How Can Managers Get Creative When It Comes To Team Member Burnout Issues?

Team member burnout is real and managers need to be able to deal with it
Team member burnout is real and managers need to be able to deal with it
Image Credit: Rolf Dietrich Brecher

As the person who is in charge of a team of professionals, it has always been your job to make sure that everyone is doing well. Now that we are attempting to work our way through a pandemic, things like that have become a bit more difficult to do. However, it has become even more important that as managers we are able use our manager skills to detect when members of our team are starting to feel burned out and then we need to be able to step in and do something about it. The big question that most of us are currently facing is just exactly what can we do to help out our team members when it all just becomes too much to deal with?

Dealing With Team Member Burnout

So just exactly what is this burn out thing that can afflict the members our team? It turns out that work burnout is insidious. It’s not just like a red light that comes on. Managers need to understand that it’s something that very slowly starts to happen, and that’s how it can catch people by surprise. What managers need to do when they start to realize that their team is feeling exhausted by work and life during a pandemic is to lead “recognizing burnout” sessions for team members. The goal of these sessions would be to give team members a forum to voice their feelings, and to hear advice from mental health professionals about how to cope. This would almost be like a form of team building.

Doing things like this is one of many experiments managers are undertaking as they stare at a sea of faces on Zoom and start to worry. Since there is no end to the pandemic in sight, managers say many remote employees report feeling depressed, fed up and wary of what’s next. Companies are starting to adapt policies and rushing to roll out benefits to head off a surge of employee distress. Managers have to realize that there’s this second wave of the pandemic upon us, where people are feeling anxious that this is the new normal, and how much longer can we sustain this? Managers have not yet come to grips with the mental impact this is having on all of us.

In addition to expanding access to counseling and mental health services, many managers are trying other approaches, such as insisting team members disconnect or offering more training. One thing that managers can do is to call team members to check in on their well-being. We need to make the effort. We can’t assume email is enough, because email is not personable.

How Managers Can Help Teams Deal With Burnout

The good news is that solutions needn’t be complicated or costly. Some firms are changing manager training during the pandemic to focus on how managers can manage with empathy while people are working remotely. Now, managers are taught to begin one-on-one sessions with team members with a simple phrase meant to elicit genuine emotions. Instead of the stock “How are you?” before moving on to business, managers could ask, “How are you really, really doing?” Using this technique, a manager can be silent, even if the pause feels uncomfortable. With some prodding, team members may then open up about their true feelings regarding work or personal challenges. It’s a simple tactic that any manager can employ. The key is that it’s about true empathy and true care.

Companies have taken steps to bolster morale in the Covid era. One thing that managers can do is to issue “good news Friday” memos, pointing out, “Hey, here’s five things that happened this week that are pretty good”. It could contain feedback from a happy customer or details about new business the company landed. As the pandemic drags, managers need to adjust their approach. Benefits that may have been appreciated early on – such as matching gifts to charities and stipends for home offices – have shifted to include access to child-care coordinators and subsidies, as more and more parents grapple with schooling issues.

Many managers are saying that even finding ways to get employees to step away from their laptops takes more thought now. Managers can began offering employees bonus “self-care days” off in order to encourage them to disconnect. Another approach is to offer team members impromptu three-day weekends. Extra vigilance is key, managers say. To head off burnout, you will need to watch for employees who seem to be plugging away after hours. When you see this you will want to follows up with them the next day, saying that such work may be unnecessary.

What All Of This Means For You

Managers have worked hard to create the teams that they have working for them. One of their jobs is to make sure that their team is able to work together and deliver high quality results. However, with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic all of a sudden managers no longer have a chance to work closely with their team members on a day-by-day basis. Burnout can start to creep into a team as team members who are working remotely start to feel overwhelmed. Managers need to be able to detect this and take action when it occurs.

Burnout is something that starts slowly. Team members can start to feel exhausted. Managers can start to address this by holding sessions to address burnout within the team. Remote employees can start to feel depressed and managers need to start to adapt policies to deal with this. Manager training is being modified to provide us with the skills that we need to deal with burnout. Managers need to adjust their approach and understand that things that used to be prized by team members may no longer be valuable. Getting team members to take a break is a key goal for many managers.

The good news is that the pandemic won’t last forever. However, managers need to make sure that the members of their team are going to be able to make it through the pandemic. This means that we are going to have to get good at detecting when team members are starting to burnout and take steps to prevent this. With the proper training we’ll all be able to do this. The new job of a manager is to find ways to keep their team together and working smoothly as we all struggle to make it through the pandemic.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What can a manager do if a team member appears to be shutting down due to burnout?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As a manager it is important that you be able to show leadership skills to your team. When we used to meet with our teams in the office, we could do this by showing them that we were listening to them, making eye contact and other ways to let them know that we viewed them as being important. During the pandemic, these things are no longer easy to do. We are interacting with our teams via video conferencing and it turns out that commanding a room full of team members with our manager skills isn’t the same thing as commanding a Zoom video conference.

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