7 Ways to Help your Team Avoid Burnout

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With Google searches for burnout reaching an all-time high (1), taking a relaxed approach to your team’s wellbeing is no longer an option. Unless we’re deliberate in our efforts to prevent burnout, we risk losing some of our best people and damaging the culture we worked so hard to create. Burnout is bad for productivity, engagement and turnover (2), but, most importantly, it’s bad for our people - even those not directly suffering from burnout are likely to experience some kind of knock-on effect. So it’s critical that managers and leaders are equipped to identify the signs, and, even better, put measures in place to help their teams avoid burnout entirely. 

When it comes to burnout, there are no quick fixes, but there are things you can do to build an environment in which people can reach performance goals without stretching themselves to their limits. Here, we’re taking a close look at 7 of them. 

7 Ways to Help your Team Avoid Burnout

1. Know the Signs

A little bit of stress at work is normal - in fact, it can push us to be better performers (3). But burnout is something else entirely, a potentially destructive occupational phenomenon that’s been recognised by the World Health Organisation. It’s important to understand the difference between the two, and to have the knowledge to spot the signals when your people display them. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have developed a useful list of questions to help identify burnout, highlighting some red flags to look out for, including irritability, a cynical outlook and a dramatic drop in productivity.

2. Talk to your People

You can’t assume that everyone on your team will confide in you when they’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Some of them are likely to play down or hide the signs of burnout. So it’s up to you to create a safe space in which to discuss it, and craft questions that will lead the conversation in the right direction. Make sure you’re having regular, weekly, fortnightly or monthly 1:1 meetings with all of your people, in which you ask open-ended questions about the obstacles they’re facing, and make time for a couple of dedicated wellbeing conversations throughout the year. 

Questions might include; 

  • Are you excited about going to work?
  • Do you have the time to spend on things outside of work that are important to you?
  • What's one thing we could change about work for you that would improve your personal life?

3. Lead by Example

One of the biggest risk factors for burnout is normalised overworking, which can happen quite easily in fast-paced environments. Some team members will feel like they only have permission to create healthy work boundaries if you, as a manager, also have them in place, so be aware of the message you send when you burn the midnight oil. Be mindful of your own work-life balance and make a point of sharing how you disconnect from work. Make it easy for your people to model your healthy behaviours, and difficult for them to adopt unhealthy ones.

4. Encourage Breaks and Leave

Rest is a key deterrent to and treatment for burnout. So it’s crucial that your people have the support they need to take their full annual leave allowance, that their work is covered as much as possible while they’re away, and that there’s space for them to catch up when they return. Relaxed annual leave policies work for some teams, but others report that they result in people taking fewer vacation days (4), so pay attention to how much time your people are taking off, and flag any issues with senior leadership. A personal goal around taking ample annual leave could be helpful for those who struggle with work-life balance, and provides an opportunity to discuss this in performance conversations. 

5. Create a Healthy Work Environment

Toxic work cultures are to be avoided at all costs, not least because they’re breeding grounds for burnout (5). While culture is often shaped by senior leadership, there are lots of things you can do as a manager to promote a healthy work environment. Be sure to give praise regularly and recognise publicly when people do good things. Be transparent with your people, trust them to get the job done, and encourage idea sharing among your team. Small actions can have a big impact here. 

6. Tackle the Root Causes of Burnout

Encouraging people to go on holiday is one thing, but ultimately, preventing burnout means providing your team with the resources they need to do their jobs effectively while also protecting their wellbeing. As a manager, this may not be fully within your control, but you can at least look into the root causes of burnout across your team. Share the results with senior leadership, and highlight some research on how burnout can affect productivity and profitability, for example, data from the World Economic Forum placing the global burnout price tag at $322 billion (6). 

7. Embrace Collaborative Goal-Setting

Research shows that self-set goals are more often associated with increased enthusiasm, while organisation-set goals are associated with increased anxiety and burnout (7). The message is clear - goals shouldn’t be doled out like homework, it should be a collaborative effort between managers and their people. Schedule dedicated 1:1 meetings with each member of your team, in which you can work together to create their personal goals and align them to the team and company goals. Digitising this process through a platform like Frankli not only helps your people stay on track, but gives them increased visibility of their progress, too. 

Frankli helps safeguard teams against burnout by supporting collaborative goal-setting, providing channels for communication, and driving positive culture. Learn more about Frankli.

Frankli helps teams create positive work environments through digitised feedback and communication channels.

60-Second Version: 7 Ways to Help your Team Avoid Burnout

1. Know the Signs. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have developed a useful list of questions to help identify burnout, highlighting some red flags to look out for, including irritability, a cynical outlook and a dramatic drop in productivity.

2. Talk to your People. Make sure you’re having regular 1:1 meetings with your people, including dedicated wellbeing conversations.

Questions might include; 

  • Are you excited about going to work?
  • Do you have the time to spend on things outside of work that are important to you?
  • What's one thing we could change about work for you that would improve your personal life?

3. Lead by Example. Be mindful of your own work-life balance and make a point of sharing how you disconnect from work. Make it easy for your people to model your healthy behaviours.

4. Encourage Breaks and Leave. It’s crucial that your people have the support they need to take their full annual leave allowance. A personal goal around taking ample annual might be helpful here. 

5. Create a Healthy Work Environment. Give praise regularly and recognise publicly when people do good things. Be transparent with your people, trust them to get the job done, and encourage idea sharing among your team. 

6. investigate the Root Causes of Burnout on your Team. Share the results with senior leadership, and highlight some research on how burnout can affect productivity and profitability.

7. Embrace Collaborative Goal-Setting. Research shows that organisation-set goals are associated with burnout (7). Make goals a collaborative process between you and your people. 

Frankli helps safeguard teams against burnout by supporting collaborative goal-setting, providing channels for communication, and driving positive culture. Learn more about Frankli.

1. Quartz at Work, Searches for “burnout” are at an all-time high. 2. Gartner, Address Burnout by Keeping Employees S.A.N.E. 3. Kaufer and UC Berkeley’s Elizabeth Kirby, Researchers find out why some stress is good for you. 4. Buffer, Why We Have Paid, Paid Vacation and Give Teammates an Extra $1,000 to Take Time Off. 5. Forbes, Toxic Workplace Culture 10 Times More Likely To Drive Employees Away, Study Shows. 6. Forbes, The Overlooked Consequences of Today's Burnout Problem. 7. David T Welsh, Michael D Baer, Hudson Sessions, Hot pursuit: The affective consequences of organization-set versus self-set goals for emotional exhaustion and citizenship behavior.

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