Professional burnout has always been an issue in the working world and no generation has had it particularly easy, but that doesn’t mean project managers shouldn’t always be searching for ways to avoid it and to keep their best team on the field. This is because burnout essentially means being exhausted, not having the energy to perform, making mistakes and generally bringing a worn-out vibe to the workplace, none of which are going to help your productivity or bottom line.
It might seem like a project would be helped by having everyone moving at break-neck speed and pulling plenty of overtime, but the reality is that this should never happen. In Sweden (where they are also trialing a 4-day work week), someone staying late at work is viewed negatively as it suggests that they haven’t been able to do what they were supposed to have done during the eight hours they had during normal working hours.
Knowing how to avoid burnout can thus be related to better time management and matching team members to their tasks more precisely. Employee welfare and improving team morale should also go hand-in-hand with efforts to maintain optimum productivity for a lengthy period of time.
How to Avoid Burnout
Keep staff at the edge of their capabilities, not over it
Some goal-setting philosophies, such as OKRs, used at Intel and Google, advocate setting goals that are always slightly out of reach but being satisfied with getting to within 70% of them. These make sure that everyone is always at the maximum of their abilities and striving for more. However, be sure that they also know that doing their best is what you want, not something they can’t achieve.
Make use of remote working
Advances in technology and project management tools, like Clarizen, mean that it is easier than ever to maintain a remote team. For anyone who’s ever been mired in a dismal commute, whether stuck in the car or against other people’s armpits on public transport, getting to take a few days a week doing your tasks at home is a welcome relief, both relaxing energy-wise and also good for improving team morale by showing trust in the team member’s responsibility.
Let your team know they can talk to you
There is a strong stigma attached to burnout at work, especially when it comes to telling your boss, and no-one wants to seem “weak”. Actually, it takes more strength to admit you can feel something coming on and having the courage to deal with it proactively before it seriously affects your work. As a manager, it’s vital that your team know they can come to you if they’re feeling the strain so that you can work out the best solution for both them and the project.
Create clear boundaries between work time and home time
Many people can be guilty of sending emails outside of work hours, especially within international teams, due to time differences. The problem isn’t necessarily with sending them, it’s that the email automatically drags the receiver back into work against their will. Your team should have a strict out-of-hours policy, so that when you are enjoying your normal life, you’re not always just one message ping away from having to switch back into work mode.
Make sure people actually take vacations
Vacations are supposed to be a time to unwind, get work out of your mind and recharge your batteries, yet 50% of Americans don’t take theirs. What’s more, two-thirds of those that do admitted to working while on holiday. Taking time off just for oneself is not only a good way to live life, it’s also the best way to keep energy levels and productivity high.