Team Stress & HRV

Individual coaching using Heart rate variability can be very powerful as we have seen in previous posts. But how does it relate to Teams?

“Team HRV” literally takes the pulse of the team or even the organisation. By doing so this gives team leaders, managers, general managers and even CEOs the ability to respond instantly to signs of stress.

The response may be to slow the team down, apply more pressure or apply a “steady as she goes” approach. This is powerful because you don’t have to wait for an event to occur and apply a remedy. HRV can give predictive information so that the any strategies are proactive not reactive saving time and money

When using team HRV in sport the players understand the direct benefit of this type of protocol. However, in organisations there may not be the same level of willingness to participate due to confidentiality and the fear of “big brother”. This can be easily overcome by making the recording and analysis of the data anonymous.

Which raises the question if it’s anonymous then how do we help those in need? Whilst an individual’s results may be hidden from their manager, this information may be accessible to an independent coach with whom the individual has a relationship. Once again the coach can be proactive and if they see signs of negative trends they can alert the individual and develop strategies accordingly.  Likewise the coach can analyse the teams’ state, contact the manager and suggest certain strategies or highlight the need for caution.

Jason More(2018) from EliteHRV shows on the company’s blog what a typical team dashboard might look like:

Here we can see the team members in the second column (which could be made anonymous) and the relevant measures. The dashboard uses traffic light colours, green: things are going well and you can apply more pressure, yellow: things need to be approached with caution or red: stop and check what’s happening.

The benefit of this kind of insight can be quite extensive, a few examples are:

  • the avoidance or reduction of errors
  • the avoidance or reduction of absenteeism
  • increased motivation
  • analysis of the impact of announcements on individuals
  • longitudinal analysis of the effect of major restructures

It is important to note that HRV captures every stressor that happens in a person’s life, both inside and outside work. Therefore this needs to be taken into account when evaluating the results. A way to address this is to annotate readings with symbols that highlight a major personal event.  This is still important and should not be removed as it will still effect performance.

HRV training is used in sport, both for individuals and teams, and for individuals in business. To my knowledge however, the team dashboard in business is not common but would be an exciting and natural extension of this methodology.

Moore, J 2018, HRV For Teams and Groups, @elitehrv, viewed 19 November, <>.

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