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Avoid Burnout So You Don’t Flameout

Sharper tempers, emotional and mental fatigue, dramatic lifestyle changes… Don’t let this be your post-pandemic normal at work! Avoid burnout, or you will flameout.

The pandemic changed how we work. Most businesses are transforming how they work internally in their operations and externally with their customers and suppliers. This is causing constant—and sometimes hidden—disruption through burnout and stress.

The companies I advise run the gamut of how they are “returning to normal”—going back to the office full-time, to switched to 100 percent remote work, to hybrid.

All these paths present their challenges. Here’s what you need to know to help your employees, and yourself, navigate this shifting landscape of post-pandemic life:

  • Those who are returning full-time may have employees now choosing to leave the company because they do not want to be burdened by daily commutes.
  • Those going fully remote are concerned their culture and onboarding-integration of new employees will take a hit in the long-term.
  • Those taking the hybrid approach struggle to adjust their work norms for collaboration, communication, and engagement.

These choices are burning us out, and the effects can be catastrophic to organizations. Companies are struggling to hire qualified people. Employees seek greater demands in compensation, yet they also want more work-life balance as they weigh priorities.

Be Aware of the New Burnout

One of the reasons why we are experiencing more stress and burnout is due to decision fatigue.

Last year, many employees had to work remotely due to the lockdowns. This resulted in being hyper-focused on establishing work processes and habits with minimal disruptions to the business and its customers.

Today, with every company seeking their ideal future work approaches, this adds a whole new layer of decisions. When are we in person? When are we remote? What tools do we need? How do we handle vaccinated vs. unvaccinated employees? To further complicate decisions, you must consider how your customers and/or other departments fit into the mix.

This overwhelm of decisions becomes toxic to our brains.too many decisions leads to burnout

What You Can Do Now to Avoid Burnout

To combat the stress and potential burnout for yourself and your employees, start with three steps:

  1. Recognize and talk about it. Create an environment where team members can share their stress, work to identify the stressors and ask others for ideas to resolve or reduce them. This is typically the hardest step.
  2. Find purpose and meaning in your work. There is a wealth of research that shows how having a strong sense of purpose in life directly correlates to positive mental health, well-being, and better cognitive functioning. Finding a sense of purpose is crucial to beating burnout.
  3. Find small wins. When you feel the sense of overwhelm, where you can’t focus on any task because your mind is “spinning,” stop. Take a short walk, and then write a list of the items you need to accomplish. Just writing them out is cathartic, and it gives you something to work with. Look at the high-priority, high-effort items and break them into smaller chunks (“eating the elephant a bite at a time”). Give yourself a short break to transition between different tasks—this will keep your mental acuity fresh.

Strike a Balance Between the Old and New

The pandemic forced workers to be remote. People realized how much time they recovered from commutes. They regained control of many priorities—from family/work to meetings vs. deep work. They found their “personhood” again, and many don’t want to give it up.

Steps you should take now. To attain balance for your team and organization, start with three questions for your team members:

  1. What do they want to keep from working remotely? What did they like in working remotely—what was different? What brought them joy? How are they leveraging technologies and new work habits to become more productive?
  2. How and when (days/times) do we need to be “on” for the team? This identifies the times for meetings, real-time calls, and collaboration when multiple people need to work together. For example, 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
  3. What day(s), if any, do we need to be in person at the office? Many teams need time to be together to keep their cultural cohesion and interpersonal relationships alive. This enables spontaneity that physical proximity provides—the watercooler talk, the overhearing a conversation that you want to join, team interaction of being in the same room. For example, Mondays from 10 a.m. to4 p.m.

Remember to Give Grace

Last year, leaders were outstanding in how they allowed their teams the time to settle into their new work approaches and forgave early mistakes.

Today, we are experiencing similar changes in our work lives, which are not as obvious. Leaders need to step back from team members, watch for where they need support, and help guide them through the transformation.

Do that and your team’s performance will increase while their stress is relieved.