We live in a culture where there is an unspoken pressure to hustle all the time. “You can sleep when you’re dead,” the saying goes.
Well, we don’t need to tell you that’s highly unhealthy and one sure way to walk yourself right into a total burnout. If your employees are believing this to be true, or feel a perhaps unspoken pressure to work unceasingly without proper compensation, leadership, etc. you’re going to find low productivity and morale. With that might also come resentment and bitterness, exhaustion, turnover and high levels of absences sprinkled throughout the workplace.
As the manager, your job is to prevent employee burnout when you can and know how to manage the signs when you can’t.
Go for a walking meeting
A walking meeting allows for removal from the office space, fresh air and a bit of exercise. In order to keep the meeting productive, have your meeting agenda prepared ahead of time to keep you all on task. Also, it could be helpful to keep the group small; if the meeting includes your team of five people, you can still walk comfortably and hear each other.
One note about walking meetings; If, say, you’re planning an event and are trying to describe the event room to everyone while also getting their ideas about room set-up and traffic patterns, plan a field trip and have everyone visit the site. Hold your meeting in the event space, as being physically present will better promote creativity and fresh ideas, rather than attempting to work off a picture one has conjured up in their mind.
Encourage a work/life balance
Employee burnout happens quickly when people don’t feel like they have time to take care of themselves and their to-do list outside of work. The fact of the matter is, your employees need to be able to care for themselves because this directly affects their productivity and focus at work. If they’re concerned about who is going to be able to pick up the grandparents from the airport or if they’ll be able to make it to a dentist appointment to get a sore tooth looked at, they’re not going to be focused on work. In the long run, it will save them time, energy and be more productive overall to let them occasionally skip a meeting to make an appointment.
In addition, ensure your employees are using their vacation time. While it’s true some people save it up to take nice long vacations, make sure they’re saving their days for that reason, and not just avoiding taking time off out of fear of missing a day. Be as vocal and insistent about using vacation days as you are about meeting project deadlines.
Be understanding of mental health days
Sick days are legitimate, but mental health days are just as legitimate a reason to be absent as well. If your employee comes to you with the need to take a mental health day, be respectful of the fact that they might be experiencing something as mentally debilitating as the stomach flu is physically debilitating. Give them a day to recover, and, if possible, steer them in the direction of your company’s employee assistance program (EAP) if they feel like speaking with a mental health professional would help.
It might be difficult, but it’s worth avoiding the burnout to keep an eye on everyone’s schedule. If Joe in Accounting has two giant projects due within a few days of each other, maybe push back the deadline on one. If Susie in Marketing is scheduled to travel every weekend this month for conferences and meetings, check in with her to see if she’d prefer a weekend off and someone else to go in her stead.
The typical 9-5 schedule might even be taxing for some. A single mom might need to come in at 6am and leave at 3pm in order to get her kids from school; you’ll likely receive better productivity from her with this schedule than if she’s paranoid about finding a nanny to taxi her kids around. Always keep scheduling in mind and do what’s best for your company and your employees, not necessarily what has traditionally always been done.
Promote honesty amongst your team
While some signs of employee burnout might be more apparent than others, it’s not always easy to identify when and if your people are feeling overworked or undercompensated/appreciated. This is why open, honest channels of communication are invaluable. They will allow your employees to feel comfortable coming to you and asking for a mental health day or a schedule adjustment. Be the example by using vacation time, taking an occasional mental health day for yourself when you need it, and encouraging this work/life balance among all your staff. Because if it starts from the top, it will trickle down.
An employee assistance program, such as those offered through Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP, is another professional option to prevent and manage burnout and promote mental health amongst your staff. For more information on EAPs and how to get your company started with one, contact Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP today at 800-543-5080.