Burnout. We’re all feeling it and leaders everywhere are worried about it. It’s been a wild year and circumstances we all saw as temporary have become a new normal: working from home (along with all its other responsibilities and distractions), an increased workload and longer workdays, less movement, fewer social occasions and a constant underlying anxiety. It’s no wonder so many are overwhelmed and losing steam.
Our first reaction to experiences like burnout and anxiety is often to retract. These are very normal, human reactions to events in our lives but in most cases, especially at work, we see it as a problem to keep to ourselves for fear of judgment, retaliation or a loss in credibility.
Paradoxically, research shows that the antidote to these emotions is more connection, not less. While we might want to retreat and hide until things have calmed down, the answer is actually to lean in.
1. Legitimize it
Leaders have to be willing to bring these issues up and ask how people are really feeling, then give them space to answer however they’re going to answer. We recommend that leaders go first in these conversations, sharing what they’re noticing or experiencing themselves and inviting others to share more authentically. Not only does this help to reduce stigma and normalize the topic, it also gives everyone permission to be more open and honest about their own challenges. When they know it’s normal and that they’re not alone, they’ll be more reliable for raising any issues early rather than waiting for big breakdowns.
2. Make space for spontaneous conversation
We’re all missing the casual water cooler conversation and quick visits from colleagues to our desk at the office. When challenges come up, where we used to catch our teammates between meetings or go grab a coffee with them to discuss, now we have to schedule yet another Zoom call on our packed calendars.
Working virtually, many are finding that our conversations have become very transactional, following an agenda meeting after meeting without much time to chat about non-work topics. Allowing and creating space for some spontaneity in our time with coworkers is an important way to stay connected and creates opportunities for people to be more candid about their challenges and where they might need help.
3. Try a walking meeting
Changing your environment, getting fresh air and moving your body are all tried and tested ways of resetting. Movement is also great for your brain, and walking while talking helps us process our conversations and can inspire more creative and deep thinking. Walking meetings can give you and your colleague(s) a chance to take a revitalizing break from the long string of Zoom meetings and eye strain, and you’re more likely to retain whatever it is you discussed.
4. Practice Presence!
We believe presence and personal awareness is one of the most important things you can practice for increasing your effectiveness as a leader and teammate, and for your well-being. Try a few of the practices in our Presence Practice Library – just 10-15 minutes of your day can make a difference.
If you’re facing these challenges right now, we would love to hear from you. What questions are you wrestling with? Is there anything you’d love advice from other leaders on how to handle? What have your organizations been doing that’s working well? Comment below or connect with us on LinkedIn! Let’s unleash our collective brilliance.