In our perma-connected world, we are all at increased risk of burnout. Living in constant proximity to our devices, with cloud access and instant accessibility, the boundary between work and downtime is all too easy to break. It’s lead to a situation where 23% of Americans feel burned out “very often” or “always”, and 44% “sometimes” experience it.
Clearly, managers have a huge role to play in reducing that risk. The last thing you want is for your employees to become so stressed and overworked they make themselves ill. But since there are so many burnout causes, how do you go about it? How do you practically prevent it in your team’s everyday life? Try starting with these simple strategies to protect your team from burnout.
One thing to keep an eye out for is serial overtime. You should be aware of any team member habitually working overtime, and know the reasons for doing so. Do they need more resources? Has something new creeped into their workload? Do they feel they need to prove something? Is something happening outside of work you should be mindful of? Even if there’s no ominous reason behind the overtime, spending too long at work can quickly cause employees to lose interest, energy and motivation, so stay aware.
Luckily, monitoring overtime doesn’t require any special effort. Automatic tracking tools like Timely capture and present it for in one unified dashboard. You can instantly see how long people are working and pinpoint overtime patterns.
There are countless work tasks that drain our time and give us nothing back in return: low-value, menial things like scheduling meetings, managing emails, tracking budgets and filling out timesheets. Routine, repetitive admin may seem cognitively light, but in sum it can constute a huge unproductive burden. This “shallow work” isn’t meaningful or rewarding, and dealing with these types of tasks too frequently can lead to boredom, lack of motivation, and ultimately burnout.
Thankfully, you can easily automate a ton of this low-value work. Speak to your team about which tasks they dread most, and check out which tools are best for automating them. By removing jobs people dislike, you’re giving them more room to work productively, on things that matter to them and have purpose and meaning, which should keep their engagement high.
A few years ago there was a lot of buzz about front-loading your week – prioritizing your important tasks for Monday and Tuesday. While this can be effective, be careful about how often people do it. “Serial front-loading” is rarely sustainable, and can lead to people getting stressed and losing energy early in the week. It can also cause the Mondays blues to amp up like never before!
Make sure you have visibility over everyone’s workload – seeing what they’re working on and for how long – to ensure people have a manageable, regular flow of work throughout the week. Time trackers can help here too, breaking down the tasks and projects different people are working on and visualizing everyone’s progress against their weekly capacity for easy reference. You can instantly see who is struggling, who has room to help out, and who has too many small tasks on their plate.
It’s crucial for employers to remember that their employees aren’t just people who work for them – they’re human beings with personal commitments, opinions and preferences as to the ways they work. Giving your team the autonomy to create their own working schedules that best suit their needs is a powerful way of avoiding burnout – and also helps boost productivity and loyalty.
Offering flexible working schedules doesn’t just allow people to manage personal commitments more comfortably; it lets them put their wellbeing first. It gives people the autonomy to structure and plan their day in accordance with their natural productive focus. Flexibility should extend to offering a choice of where to work – whether that means providing quiet and collaborative spaces within the office, or the option to work remotely outside of it. Providing that your team priorities are clear, there’s no reason why people shouldn’t be allowed to work flexibly, how and where they want.
5. Ensure people take their full vacation allowance
No matter how motivated and dedicated your employees are, everyone needs a break. Shockingly, in 2017 alone, 52% of Americans didn’t use their full vacation allowance – but it exists for a reason. Make sure your employees are taking their full vacation entitlement, even if they don’t have any exotic plans. Having proper time off is proven to encourage less stress and better sleep – two things that protect against burnout. But it isn’t just about health...
Employees who take time off are happier and more productive, and this has a significant effect company-wide. One study found that when the brain is “positive and engaged”, productivity improves by 31%, sales increase by 37%, and creativity and revenues can triple. But to be truly positive and engaged, our brains need to take a break – to relax and refuel. Make it a priority for your employees to take their vacation... and support them to be fully present in their rest when they do!