In highly digitalized business environments, workers are the critical human-centric counterbalance, utilizing the new platforms and tools to navigate fast-paced, unpredictable marketplace developments effectively. At any organizational level, across all sectors, leaders and employees need to engage and support each other to meet the new demands, which means updating mindsets, means, and methods.
As an emphasis on employee well-being has increased, the greater responsibilities for executive and middle management are resulting in significant additional strain. Leaders are struggling to respond to their distributed teams in changeable mental states, who need more individualized attention, empathetic understanding, and support than before the pandemic. According to Development Dimensions International’s Global Leadership Forecast 2021, “Sixty percent of leaders now indicate that they feel ‘used up’ at the end of every workday, a strong indicator of burnout.”
Meanwhile, prolonged pandemic-related working restrictions in isolated or overcrowded settings at home or in high-stress front-line jobs have caused mental health issues that are lingering for so many workers. At the same time, ongoing uncertainties in an evolving business environment mean frequent iterations to respond to customers’ changing needs and employees taking on additional responsibilities so they can make timely decisions. Employees’ psychological well-being is being affected with a Gallup study finding that “23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.”
Every member of any team can be alert for signals when others periodically need greater attention, forewarning possible reduced capacity or time away from work. Updated leadership styles and collaborative team approaches that integrate more empathy to better understand peers and superiors are becoming essential. Everyone is responsible for nurturing trust-based relationships that create safe spaces where every team member can feel grounded and have a sense of belonging, as well as feel safe to contribute their ideas and voice their concerns.
Below are three tips to help you as a team member or team leader avoid burnout, support everyone on the team and foster a healthy and balanced workplace:
- Create Boundaries: Anyone burns out from unending workdays stuck in the same chair, replacing missed meals with unhealthy snacks. If you/your team lead proposes work hours to define a clear beginning and end to the workday, with a team-centric mindset, everyone can agree and reinforce the commitment, modeling the behavior and supporting each other’s actions. Team members whose preferred work habits are to start earlier or end later can be accommodated, but only with their commitment not to extend their days (unless there is an emergency) as burnout ultimately impacts the group. Research shows concentration is optimized in intervals of 45 minutes, so you can coordinate among yourselves to batch tasks as well as prompt each other to take five-to-ten-minute breaks. These interim segments can be used for doing emails, catching up together, or having a quick stretch and walking around the room. Whatever your role on the team, you can encourage each other to take scheduled lunch breaks and urge some physical movement during the workday to help everyone relax and reenergize their brains and bodies and not get overwhelmed or fatigued.
- Define Work Clearly: Burnout also results from a lack of clarity about tasks, processes, and expectations, if you do not receive a clear delineation from your boss or give a thoughtful explanation to your direct reports, hours are wasted in confusion. Now, working at a faster pace with less predictable outcomes and direction, especially after new platforms and applications have been implemented, being intentional and thoughtful about designing and optimizing how we each work is essential. Digitalization brings new systems and processes which need to be explicitly communicated so each person understands what is expected and any new methods and options for accomplishing their work. In a trusting, supportive environment, every member of your team can be encouraged to ask multiple clarifying questions to confirm if a new procedure is understood, what new requirements there are, and if are training needs might be applicable.
- Manage Meetings: We are over-meeting! Hours spent in meetings have more than doubled between 1960 and 2017 resulting in burnout as employees need to work much longer to get their core work done. Every member of your team can be accountable for creating meeting agendas that include desired outcomes so each person can assess their need to attend any meeting and prioritize their time effectively. Your team can use video recording tools or take turns taking notes to record meetings so those not participating live can follow up afterward. Committing to using asynchronous communication channels and content effectively—such as sending weekly updates in short videos and spending “live” interactions for relationship building—is another means of optimizing everyone on your team’s time and supporting healthy work habits.
Sophie Wade is a work futurist, international keynote speaker, author, and authority on Future-of-Work issues. She is the host of the widely popular Transforming Work podcast and 450,000 learners have taken her four LinkedIn courses which cover Future-of-Work skills, empathy, and Gen Z. Sophie is the Founder and Workforce Innovation Specialist at Flexcel Network, a Future-of-Work consultancy. Sophie’s executive advisory work and transformative workshops help companies future-proof their work environments and attract, engage, and retain their multigenerational and distributed talent. She helps corporations maximize the benefits and minimize the disruption in their transition to talent-focused new work environments.
By Sophie Wade