The past several months have been a true testament to the flexibility and resiliency of our country’s businesses and workforce. We have seen companies pivot to remote work in record time, employees figure out how to balance working from home while spouses/roommates/children do the same, and many of our nation’s students adapt to virtual learning environments.
While this has, for many, been a successful endeavor, it has also had a significant effect on our workforce. According to a Monster poll via CNBC, 69% of workers are reporting symptoms of burnout. As the CEO of a company that provides remote work, I am always paying attention to how I can help my employees succeed. Below are my recommendations for handling and preventing burnout in yourself and your team:
Are you experiencing burnout?
Recognizing the symptoms of burnout is the first step to prevention. Exhaustion, cynicism and lack of satisfaction with your work are three telltale signs, according to the Mayo Clinic. Combine them, and you are perfectly set up for unhappiness and resenting your job. The downward spiral can happen quickly, so being aware and recognizing the signs is imperative. The symptoms can manifest themselves in seemingly small ways, such as irritability, lack of focus, restlessness, frequent headaches and increased absenteeism. These are all signs that you could be experiencing burnout.
After reading The Bouncebackability Factor, I learned that burnout can be the result of both internal and external factors. Internal burnout occurs because of individually owned issues, such as lack of healthy boundaries, negative mindset, perfectionism or past trauma. External burnout is the result of a company’s culture and may occur because of heavy workloads, lack of control, lack of recognition, lack of community, perceived unfairness or mismatched values.
You’re burned out. What now?
If you’ve been nodding your head in agreement and seeing yourself reflected in the above symptoms of burnout, you are not alone. Even the best of us experience burnout, and there is no shame in admitting that you need a reset. Some things you can do to begin the recovery process include:
1. Take a self-care day. Unplug from your work email and treat yourself to a full day of rest and relaxation.
2. Schedule a therapy session. Talking about your feelings and frustrations, and having someone else validate them, is a great way to lessen the burden you might be feeling.
3. Create a boundaries agreement. Work with your team to create a list of healthy boundaries that you can all agree to.
4. Say yes less often. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stop saying yes to new asks. Protect yourself from burnout by saying no when you just don’t have the bandwidth to take on one extra project.
The important thing to remember is that suffering from burnout does not mean you are weak or a bad employee.
How can leadership prevent burnout?
Understanding the signs and symptoms of burnout is especially important for a company’s leadership, and the transition to remote work makes it more important than ever for our leaders to be vigilant. With the National Bureau of Economic Research reporting that employees’ workdays are an average of 48 minutes longer since the pandemic began, managers must be respectful and aware of their employees’ time and workloads.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential to preventing burnout. I also learned from The Bouncebackability Factor that managers can harness the power of affirmations to ward off burnout for their team members. By offering five affirmations for every one criticism or critique, managers can ensure their team members feel valued and important.
As leaders, it is important that we are proactive in our approach to dealing with employee burnout. Creating a healthy workplace culture — one that values work-life balance — is essential to preventing burnout. During these unprecedented times, we can do everything right and still face burnout. If you notice signs of burnout in your employees, there are ways you can help:
1. Adjust workloads. Redistribute the workload and check in with your employees to make sure they don’t feel overworked.
2. Allow more flexibility. Focus more on results and less on who is logged in and working at least eight hours each day. Some employees might be more productive and engaged outside the traditional 9-5 schedule. Be flexible.
3. Solicit employee feedback. Ask your employees how you can help relieve some of their stress. Create a dialogue so they feel comfortable coming to you with suggestions.
Take care of yourself and your employees, and remember that we are all doing the best we can.