You’ve made it through the summer, maybe had a chance to use some vacation time, and now you’re ready to tackle a busy fall feeling calm and refreshed, right? Well maybe?
There’s a good chance you aren’t as relaxed these days as you might like. Nor is your staff. A May 2020 report by the project management technology firm Asana found that 89 percent of U.S. workers experienced burnout at least once in the past year. And that was before COVID-19 hit full swing. Now, with a whole new array of stressors—remote-work arrangements that challenge work-life balance, Zoom fatigue, anxiety over the virus itself—the idea of what it means to look after your staff’s well-being requires a reset. The usual rhythm of vacations and holidays may not do the trick.
A sizable proportion of Americans are quitting their jobs—4 million in April 2021 alone. At the DAA OneConference October 5 -7, Ron Hetrick will talk about how the US is suffering the beginning stages of a sansdemic: a lack of people to do all the work that needs to be done. And according to the new school’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy analysis, some people may never come back. An estimated 1.1 million older workers retired and exited America’s labor force between August 2020 and January 2021. More break time alone won’t crack the problem of retaining burned-out workers looking for other opportunities, wrote workplace expert Liz Fosslien last week in the MIT Sloan Management Review. The struggle is more existential: “Lacking a sense of meaning and not receiving the emotional support you need to thrive are both also strongly related to feeling stretched too thin,” she writes.
It is more important than ever to hold onto your talent, but more break time alone won’t fix the problem.
To address that, Fosslien recommends several things that leaders can do to help their teams feel a bit more balanced. Most involve opening lines of communication if workers want to talk directly about issues. But a good leader also knows when to lay off a little bit: Empowering people to do their work without micromanaging them goes a long way toward feeling less pressure.
This is also a perfect time to emphasize professional development. If “lacking a sense of meaning” is a substantial problem, opportunities to upgrade skills can be a boon for both the worker and the organization. And, of course, being a corporate member of the DAA sends a clear message to your team that you want them to participate in professional development and be connected and supported by a digital analytics community.
But with professional development options, it’s best to tread carefully—the solution to staff feeling more overwhelmed isn’t necessarily putting more things to do in their inbox, even if they’re beneficial. If the largest symbol of the pandemic-era workplace is that everybody is now working everywhere, all the time, leaders can ease the anxiety by instituting some firm boundaries on when work gets done.
Speaking with the Society for Human Resource Management, leadership expert Michael Levitt recommends that workers get in the habit of setting alarms for when their workday is done and then shutting off notifications for the day. I’d go a step further and suggest that leaders make a point to establish it as a policy; after all, your most-stressed workers are the ones least likely to ask for permission for that kind of peace of mind. And what if there’s an emergency? Maybe, in the midst of a pandemic, it’s best to save that word for when it’s warranted. “Priorities and urgent matters are fine, but only hospitals deal in emergencies,” he says.
How has your organization faced and addressed burnout issues? Share your experiences on LinkedIn.
This blog excerpts from Leading Through a New Brand of Burnout by Mark Athitakis featured on Associations Now.#ThoughtLeaderConversation#Staffing#Stress