Gyöngyvér Salavecz:The Relationship between Stress and Health at Work in Hungarian and International Contexts and Katalin Nistor et al: Psychometric Characteristics of the Hungarian Version of the Copenhagen Questionnaire on Psychosocial Factors at Work II (COPSOQ II)
By: Péter Vesszős