Is your team sending emails late at night? Are they skipping their vacations because they feel guilty about taking one or don't know what to do during the pandemic? Or worse, they don't want the workload when they come back? Overcoming team burnout needs to be a top 2021 priority for all companies.
According to the Asana Anatomy About Work Index, 70% of workers experienced burnout in 2020. It was easy to do with a full year of the pandemic, newly appointed homeschool teachers (aka – parents), adjusting to working from home, the much-needed social justice movement, the election season, and day-to-day life. Last year was a doozy, and it affected everyone differently. Heck, even I felt a little burned out by the end of the year due to strong company growth, and I teach this stuff!
In 2019, WHO classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). It's not a medical condition, but it's definitely serious, costing our health and productivity. Seven out of ten people reported burnout in the last year.
According to the World Health Organization, burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
reduced professional efficacy.
Last year, the people ranking their mental health as poor or very poor rose from 7 to 27%. Forty-two percent of people rated their stress as high or very high.
In the last two years of my corporate job, I suffered work burnout so badly, I know I could have gotten a mental health leave from a doctor. I consider it one of the critical factors contributing to my being diagnosed with three autoimmune diseases at 39. Chronic stress accelerated the process. As a high-achiever, I didn't feel like I could use sadness, lack of sleep, constant crying, and wanting to give up as an excuse from time off work. That was about ten years ago, and thankfully things have changed.
Key factors contributing to team burnout (Anatomy About Work):
The number of employees working late in 2020 rose to 87%.
The employers who thought that people who worked from home were goofing off are now working from home and realize that's not the case. Often, people work longer hours and take fewer breaks. We aren't stopping at the coffee machine to talk to someone for five minutes. We aren't going out for lunch because of the pandemic. Some of us are navigating other people working from home and distracting us. Or we are parents working with our kids in virtual school (or worse, kids too young for school, and daycare isn't reliable). This means that we might have to leave our work during the day and come back to it at night when we're often tired and need to relax.
Many people were thrown into working remotely without consideration of how that would look for them. They started behaviors of checking email in bed, eating lunch in front of a screen, and working late at night. The work was always there, and with a pandemic, why not keep working? Now, we can't shut it off or break our bad habits.
One of my favorite examples of someone who shuts it off at the end of the workday is Marie Noel, Director of Total Rewards at Blueprint Medicines. She packs her laptop and peripherals in a bag every night and puts them in the closet.
Currently, Rader Co. is working with two teams with high rates of burnout. We're focusing on implementing guardrails to protect others and themselves. Why others? According to Rader Co. Team Specialist Christina Rowe, it's sometimes easier to think about how we can edit our own behavior to help other people rather than ourselves. The benefit is two-fold, but it doesn't feel as self-serving.
What kind of guardrails helps others to decrease burnout?
Working offline or scheduling emails to send during working hours.
Encouraging or requiring time off. Real time off of work and respecting it.
Having meeting free days or times and holding them sacred.
What companies can do to help overcome team burnout:
Consider the Demand-Control-Support model (R. Karasek)
This can be done with:
Flexible work hours, especially for those that have kids in virtual school.
Encourage or require taking time off for at least 3-4 days. A day or two is not enough to shake it off.
Clarity on priorities so that efforts aren't duplicated. Have a virtual whiteboard for the team where everyone lists their Quarterly, Monthly, and Weekly Top Three (only three!) priorities. Even if others don't read them, it requires thoughtful planning and allows the person to hone in on what's essential when it feels like everything is.
Reduce meetings and video calls. For the love of fresh air and less screen-time, reduce meeting duration and the number of people in them!
Daily uninterrupted focus time by working offline, scheduling focus blocks, or having no meetings for a two-hour block during the day.
Implement accountability or commitment partners to ensure that people take care of themselves—reward team members who are putting up guardrails that increase productivity, health, and happiness.
At Rader Co., we help teams extinguish their email, conquer the calendar, master tasks, and escalate their energy. Don't lose good people due to work burnout and overwhelm.
Are you a leader that expects your team to respond to you immediately?
Do you model constant texting, emailing, and calling while expecting it to be reacted to pronto?
Let them focus!
Context or task switching leads to decision fatigue, cognitive overload, and a decrease in productivity up to 43%! (Source: Asana Anatomy of Work Index). It depletes concentration and reduces our ability to prioritize.
What's task switching? Going back and forth between multiple programs or systems with different outcomes of thought.
Example: I'm creating a presentation for TEVET.
I have my presentation open, their scorecard summary, and an email from the COO on their challenges. This is okay because all I'm thinking about is TEVET.
But…if I'm creating that presentation and then get buzzed with a text, go back to the presentation, get an email ping from my boss, go back to the presentation, attend a meeting and then go back yet again….that's wasted time and lost productivity.
Great leaders allow for focused work time where staff can work offline or with their email shut down.
Did you hire your staff for their reactive email-checking abilities? Or was it because they were strategic thinkers, exceptional writers, creative marketers, or game-changing coders?
Let them focus!
Encourage them to schedule time solo, have organized team or company offline time, or participate in our Focus90 membership for 90-minute virtual working sessions with community accountability and support.
Don't let task-switching cost you money, lead to burnout, and create longer work hours.
Go America! The US leads the way in duplication of work with over 6 hours a week of duplicated efforts. (Source: Asana Anatomy of Work).
Why? Not enough clarity on who owns what and a lack of clear deadlines. Another pitfall? Too many people in your meetings.
The first place to start to look at redundancies is your meetings. Do you have more than one team member represented at cross-functional meetings? This often happens with start-ups or rapidly growing companies. What used to just have one layer now has three. It made sense for Sharon to be at the Tuesday meeting before, but now she has Craig working for her, and he could attend in her place.
Give them their time back or give up the FOMO and remove yourself.
Do you have too many cooks in the kitchen? Do you find it hard to come to conclusions? The Rule of 7 states that for every person over seven in a meeting, decision-making decreases by 10%.
If you aren't using a project management system where people can edit documents live and see what's being done, you may have duplicated efforts. Getting away from the inbox as an assignment and task tool will allow you to see what's going on in real-time. Using a program like Asana or ClickUp, I can see all of our projects' status and assigned tasks. I can add others as collaborators or followers, so it's clear who needs to be doing and who is deciding or approving.
Duplicated efforts are costing companies money and leading to employee frustration. Challenge yourself for one week to find redundancy in a meeting. One person who can be let go that is more of a nice-to-have. Spend 30 minutes researching your project management system and start using it, rather than managing over email. There will be a learning curve, but it sometimes takes time to save yourself more time later, and the results will be worth it in the end. Save money, save time, and increase work satisfaction.
According to the Anatomy of Work Index, 87% of people work two hours more every day. Parkinson's Law is killing our productivity.
What's Parkinson's Law?
Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote an essay for the Economist in 1955 that stated that work expands to fill the time allotted. Basically, whatever time we give ourselves, we will take that time to complete it.
Ever notice how you can Get Shit Done like a boss the day before you go on vacation? You only have one day before you shut it all down and leave it behind. You aren't going to mess around, procrastinate, or do piddly stuff. You prioritize and get done what needs to be accomplished in one day.
How is Parkinson's Law making our days longer?
One reason is that our 2-3 minute conversation or office drive-by has been replaced with a 30-minute Zoom call. People hardly pick up the phone anymore, so we resort to video meetings. We're not going to schedule a 5-minute Zoom meeting, and as Parkinson's Law states, whatever time we allot, we will fill it.
It drives me crazy that everyone schedules meetings for one hour. Why? Because that's the default in Microsoft Outlook! Change your default in your settings to 45 or 50-minutes. Heck, have your IT do it for the whole company! Turn that 30-minute meeting to 15, or better yet, don't schedule an appointment. If it's only a 2-3 minute conversation, pick up the phone or create a Loom video.
One reason our Focus90 program works is that we only have 80-minutes in that focused work sprint. Members can tell you that in the last 5-10 minutes, we feel like we are sprinting to get finished. That little clock ticking makes us want to be able to say we completed the task.
Challenge: Find one thing you are doing this week that, because of Parkinson's Law, you took the whole amount of time to do it. Find a one-hour meeting and take 5, 10, or 15 minutes off and then go and take a biology break!
Are you working longer days because your work hours are filled with meetings? Do you end up multitasking because what's being said isn't all relevant to you? You can shorten your meetings with video, and I don't mean Zoom!
According to the Anatomy of Work Index 2021, productivity will decrease in 2021 due to long workdays. Why? People are in meetings so much more, and they are using the evenings to catch up. Because we can't have casual chats face to face, we schedule an appointment instead. That informal chat may have been less than five minutes. Still, no one plans a 5-minute meeting, and hardly ever does anyone just call anymore. When I call one of my clients, they sometimes respond via text if they can't answer the phone to make sure nothing is broken, or something hasn't happened. They aren't used to getting phone calls anymore.
My team and I eliminate unnecessary meetings using Loom software (free and paid versions) for anything under five minutes. Instead of hosting a meeting to explain something, I record a video, show changes I want in a document, or describe a process. I create a Loom video and share my screen, talking through it with them.
I created this because a Team Specialist was having a hard time locating a file I had shared with her. Since I didn't personalize it, I can use it for anyone else that has this issue. I also like that I can speed it up to 1.5 and listen faster.
I created a series of Outlook Quick Tips for one client with Loom. They could download the videos and host them on their Microsoft Teams site.
We no longer have a company manual. Instead, we store all of our processes in our ClickUp project management system. Many of those processes have accompanying videos. I ask my team members to create videos for the things they own to fill in if they are out sick or on vacation.
Examples of some of our videos:
Processing Marcey's email: I can use this to walk through my emails on how I want them processed. This way, any member of my team can complete this task.
Exporting Enrolled Users in Podia: My Technical Specialist created this so any team member can do it and not have to wait for her.
Sample Conference Application: I walked through how to complete a conference application and find all the submission materials.
Audible book distribution: Steps to deliver Audible books to my clients.
How to Complete the Team Specialist Coaching Sheet: Instead of training each new Team Specialist, I only have to send them this video.
Before a team call, I'll often send a video giving context to something we will discuss so they all have time to process it and think about it before we meet. One of my clients said it would have been a great addition to her meeting about their annual goals before they met, saving them time since they would have had a chance to think about them.
My friend Lilly Ferrick uses Loom to replace long emails to clients. If it's informative, it's a 3-minute limit. She also uses Loom for training. It prevents the need for a live person to do it. In-person training time is reserved for questions and clarification.
Experiment with Loom or another quick-capture video program to shorten your meetings. Create a few training videos or pre-meeting context. Keep it neutral without greetings so that it can be evergreen and used over and over.
Connect with me to get my not-too-often emails on how you can increase your productivity, improve your health, and declutter your spaces. I’ll send Ten Things You Are Doing That Wreck Your Productivity right away!
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