In the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic, another crisis is unfortunately looming. 75% of finance professionals confessed to feeling burnout according to a new report by Blind & Journify.*
Have you ?
I have and so has Eden, our head of event operations.
Here’s some things we’ve tried and learned ourselves in the process. of combatting Burnout. Plus a few extra tips I picked up from around the internet:
- Listen To Your Team – Don’t assume you know the answer to people’s unique burnout problem. You can ask your team about burnout before they even tell you. Give an open invitation and enquire curiously. Many leaders are problem solvers but in this case, empathise before you fly in to save the day with solutions. Burnout can happen for loads of reasons including feeling undervalued from not having enough responsibility to having work overload!
- Encourage Holidays – From April to July the Steamed Egg team worked their socks off delivering our virtual team building events and we were all a little burned out. I managed to escape to Croatia for five days and it was exactly what was needed. Where flying isn’t possible, an AirBnb in the UK or any change of scene for a few days is, in my opinion, the best thing you can do to reset. You could even offer people extra holiday in their contract this year? Did you know Virgin give all of their staff unlimited holiday?
- Try A Four Day Week – As of May, Eden has been trying out four day weeks. He’s found it allows him to get super focused during the time he works for Steamed Egg, while also having a day to pursue his other interests in life and look after his mental Wellbeing. Microsoft has trialed four day weeks and saw productivity jump by 40%. Salesforce is also doing this over the next month as a mental wellbeing day every Friday. You could trial it with your team and set some clear expectations about the business outcome that need to be met for the policy to remain. If you see that it’s not working then you can always go back to how things were.
- Flexible Working – One of the most popular, recent revelations in work place culture is giving your team complete autonomy over when they work. Let’s be honest, we don’t all need to be online all day unless the job specifically requires it. Ask your people to install the company’s instant messenger app on their phones so they are contactable. If your team works late into the evening on day, let them start late the next day. This way they have control of their time and with that trust you can expect to see this work for motivation and productivity. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has a list of benefits longer than your arm about Flexible working, including increased productivity.
- Start Work Later – At Steamed Egg we have our morning call at 10am most days. I know this could be quite controversial for people working in traditional industries like finance. The key benefit is this gives us a full morning to do our own thing including a solid habit routine. I personally use the time to work out, have an ice cold shower (try it!), meditate and read – all in the name of keeping me in great mental and physical fitness. Then I have an hour or two to do admin and sales work before our daily call. Having our call daily call also helps us feel connected otherwise the weeks can drift with little social contact. We finish work when we’re done for the day. Not at a fixed time just for the sake of being at work. sometimes it’s 7pm but can be earlier if the day is done or we have life plans. This flexibility suits the balanced life we want to have and also works with our our events which will often run late into the evening.
- Email Curfew – Don’t let your team work or emailing late into the night if they don’t have too. This is a classic way of showing how hard you’re working at the cost of your personal space and mental health. As a team leader, set the example by not sending or replying to emails past a certain time unless it’s absolutely essential. (Tip: Gmail and most good mail apps let you schedule sends to go out the next morning. You’ll be the first thing in your recipients inbox that way too.)
- Share Your Wellbeing Habits – Ask your team to share habits that are keeping them in top mental and physical shape. Eden and I have turned the habit of waking up early into a competition and share what we find is working well. The first person to tag the other in Notion in the morning wins. We push each-other to get up early and make time for ourselves. I won last month. Just saying.
- Get Personal On Your Team Calls – Start by daring to ask “What else have you been up too?”. This may sound obvious but if you find yourself in a team where the culture is not to do this naturally, it can be hard to start. Make the effort to take a sincere interest in each-other’s lives beyond work. The benefit of this will go far beyond the calls as you start to learn more about each-other’s hobbies and personal lives, both good and bad. Off the back of it you can send each-other articles, gifts or serve each-other with ideas. Feeling cared for will do wonders for morale.
- Turn The Video Off – Try the occasional, old fashioned voice call. Zoom fatigue can be a burnout in itself.
- Working Hangouts – Forget the office water cooler, the most fun you’ll ever have in your career is the jokes you have with the half a dozen people who sit next to you in the office. You can salvage this by having an open video or voice session a couple of times a week. Set no agenda and everyone can everyone can work on their own thing, but most importantly have a little chin wag that brings back the feeling of being together.
- Hire A Virtual Assistant – They can take away mundane, repetitive admin tasks. This will give your team time to work on more stimulating and collaborative projects that will in turn make them happier. You can hire a VA for about £500 a month. Tim ferris has a bunch of recommendations on where you can find one here.
- Come Up With New Ideas – Regularly putting your heads together to think about the future and how you can improve what what you are doing, will allow your team to feel like things are moving forward. New ideas are fun. They get people excited about work! Make sure everyone’s contribution is noted so all taking part feel like they are contributing.
- Meet Up – If it’s safe to do so, meet in person in an outdoor places like a park. Steve Jobs was infamous for his walking meetings where big ideas were discussed. On a video call you’d say “I miss you” but you don’t say that in person. There’s something about physical presence that connects us on a deeper level. A great meet-up with some fun and deep social connection should give your team a reset.
- Take Long Lunch Breaks – Encourage your team to have their space in the middle of the day. Don’t insist on eating together but if you think burnout is happening from lack of social contact you could persuasively nudge them to dine together on video call while you watch or talk about something other than work.
- Professional Therapy – If one of your team is experiencing particularly bad burnout, offer them access to an online therapist. It can do wonders to have an outlet beyond family, friends and colleagues. Forget the stigma, online therapy is becoming more poplar, especially during covid-19.
- Remove Bad Eggs – Sorry to say, if you have an especially toxic person in your team and you know deep down they are damaging other people’s mental being, it’s time to ask them to move on. Of course exhaust all other options first and try to help the toxic person to adapt and change. It may be harsh but if you let the problem persist you may end up loosing good people instead. There’s also tens of thousands of pounds a year in lost productivity. A-players loose faith in their leaders when B players are allowed pull the team down.
- Team Building – The fun kind only please. That means strictly no outcome objectives allowed! Fun and laughter are proven to boost a team’s sense of community. It also breaks up day to day routine and differentiates the weeks which are all-merging together in 2020. Try to do a fun team experience as often as budget and time allows, with fresh activities each time. this is not a waste of your time, its an investment in your team’s happiness. When you do play games together, ask people to sit somewhere different in the house from when they work so they get out of work mindset. Make it feel like a treat! Here’s some recommendations for the top 9 online team building experiences in the UK.
- Acknowledge Hard Work – It’s amazing how little encouragement people need to get back on track. The other day my Dad told me he was proud of me and I felt motivated for days. Leaders can have that sort of impact on their people. Tell your team that you’re proud of their work and what they’ve specifically done recently that makes you grateful to have them on your team. In the book Radical Candor, Kim Scott emphasises the importance of going into detail with your praise. She says you must let people know how their actions have helped your team accomplish their goals and move company towards it’s goals. A sure fire way to tigger burnout is having people work hard and not praising them for it.
- Reward Progress – Set a target for the team that stretches them but is still achievable. Then let them know the reward for hitting it. Setting an activity goal rather than an outcome goal puts the control in their hands. Eg. Outcome goal would be “Hit £100,000 in revenue” but instead “Make 1000 customer calls” is the activity that they control. Make the prize worth their wile and you’re stuck for ideas perhaps I can nudge you towards one or epic online team building events 👀. Whatever the goal, make it fun and keep score updated regularly. Remind the team what’s up for grabs if they succeed. A 30 – 60 days timeline should be great for holding their interest.
- Gratitude – Perhaps the most effective bang for your buck is to practice gratitude. Coming in at a cost of £0 forever, experiencing gratitude increased dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin; all contributing to a feeling of connection, closeness and happiness. Saying what your grateful for out loud may feel a little corny at first but I implore you to try this just five times over the next month. Tell your team what you’re grateful for at the start of a call and invite them to do the same. It could your garden, your health or a person. Anything goes. The trick it to focus on the feeling of being grateful more than the words. There is so much we have to be thankful for, even during Covid-19. Reminding yourselves of this will do wonders to boost morale.
- Learn About Burnout – There’s dozens of videos on the subject. Understanding burnout better will help you empathise with your team. This video is my favourite.
Bonus Tip: Give Re-Assurance On Job Security – If you suspect people are worried about their jobs you could offer them more transparency about the future of the business and their position. If the company has challenges, be upfront without being defeatist. If your people have nothing to worry about but seem worried, open up the numbers and show them their jobs are safe.
I personally think the most powerful are 1, 12 and 21 and am going to make more effort to discuss gratitude with Eden and my team in the mornings. I’m interested in which ideas you find the most useful and please drop any other tactics you’ve tried below for others to learn from. . .
Good luck getting the fire back in your team!
Stay happy and healthy,