Five Steps Leaders Can Take to Reduce Burning Out Their Employees

Let’s face it 2020 has been a year of surprizes, disappointments and a multitude of unknowns. The term “uncertain times” has been a phrase that has been overused and doesn’t quite explain how we have been coping. A more accurate way to describe it is that many of us having been navigating through the chaos that is now our new lives. Between managing kid’s online learning, working from home, managing the shift in business priorities, AND racial tensions at an all time high with media spotlights on the disproportionate killings of unarmed Black people, it has been a lot to cope with. Your employees are not ok. Repeat your employees are NOT ok. And if you think they are you may be in for a rude awakening when stress leaves start to increase, more of your employees drop out of the labour force and productivity and employee satisfaction is on the decline. In fact, since the pandemic women’s participation in the labour force is the at the lowest level in three decades and have accounted for approximately 45% of the decline in hours worked during the pandemic. Your employees are balancing a lot on their plates and the stress of it all is staring to get to them.

We know from research that when your body is in a heighted state of stress arousal cortisol levels are elevated and when in this persistent state can lead to many negative health effects on the body included but not limited to cardiovascular disease, mental health challenges including anxiety, depression and personality disorders and chronic fatigue.

Another confounding effect is the fact that we are going into another longer winter with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) on the rise, cold and flu season is here, and people feeling increasing levels of loneliness as they genuinely miss their loved ones. The effects of this time have taken a toll on many of us and as a leader the burden is on you to do more to help support your employees. We can no longer take a reactive-lets wait and see what happens-approach. The time to act is now.

Here is what you can do as a leader to help prevent your employees from burning out:

1.       Facilitate the process of getting your organizations to re-invest in the EAP plans and benefit supports; remind employees of these supports and how to access them

A pro-active approach is better than a reactive one. We know people are living through chaos in their lives right now. What we don’t know is what’s coming next and with a second wave of the pandemic looming over us this will add an additional burden to members of your team. Why not take a pro-active approach and help support re-investing in your organization’s EAP plans and benefit supports. EAP professionals are there to help employees thrive and help them mange through the challenging situations they may be coping with. With these programs however there are limited sessions that employees can access. It makes sense to add more sessions for your employees especially when they may be having a harder time coping. And of course, ensure there is diversity in the EAP provider so that your diverse team feels heard and supported with the added stresses that has been placed on them. Allocate more funding towards health benefits so that members of your team can take care of all aspects of their health both physical and mental. Remind employees of their access to these supports and in fact, invite a member of your extended health benefits insurer to speak about how to access these benefits and what is available to them. You can also take it one step further and invite a wellness practitioner to have sessions with your team and talk about coping strategies. This sends the message that you and the organization care about the health and wellbeing of your employees.

2.       Where possible, provide flexibility in working hours

Flexibility in working hours can ease the pressure your employees may be feeling with trying to balance multiple stressors. For example, for parents with young children it can be especially challenging to care for their children if they are also expected to be at work at the same time with limited or no childcare. Providing work from home options or opportunities to complete tasks in non 9-5 hours may help. Check-in with members of your team to find out their unique needs and how you may be able to add more flexibility in their workday. Consider options to collaborate in asynchronous time to limit the amount of time people must meet in real time. Trust that your team can get projects completed with more flexibility added to their schedule.

3.       Have an open-door policy with mindful check-ins to genuinely connect with members of your team

Building relationships take time and this requires mindful check-ins. When connecting with members of your team, go beyond shallow conversation starters such as “how are you” or “how was your weekend” the answers to these questions tend to illicit a one word answer or merely  trying to make pleasantries. Instead ask more mindful questions such as:

What is exciting you most this week

What is a challenge for you that I can help with

What is something interesting that happened to you today

Is there anything you want to talk about today

What is something you would like to see more of/less of

Using this approach will help your team feel more supported and will help build their resilience. If your team knows you are there for them they are more likely to open up to you in their time of need. This can help you understand their challenges and enable you to provide support.

4.       Set an example

There is nothing more that sets the tone than when a leader models the behaviour they want to see after all it’s not what you say but what you do that truly matters. Set the stage by enforcing your own boundaries when it comes to work-life-balance and taking care of your own health. When leaders have their own boundaries, it lets their team know that this is the same behaviour they too should be applying to their own lives. Share with your team practices you engage in to be balanced. If you haven’t achieved this balance quite yet the time to start is now. Make a plan to take care of your own health and ensure you are not spending all your time working. Your employees need to see you take breaks, that you leave on time, and you too also have a life outside of work. Model a healthy way of living, this will let your team know that this should be a priority for them too.

5.       Advocate for changes in your workplace policies

If your organization hasn’t updated its policies since the pandemic began chances are they are outdated. Your policies need to reflect the current landscape we are living in and need to be in the best interest of your employees. For example, do you have a short-term and long-term leave in place for your employees? What happens if members of the team get sick or their family members? Are your policies inclusive and equitable or do they serve to benefit some groups while harming or oppressing others? Keep in mind that your Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) employees may be facing disproportionate emotional stress of the pandemic in addition to racial microaggressions in the workplace. Other questions to ask yourself could a lack of policies around challenges faced in this environment be causing undo stress to the team? Do you have a work from home policy-why or why not? These are some questions to ask yourself as a leader and how you can help to move the needle on these policies.

 

 

Understanding that we are coping in challenging times and reflecting this in your leadership will help your team be more resilient and help them thrive in your organization.

Let’s face it 2020 has been a year of surprizes,
disappointments and a multitude of unknowns. The term “uncertain times” has
been a phrase that has been overused and doesn’t quite explain how we have been
coping. A more accurate way to describe it is that many of us having been
navigating through the chaos that is now our new lives. Between managing kid’s
online learning, working from home, managing the shift in business priorities,
AND racial tensions at an all time high with media spotlights on the
disproportionate killings of unarmed Black people, it has been a lot to cope
with. Your employees are not ok. Repeat your employees are NOT ok. And if you
think they are you may be in for a rude awakening when stress leaves start to
increase, more of your employees drop out of the labour force and productivity and
employee satisfaction is on the decline. In fact, since the pandemic women’s
participation in the labour force is the at the lowest level in three decades
and have accounted for approximately 45% of the decline in hours worked during
the pandemic. Your employees are balancing a lot on their plates and the stress
of it all is staring to get to them.

We know from research that when your body is in a heighted
state of stress arousal cortisol levels are elevated and when in this
persistent state can lead to many negative health effects on the body included
but not limited to cardiovascular disease, mental health challenges including
anxiety, depression and personality disorders and chronic fatigue.

Another confounding effect is the fact that we are going
into another longer winter with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) on the rise,
cold and flu season is here, and people feeling increasing levels of loneliness
as they genuinely miss their loved ones. The effects of this time have taken a
toll on many of us and as a leader the burden is on you to do more to help
support your employees. We can no longer take a reactive-lets wait and see what
happens-approach. The time to act is now.

Here is what you can do as a leader to help prevent your
employees from burning out:

1.      
Facilitate the process of getting your
organizations to re-invest in the EAP plans and benefit supports; remind
employees of these supports and how to access them

A pro-active approach is better than a reactive one. We know
people are living through chaos in their lives right now. What we don’t know is
what’s coming next and with a second wave of the pandemic looming over us this
will add an additional burden to members of your team. Why not take a
pro-active approach and help support re-investing in your organization’s EAP
plans and benefit supports. EAP professionals are there to help employees
thrive and help them mange through the challenging situations they may be
coping with. With these programs however there are limited sessions that
employees can access. It makes sense to add more sessions for your employees
especially when they may be having a harder time coping. And of course, ensure
there is diversity in the EAP provider so that your diverse team feels heard
and supported with the added stresses that has been placed on them. Allocate
more funding towards health benefits so that members of your team can take care
of all aspects of their health both physical and mental. Remind employees of
their access to these supports and in fact, invite a member of your extended
health benefits insurer to speak about how to access these benefits and what is
available to them. You can also take it one step further and invite a wellness
practitioner to have sessions with your team and talk about coping strategies.
This sends the message that you and the organization care about the health and
wellbeing of your employees.

2.      
Where possible, provide flexibility in
working hours

Flexibility in working hours can ease the pressure your
employees may be feeling with trying to balance multiple stressors. For
example, for parents with young children it can be especially challenging to
care for their children if they are also expected to be at work at the same
time with limited or no childcare. Providing work from home options or
opportunities to complete tasks in non 9-5 hours may help. Check-in with
members of your team to find out their unique needs and how you may be able to
add more flexibility in their workday. Consider options to collaborate in asynchronous
time to limit the amount of time people must meet in real time. Trust that your
team can get projects completed with more flexibility added to their schedule.

3.      
Have an open-door policy with mindful
check-ins to genuinely connect with members of your team

Building relationships take time and this requires mindful
check-ins. When connecting with members of your team, go beyond shallow
conversation starters such as “how are you” or “how was your weekend” the
answers to these questions tend to illicit a one word answer or merely  trying to make pleasantries. Instead ask more
mindful questions such as:

What is exciting you most this week

What is a challenge for you that I can help with

What is something interesting that happened to you today

Is there anything you want to talk about today

What is something you would like to see more of/less of

Using this approach will help your team feel more supported
and will help build their resilience. If your team knows you are there for them
they are more likely to open up to you in their time of need. This can help you
understand their challenges and enable you to provide support.

4.      
Set an example

There is nothing more that sets the tone than when a leader
models the behaviour they want to see after all it’s not what you say but what
you do that truly matters. Set the stage by enforcing your own boundaries when
it comes to work-life-balance and taking care of your own health. When leaders
have their own boundaries, it lets their team know that this is the same
behaviour they too should be applying to their own lives. Share with your team
practices you engage in to be balanced. If you haven’t achieved this balance quite
yet the time to start is now. Make a plan to take care of your own health and
ensure you are not spending all your time working. Your employees need to see you
take breaks, that you leave on time, and you too also have a life outside of
work. Model a healthy way of living, this will let your team know that this
should be a priority for them too.

5.      
Advocate for changes in your workplace
policies

If your organization hasn’t updated its policies since the
pandemic began chances are they are outdated. Your policies need to reflect the
current landscape we are living in and need to be in the best interest of your
employees. For example, do you have a short-term and long-term leave in place
for your employees? What happens if members of the team get sick or their
family members? Are your policies inclusive and equitable or do they serve to
benefit some groups while harming or oppressing others? Keep in mind that your
Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) employees may be facing
disproportionate emotional stress of the pandemic in addition to racial
microaggressions in the workplace. Other questions to ask yourself could a lack
of policies around challenges faced in this environment be causing undo stress
to the team? Do you have a work from home policy-why or why not? These are some
questions to ask yourself as a leader and how you can help to move the needle
on these policies.

Understanding that we are coping in challenging times and
reflecting this in your leadership will help your team be more resilient and
help them thrive in your organization.

 

 

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Whether you are a new graduate, considering your next career move or are re-entering the workforce, it can be challenging to know where to start. In a world where employment opportunities are vast, location specific, and changing because of technology and artificial intelligence there are many factors to consider.

Before weighing your options, identify your interests, what skills you may have, and what your unique value can be. In most instances interests and skills can be reflected by previous experiences. But what if you don’t have any previous experience? Where do you start then? The short answer is getting yourself out there, create your own experiences. And the reality is you probably have more experience than you think you do.

Identify mentors

Mentors are individuals that have experience and expertise and can advise you in your career. They often relate to you by talking about their previous experiences, what they learned, and some essential steps they took to get to where they are now. 

Surround yourself with people who believe in you. People who have positive energy and can help provide you with guidance and support. Without these individuals it will be challenging to move forward.  

What do others say about you?

If you want to know what you may be skilled in, ask. There are probably many areas where you have amazing skills but you may not be able to see what they are. Those who are closest to you are more than likely to know your strengths. Connect with classmates, previous teachers, friends, relatives, etc. Individuals from different areas of your life will have different perspectives of your skills. Don’t just ask what those skills are; ask what you have done to demonstrate these skills. This will get you thinking of where you can start to use your skills and expand on them further.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you. People who have positive energy and can help provide you with guidance and support

 Get past the anxiety

It can be stressful to think about taking the next steps. One thing that may help is knowing that everyone at some point had to start their career journey. It can produce a lot of anxiety not knowing what to expect or what will come next but as the saying goes most uncomfortable feelings means you’re learning and growing.

Create a Vision Board

A vision board is a series of pictures or words you put together to help you achieve your goals. Creating a vision board can help you realize what it is you are trying to accomplish. It will also help you realize the actions you need to take to make the vision a reality. Imagine this vision coming through every day and assess the help you need to take your next steps.

Engage  in Professional Development

Lifelong learning is essential to being successful in your career. First, engage in research to understand the labour market specific to your career interests. Assess the essential skills employers need and those that would be assets. Then look into programs that may be right for you. If you care pursing post-secondary education think about courses that may be more practical in nature. You can also enroll in more short-term courses such as those on Coursera, LinkedIn, Udemy or SkillShare. Courses on these platforms tend to be shorter and more specific in nature. Engaging in professional development can help you become more competitive in the labour market can help you understand the next steps to take in your career.

Go for it

If you continue to sit on the sidelines you will not move forward in your career. Identify what you need to move ahead and continue to take the steps you need to get there. Break your tasks down into small manageable ones, keep working at it and your career will move ahead.

Jodi Tingling is a career strategist and social worker focused on coaching, motivating, and guiding others in their career trajectories. For a private coaching session you can book an appointment or enroll in a course to help you succeed in your career.

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