Hybrid Working | How to avoid burnout
It was World Mental Health Awareness Day on Sunday 10 October and a great way of raising awareness of this important topic. Whilst it is good to have awareness days, it is important to remember we should be doing something to take care of our mental wellbeing in an ongoing capacity. As the world continues to change and evolve, in response to the last 18-months and as organisations try to work out how to return people and teams back to the office, there has been much discussion around a “hybrid” way of working. Many organisations are taking time to work out what this looks like for them, as it is not the case that one size fits all. As part of this discussion the subject of “burnout” is something which also needs to be taken into consideration.
What do we mean by burnout?
As a result of the experiences during the pandemic, according to Mental Health UK ‘burnout’ was recognised by the World Health Organisation as a phenomenon in 2019. Over recent months we have seen a drastic change – in the way we set boundaries between home and work; how we deal with stress; experience increased childcare; health issues and interact with others, etc. When the stress on an individual as a result of these and other factors becomes so great, the effect can be burnout. Burnout can be defined simply as “A state of emotional and physical exhaustion.”
What are the signs of burnout in your team?
In understanding that many individuals are under added pressure at the moment, it is really important that we keep an eye on those close to us, whether at home or in the workplace. The symptoms for burnout can be similar to other forms of mental ill health such as anxiety or stress and crucially, they will show up differently in people. Understanding what stress looks like for your team is the first step in being able to help them.
In your next team meeting, why don’t you run an exercise where you ask everyone to share 5 or 6 adjectives to describe how they show up when they are under pressure. These will then become the triggers for you to watch out for. Of course, if you are really worried about someone, then seeking professional help is always recommended. Generally, people behave differently if they are struggling so looking for signs of a change in behaviour amongst colleagues is a good first step. as well as:
- Extreme reactions from team members to any curve balls.
- Phoning in sick more frequently.
- Seemingly more tired or exhausted than usual.
- Seemingly negative or feeling overwhelmed.
- Reduced efficiency and motivation.
How to avoid burnout?
Sometimes, if things go unchecked there’s a need for medical intervention, but there is an approach to self-care that we can all take to help try to avoid reaching the point of burnout. On a more holistic level these include: getting good sleep, eating well, taking regular exercise, connecting with others, cutting down on alcohol and getting time outdoors away from the desk. But as a leader within an organisation, we can also take steps to help take care of our teams, which might include:
- Having regular 1:1s to check in with each team member to understand how they are doing and listen to how they are feeling.
- Encouraging open conversations about how people are feeling, but at the same time recognising some people may wish to be more private.
- Keeping an eye out for unusual or changes in behaviour and changes in tone of voice
- Keeping their camera off on video calls.
- Encourage your teams to take time away from the screen.
There is going to be more pressure from organisations to perform and to start to achieve more as we move forward, but with an exhausted workforce the opposite is likely to happen. To encourage greater productivity, it is going to be important for all managers to have an awareness of how their teams are doing and to also remember that they bring their whole self to work so to be able to talk non-work things, is also going to be important. The better you know your team, the more likely they are to open up if there is something that they are struggling with.
Not all managers will find this open approach easy, so a technique I often use is the “People Tree” exercise in my workshops which is a visual way to encourage people to express how they are feeling but a simple check in/ check out also works. If you would like to receive a copy of the People Tree, please get in touch.
What resources are available to help your team?
There are many resources you can turn to if you are worried about someone on your team. If your organisation has an Employee Assistance Programme or trained Mental Health First Aider this is a good place to start to ask for their guidance, on what to do next. Initially, making contact with the individual and giving them an opportunity to express how they feel, be listened to and encourage them to visit their GP for help. Outside of this there are a number of different organisations you can turn to, the Samaritans on 116 123.
If you would like some support through coaching or a Team Effectiveness workshop, to help your teams return to the office, regain some balance and focus on productivity, please get in touch to arrange a no obligation discover call.