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We Didn’t Start The Fire… Or Did We? Managing Burnout

Eyes strained from staring at a screen for hours on end. 

The pressure of new expectations as the business world changes in front of you.

An uncertainty of the world at large. 

You worry that your boss doesn’t see all the work you’re putting in because you’re not in the office. 

Stir all these ingredients together and you have a stellar recipe for burnout.   

While burnout has been a buzzword for a long time, it’s getting even more attention as the high-pressure stakes of business are in the spotlight.

survey from Blind showed that from February to May, employee burnout jumped from 61% to a whopping 73%.   

 

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What is burnout exactly?

It’s more than just a stressful day or being tired at work. 

According to Herbert Freudenberger, “Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability.” 

While the symptoms are generally considered emotional and mental, those suffering from burnout can have physical symptoms as well, experiencing persistent pain and digestive issues. 

Burnout is even more of an issue as many are working from home or transitioning into a more dispersed working situation. 

6 in 10 HR leaders are concerned about a rise in “e-presenteeism”, where workers feel pressure to be online at all hours, even when they are feeling unwell. 

Much of this comes down to leadership. 

A leader can either put pressure on their team to deliver at all hours, regardless of what is going on in their daily lives or use this time as an opportunity to give their team autonomy. 

As it stands now, three of the most common reasons for burnout are:  

  1. A lack of communication and support from managers.   

  2. A lack of role clarity 

  3. An unmanageable workload 

These reasons can be mitigated if leaders adopt some simple behaviors to better care for their team. 

 

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Communicate more than you think you need to. 

Make sure you provide a crystal clear understanding of what you expect of your employees. 

Assumptions can be dangerous and heighten work pressures if employees aren’t sure what’s expected of them or worse, they might overexert themselves in error due to misunderstanding your original ask. 

Putting your expectations in writing and giving your team an opportunity to ask the questions to gain a full understanding are two ways to ensure that your team is clear on their roles, responsibilities, and your expectations of them. 

When DX first started working from home and had to execute some significant changes to our business strategies, our company had meeting after meeting after meeting to ensure we were all on the same page. 

It was a lot at first, but it helped us gain the clarity we needed to independently move forward with our work. 

 

image-asset-Aug-13-2020-05-17-05-15-PMGive your team the autonomy to know and share what they can manage. 

While it can be nerve-wracking to manage a dispersed team, it’s important to trust that your team can manage themselves and their work regardless of location. 

One of the things I was able to express to my boss while we have been working at home is that I like to get a mid-day run into my workday.

It clears my head, gives me a break, and I can finish the rest of my work refreshed. 

Other members of our team have set time limits on when they can complete their work that often lies outside of a normal 9-5 due to working other jobs or having children.

Creating a space where your team can articulate what they can and can’t accomplish will help them set manageable goals.

This will also give them the autonomy to produce their best work while catering to their well-being. 

 

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Create a culture of disclosure. 

At DX, we like to refer to this as psychological safety. 

Cultivating an atmosphere where your team is comfortable coming to you with roadblocks or personal struggles that are interfering in their work without fear of being blamed will help your team to feel supported, no matter where you are.  

Building relationships with your team is key. 

At DX, not only do we have consistent time available to check-in with our boss as needed, a couple of coworkers and I also schedule a time to download on non-work stuff throughout the week. 

This time with coworkers helps me feel like I’m not alone and that I can express myself freely with my team and my leader. 

 

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Seek to understand what each member of your team needs from you.  

Every person is unique, and that includes our workplace needs.

One person might need to come into the office to have a place to focus, away from distractions at home. 

Another person might need to collaborate frequently with others and check-in consistently with coworkers. 

Some may need more independence than others. 

Getting to know your team and understanding what resources to give them will help them feel like they aren’t shouldering their workload alone and that they have the support they need to do quality work. 

Stress at work is unavoidable, but there are many tools a leader can implement to ensure they are cultivating a vibrant support system for their team.

No work burden should lie on any one person. 

We all need to work together and understand each other in order to reduce burnout. 

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