2022 has seen the reawakening of business delivery expectations.  Expectations for production levels to return to and exceed pre-COVID-19 levels.  Expectations for revenue, profitability and sales to recover.  COVID-19 is no longer an excuse.  It is a challenge we faced that we need to have worked through and integrated into our operations, sales and all other functions in the business. 

As the leaders of business, even if the integration and solutions have been implemented, if you and your staff don’t have the “get-up-and-go” to realise the expectations, your ability to deliver is in trouble. 

Let’s evaluate the current state of your staff:  How many of the following symptoms[i] are you and/or your staff suffering from?

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Disinterest and lack of motivation
  3. Negativity and even cynicism about themselves, their jobs and their ability to deliver on the required targets
  4. Reduced professionalism and efficiency.

If you are experiencing this from your staff, you may be working with a team suffering from burnout.  And getting delivery from a team suffering from burnout is the equivalent of pushing a rock up a sand dune.

Let’s reflect for a moment, why is burnout currently so prevalent in the workplace?

The key cause of burnout is excessive stress.  Since March 2020, most people, worldwide, have lived in a semi-permanent state of fear.  Fear of losing jobs, surviving on 50% salaries, job security, contracting COVID-19, loosing loved ones and the list goes on. 

Staff that were not impacted have coped with the guilt of “being okay”.  Even staff with secure jobs have admitted to me that they were fearful that their job security was a lie.  All the fear has led to increased working hours and destruction of personal boundaries (working after hours, on weekends, on leave etc.).  Even if staff are not at work, they are worrying about being valuable, so they worry about work which means they never rest.  Mental, physical and emotional reserves have been completely depleted. 

Although the changes in the working environment have had positive impacts on businesses through increased productivity, accessibility and flexibility, after two years, the negative consequence of burnout is currently very real in the workplace. 

So, what can you do?

At RainTree, we suggest the following steps are followed to address burnout in your team or business:

  • Recognise there is a burnout problem and address it. 

To address burnout, managers need to have courageous conversations with the staff from which performance is required.  If the staff are exhibiting burnout symptoms, the manager needs to support them to recognise they may need help.  Exploring the causes of the burnout is a critical first step to developing a plan on how to recover.  Are the issues all work related?  Are they also home related?  Are there physical challenges like lack of sleep or exercise? Courageous conversations are the starting point to building a strong plan to acknowledge and address the burnout.

  • Develop clear work boundaries and work plans to deliver critical deliverables.

Support the staff member to evaluate the priority work that needs to be done (both work and personal).  Help them to develop a plan that is efficient and effective and gets the work done and creates space for recovery.  Identify areas of inefficiency and duplication and remove them.  Build a solution that allows for recovery AND delivery.

A key ingredient in the plan must be implementing boundaries around “recuperation” time.  Staff with burnout need to prioritise rest and recouperation to get back to optimal performance levels.  This doesn’t mean they abdicate performing but they need to make changes to their lives that allow for the required rest that will allow for recovery and deliver the performance you require. 

  • Implement clear, short-term targets that allow for small achievements.

Initially, people suffering from burnout need to have regular, small wins.  Structures that allow for regrouping and prioritising are immensely helpful to support delivery while recovering.  Daily check-ins where priorities are agreed on, work well.  Sub-steps in projects or tasks that are followed up on and acknowledged feel good and boost staff that were previously proud performers.  Small regular wins start the process of reducing cynicism and helping to get back into the rhythm of success.   These actions take effort and require commitment and dedication from managers.  The rewards of the effort and getting back to the basics of managing will lead to the reward of having an employee back to their old selves.

  • Get help

Sometimes, our staff need more than we can provide.  With all staff experiencing burnout, recommend they get support from a doctor.  Doctors will conduct blood tests and provide the necessary medication that helps them to get back on track.  If they need more than a general practitioner to support them to manage their stress, recommend they work with a coach or psychologist.  The trauma of the last 2 years is only now being evaluated.  Most of us need a non-judgemental ear to listen and help us to build new habits and recover.  Getting the right help allows us to recover more quickly and fully.

Good staff are hard to find and expensive to train.  The last two years have taken their toll on everyone.  While you are supporting your staff to take the steps we suggest, consider taking a moment and reflecting on whether you need to follow them yourself.  Becoming more structured and boundaried may be exactly what you need to be able find your “get-up-and-go” and to be the leader the business needs.  Recovery from burnout will support yourself, your families and your businesses.  You are worth it?

[i] Definition of Burnout as defined by the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/)

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