Encourage people to speak with trusted peers, check in on them, and approve their solutions to stave off burnout.
With the Covid-19 pandemic poised to begin its third year, business leaders face a host of significant challenges. Among the most significant is that in many industries demand exceeds a company’s ability to supply their products and services.
How so? If the company outsources its supply chain, businesses are dependent on other companies over which they have little control to make and ship the products their customers order.
At the same time, business leaders are losing employees due to the big quit which places a bigger burden on the people who stay. In all likelihood, those employees are scrambling to do more and learn new skills to cope with the changes caused by the pandemic while working from home.
Fortunately, there are things that business leaders can do to nip burnout in the bud before it sparks an organizational conflagration. After all, the last thing business leaders need is to make their overtaxed workforce quit — thus leaving them little choice to distribute the departed employee’s workload among the remaining staff.
Here are three things business leaders can do to keep their people from burning out.
1. Encourage your people to share their feelings with trusted peers.
Unless you do something to change it, the default mentality for most workers is to keep quiet about their feelings and outside-work stresses and get the job done. While it is certainly true that most leaders do not want to be psychological counselors for their people, they do have a responsibility to offer resources to help them cope with their stress.
One such resource is to create networks of trusted peers who know what employees are going through.
Since early this summer, I have been under additional stress at work as I prepared a package of materials for an academic committee that I knew would be reviewing my application for promotion. I did not know when they would meet while I was assured that I would receive their verdict at some point before the end of 2021.
The uncertainty was quite stressful. Fortunately, I knew many others who had been through the process and was able to communicate with them my feelings. These trusted peers helped reduce the emotional pressure which helped me think clearly about what I could do to prepare for either a positive or negative outcome of the process.
Business leaders who want to push this process along could hold workshops in which people share their stress and “plot what the team could let go of, like superfluous meetings clogging their calendars,” noted the Wall Street Journal.
It reported that an MIT Sloan School professor, Erin Kelly, did research which found that “employees reported that they just felt free. It’s going to be easier to approach as a collective project than to stick your own neck out as an individual.”
2. Check in with employees and give them freedom to choose how they get the job done.
Business leaders can also do things to help employees avoid burnout.
Kelly found that so-called team interventions could make a difference. She found that “employees whose managers were trained to check in to see how they were doing personally and professionally, and to give them flexibility to work how they wanted, had significantly lower levels of burnout and psychological distress than a control group. They were also 40 percent less likely to quit,” wrote the Journal.
If you are not scheduling such check-ins with employees, you should get trained in how to conduct them effectively, and begin scheduling them soon thereafter.
3. Urge your people to envision solutions to their burnout.
Once employees have shared their feelings with their peers, they can still be on the way to burning out. Sharing feelings can help them come up with ideas that derail their express train to burnout.
Once employees realize what they need to do, they should to talk to management about their proposal.
The Journal presented the case of an advertising exec, Elizabeth Rosenberg, who a few years ago had suffered from migraine headaches that sent her to the emergency room.
While fearing that her boss would view her as weak or unable to handle the job if she admitted to her fear of burnout, Rosenberg came up with a proposal for her boss. In January, she asked for a month off in August — the ad agency’s slowest month.
With little emotion, she told her boss that “she was burned out and would have to leave the company later that year if she couldn’t take a break. To her surprise, he said sure,” wrote the Journal.
Do these three things and you will make your hard-working employees better able to cope with the stresses of today’s workplace. And your company will better serve its customers.
By Peter Cohan