Well-being is so much more than yoga classes and spa days (though I love both!). It’s become a central theme in organizations, particularly over the past 3 years. I distinctly remember those sleepless nights at the beginning of the pandemic. I designed our Well-Being and Morale course to provide research-based guidance by trained mental health experts and easy-to-incorporate practices, exactly as a huge wave of uncertainty was sweeping across our world.
Since then, the level and pace of change and uncertainty have seemed relentless. Three years later, much of our focus is combating burnout. To gauge what strategies are most common and effective, we asked People Managers and CEOs: Give your best tip/strategy for how you manage burnout in the workplace today.
From finding a way to acknowledge your progress daily to creating a culture that encourages autonomy, 11 of the most common responses managers suggest for managing burnout are:
- Find a Way to Acknowledge Your Progress Daily
- Reinvigorate Your Employees With New Projects
- Make Time To Refresh Yourself Outside of Work
- Give Yourself Mental Health Breaks
- Set Realistic Expectations
- Encourage Employees to Use All Their Vacation Time
- Learn to Understand Your Team's Needs
- Invest in Every Step of the Employee Journey
- Offer Unplanned Days Off
- Prioritize Employee Well-Being
- Create a Culture That Encourages Autonomy
1. Find a Way to Acknowledge Your Progress Daily
Give yourself some credit. When we are exhausted, we tend to see things more negatively and be overly hard on ourselves. Have a journal on your desk where you can write 5 positive things about yourself and your work during the day. Annotate your achievements and things you are proud of. Keep track of your progress, and you will stop analyzing so many little mistakes at work that steal your peace.
2. Reinvigorate Your Employees With New Projects
When you're doing the same job for a long time, it can become monotonous. Even work that you enjoy can seem mundane over time and repetition. To combat burnout, you'll need to divert your attention toward other projects in your workplace. For myself, I take on new projects and initiatives to allow me to use my skills for other things. This diversion allows me to focus and do other things that interest me to basically give me a break. After working with these new projects to completion, you get a different flavor of work, and then you can go back to your normal workload, reinvigorated. You'll get a new sense of appreciation for what you do and find enjoyment again, as your focus can go solely back on that.
Mark Smith, Program Chair, University of Advancing Technology
3. Make Time To Refresh Yourself Outside of Work
One of the best ways to manage burnout is to take some time for yourself every day to do something that you enjoy outside of work. This can help you to relax and recharge so that you’re better able to handle the stress of work. It’s also important to ensure that you’re taking care of yourself physically by eating well and getting enough exercise. If you’re feeling burnt out at work, it may be a good idea to talk to your supervisor about ways to reduce your workload or take on different responsibilities.
4. Give Yourself Mental Health Breaks
Encouraging regular mental health breaks is essential to prevent workplace burnout. These should be daily breaks once or twice a day when workers hit a productivity wall. A quick walk away from the screen and desk is a good policy for late morning or mid-afternoon to get fresh air and blood pumping differently. Larger weekly breaks can include extended meditation sessions or seasonal retreats away from the office. Promoting mental health is the best way to show employees care and dignity to retain their organizational talent.
5. Set Realistic Expectations
Set realistic expectations for your employees and yourself. We live in a culture that prizes productivity and encourages hard work; but as an employer, it's important not to make unreasonable demands of your team. Taking the extra time to determine if the workload you're setting and overall deadlines are fair can help prevent burnout at the source. Managers need to accept that sometimes work won't be done as quickly as is ideal or that they need more hires. But by investing in your employees' work-life balance and setting realistic demands, you can manage burnout effectively.
6. Encourage Employees to Use All Their Vacation Time
Set up your team’s infrastructure in a way that encourages each employee to use all their vacation time. About half of today’s labor force don’t take the amount of vacation days they’re provided, most often because the company places too much responsibility on them to be comfortable to take days off. Vacations are there to prevent burnout, not be yet another source of burnout! No wonder employees would rather not get away at all if it means feeling stressed the whole vacation anyway. By managing a supportive team environment, employees cover an employee’s tasks while they’re out of the office so they can truly unplug and reset.
7. Learn to Understand Your Team's Needs
The best way to manage the nearly inevitable appearance of burnout within your team is to ensure that you understand their needs. A leader who is constantly engaged with their employees and monitoring their productivity levels will begin to see a change if the employee is beginning to experience the effects of burnout. This is also why it's important to have regular performance reviews, so that you can more effectively gauge the mindset of each individual team member, as well as offer an opportunity to discuss any challenges or successes.
8. Invest in Every Step of The Employee Journey
Our startup is implementing several measures to prevent burnout in our remote workplace. Both of our female founders refer to themselves as “recovering corporate slaves,” having endured varied forms of corporate abuse in their former careers. For that reason, we are building a different kind of organization with an employee-first approach where psychological safety comes first above all else. This includes collaborative educational onboarding – engaging new employees to question and improve the training modules as they progress through them; creative cultural development – game nights and open ideation sessions; employee development – hosting mindfulness, meditation, dispute-resolution, and mediation training; professional development – performance coach available for one-to-one coaching and team training; and community engagement opportunities – PTO for quarterly volunteer work. We are building a healthy work culture by investing in every step of the long-term employee journey.
9. Offer Unplanned Days Off
The only reason people are scheduled to work exactly 5 days a week and 40 hours per week is because that is the norm in society. In reality, people work to meet deadlines and oftentimes, those projects or tasks don't fit neatly into the standard work week. Therefore, as a manager, you need to be able to recognize when someone needs an unplanned day off. If you have a determined employee that just wrapped up an intense 3-week long project, there's nothing wrong with offering them an unplanned day off. Burnout happens because people don't realize they're getting exhausted or feel they can't take time off. To stop burnout before it happens, a manager should take it upon themselves to offer time off.
10. Prioritize Employee Well-Being
Due to constant work pressure, employees can feel burned out. The best strategy I’ve discovered is to genuinely support employees’ well-being. I ensure employees are working during reasonable work hours, feeling valued, and working only in their fitting role. Because of that, employees always feel a sense of support from the company, which keeps them engaged and proactive. Also, to keep them relaxed, sometimes unexpected surprises like ‘pizza slices for everyone really help, too.
11. Create a Culture That Encourages Autonomy
Reduced autonomy or feeling out of control is I think one of the main triggers of making employees burned out. When they’re constantly feeling senior peer pressure or getting calls even after work hours, that’s when things go downhill. The strategy I use is that I give them control; they feel responsible and authority, while doing and managing things on their own. There’s no pressure from the managers. They work on their own agreed timetables. All of this creates a more growth-driven environment, where employees are stress-free from managers’ calls and emails – so, they focus more on the creative and productive aspects.
Learn more about our Well-Being and Morale Program that provides you the much-needed reminders and practical ideas for taking care of yourself, and being a positive influence on your colleagues and team, during these stressful times.