In my last blog I explained what burnout is, how to spot the signs and some of the big causes.
I shared how the experience felt, looked and sounded to me to give the official definitions some real-life context.
If you haven’t ready it, go check it out. With this understanding, we can start to look at the things we can do to prevent ourselves and others from burning out.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR TEAM FROM BURN OUT
Employers have a duty of care for their people. Legally (and I’d argue morally) they must do all they reasonably can to support the health, safety and wellbeing of the employee.
With so much info about looking after your teams’ mental health out there at the moment, it can feel overwhelming and a little theoretical.
Here are some practical steps you can take to help prevent your people from burnout:
As with everything, awareness comes before prevention.
We need to have a common understanding of what burnout is and what can cause it before we can tackle.
Training (or self-study) around burnout and mental health more generally, is a great place to start. Giving everyone a common understanding of the topic will make it far easier to talk about this nuanced topic.
Have you experienced burnout or big struggles with stress? If so, share them.
If you’re a leader this is especially important as this sort of honesty and vulnerability helps creates safes spaces where other people feel able to share, too. Sharing in this way helps remove the stigma and opens up conversations.
It’s also a great opportunity for you to share the changes you have made since and set an example of healthy work habits for your team.
Be Diverse & Inclusive
This really warrants a whole article in itself, but a diverse and inclusive workplace will make feel people feel seen, heard and respected which will nurture mental wellness.
Make sure that you have a D&I strategy in place that includes mental health and that is implemented by managers consistently, not just nodded to during onboarding or the occasional company meeting.
Review Roles & Responsibilities
High demands, short deadlines, unclear goals and vague jobs descriptions are all shortcuts to burnout.
Be sure to check in with your team, ask how they are coping, see what they may need from you. Be sure that they understand how they contribute to the business and that their contributions are valued.
We need to take time to get to know our people as individuals, not just job titles.
Find ways to engage all the different personalities of your team is really important, us humans do far better when we feel included, part of a team and cared about.
These strong relationships will also make it easier for you to know when/if someone starts to struggle.
Know the signs of burnout
It’s unlikely that someone will say they are burning out when asked. In my case, I assumed it was stress that would pass.
Knowing the tell-tale signs and symptoms can help stop burnout in its tracks.
Is someone’s behaviour starting to change? Are they getting sick frequently? Do they seem sceptical or cynical?
If you spot any of these things you need to take action.
Talk to them
The first action should always be to start a conversation with them. Talking about anything related to mental wellbeing can be uncomfortable but I promise you it’s not as uncomfortable as burnout.
If you need support to start this conversation I have written a step by step guide that will help you navigate the sensitive topic. Active listening is essential here. And don’t forget to look out for what IS and ISN’T being said.
You aren’t there to diagnose or therapise your team. But signposting what resources or services are available to them and being open to make changes to the way they work can really be the difference between happy and engaged or frazzled and burnout.
It’s also a good moment to encourage and empower your teams to take care of their needs, too. And of course, be sure that they are resting and disconnecting.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM BURNOUT
It’s not all down to employers or managers. We need to look after our own mental wellbeing, too. This is especially important if you are self employed.
Don’t know where to start?
Here are some tried and tested things that help:
Create a firm start and finish
This is really important whilst we are working from home as the lines between personal and professional are so blurred. Decide your times and stick to them. Consider marking the start and end of the day with an activity – i.e. a walk, workout. Let your team know about your hours so everyone is on the same page.
Respect your energy
Organise tasks around your natural flow of energy across the day. Consider blocking time for deep tasks and putting in plenty of short breaks to help maintain focus. Be transparent with colleagues/clients about these times and what they can/can’t expect from you during them.
Learn and practice saying “no”. This can be to extra work, unreasonable deadlines, unnecessary meetings, or even after work drinks with colleagues and friends. Saying “no” to them is saying yes to you and your needs. This is key in avoiding burnout.
Organise your calendar
Keep calendars organised and updated so you don’t over stretch or double book yourselves. Try and keep everything in one calendar. This is possibly the only time I’ll advocate mixing work and personal spaces but it really does make things much easier.
Mix in some phone calls with the video calls and where possible, face to face, to avoid that dreaded zoom fatigue.
That means not reading emails whilst eating your lunch, removing work apps from your phone in the evening and not working on weekends or whilst on holidays.
Endorphins make us happier and help us reduce stress. Gym, cycle, a lap around the block. All movement counts. Get going.
Lunch, evenings, weekends and proper holidays to rest and recharge. A recent study showed that we should take a break every 43 days to avoid burnout. Make sure you block out time in your calendar to relax and forget about work.
Self Awareness & Compassion
Constantly tired? Dread going to work? Getting sick all the time? Worried that you aren’t capable? These could all be signs of burnout.
Do not ignore them and don’t be ashamed of them. 75% of workers are going through it.
Speak to your manager, HR, your doctor, a colleague, a friend. Work on understanding what is causing these feelings and discuss things you can do to change the situation.
I know it feels daunting but imagine someone came to you with this challenge. You would want to listen, right? Help them out where you can, right?
So there is no reason why someone else wouldn’t want to do the same for you.
You do not need to figure things alone. People care about you.
You don’t need to do all of this at once. There is a lot included here because everyone needs different things.
Look through the list and note down the one(s) that resonate with you most. Then try implementing it, bit by bit.
Each little step helps us prevent burnout and move towards a more healthy and balanced relationship with work.
And who wouldn’t want that?
Each month I share “Things That Help”. A short memo of practical tips and tools to help you remove overwhelm, reach goals and nurture mental health. You can sign up to receive it below