On Aug. 11, Brandpoint and Marketers’ Community hosted a panel event with the intent of providing an open space to have a conversation around the topic of burnout. We felt that the topic was extremely relevant, and judging by the packed room full of people who showed up to the event, others in our field agree.
During the panel, we talked about how burnout and culture go hand in hand, how to better identify symptoms of burnout as they’re happening, how leaders can recognize burnout and prevent it from happening with their team, and how our own self-awareness can help individuals prevent burnout. Panelists included Mona Askalani, Heather Polivka, April Seifert and Chris Gould, whose experiences range from business development director to psychologist, offering perspectives on burnout from a variety of professional backgrounds.
A lot of great tips for dealing with burnout came out of the panel, but a few big points stuck out to me. Here are my takeaways:
Burnout and culture go hand in hand
It’s nearly impossible to talk burnout without talking about its effect on culture, and vice versa. Any single person feeling burnt out and not able to accomplish their workload can have major effects on the entire team, leading to more burnout and fatigue. In the same way, a culture that doesn’t value employees or emphasize the importance of self-care can greatly impact how employees approach their work and how their work impacts them. There has to be a balance.
One of the major points that the panelists brought up is that companies need to invest in training their leaders in people skills so that they can approach situations from a human stance rather than solely as a boss. Employees need to feel acknowledged and understood by their employers because employees are more empowered than ever before to take control of their careers. Making sure that leaders are equipped to handle situations with empathy is something companies should invest in, especially as we’re seeing more employees citing burnout and the state of our world continues to change and challenge us, both in the workplace and in our personal lives. Creating a culture of care and appreciation where employees feel empowered to speak up and advocate for themselves is so important in combatting burnout.
Identifying signs of burnout as a leader
Preventing burnout is much easier when you know what symptoms to look for. This can be tricky, as the symptoms look a little bit different for everyone. But that’s why having empathetic leaders is so important — when you know your team, you’ll have a much easier time identifying when their work ethic changes.
In general, it’s important to note employees’ approach to work — how are your employees handling their workloads? If they’re outwardly passionate about their work and they suddenly go quiet, that’s a big red flag. If your employees are usually very proactive and start to react to situations instead, it’s probably a sign that they’ve hit their capacity or they’ve fallen behind. Different types of emotions are also key indicators of burnout — reacting with exhaustion, sadness and stress all point to burnout and can be addressed in different ways. You can also look for little things that are out of character — they might not mean anything, but put together can add up to burnout and signify someone is at capacity with their cognitive load.
It’s also necessary to consider whether someone is an “ask” communicator or a “tell” communicator. An “ask” communicator has to be asked things in order to communicate them, so they might require more effort in getting to know or understand their approach to work, whereas a “tell” communicator will voluntarily offer information. When dealing with others in the workplace, try to understand what kind of communicator you are so that you can understand the best approach to take with others.
How leaders can help alleviate burnout
The biggest point here is leading with empathy. In the workplace, only 1 in 3 leaders get training in people skills. Companies have to work on providing tools to bring people closer in the workplace and grow relationships. Creating a cohesive team environment is a great start to preventing burnout.
Leaders must also consider what they’re rewarding on their team. If leaders are setting an example of working after hours and answering email at all times, it sets the tone that that is what’s expected of the entire team. It’s important to lay down boundaries and encourage your employees to do the same. Leaders can also be proactive about combatting burnout by considering the state of the workplace — if someone is laid off or leaves a team and the remaining team members are expected to put out the same level and quality of work, something needs to change quickly. Recognizing team health and understanding your role as a decision maker is huge in advocating for your employees and ensuring you’re equipping them with the resources they need to perform at the level you’d like.
If you’re a leader, make sure you also use empathy with yourself as well as your team. Give yourself grace and make sure to watch for your own signs of burnout. Being proactive can help you prevent total burnout.
Ways to combat burnout on an individual scale
As individuals, we have lots of tools we can use to alleviate burnout. We have to give up on the thought of individual failure. We put so much pressure on ourselves to hit deadlines, to do the absolute best work all of the time, to say yes to every project thrown our way. But it’s ok to not be at 100% all the time and to take breaks for your mental health and well-being. Knowing when to prioritize yourself over your workload can benefit you and your company in the long run.
Watch for the symptoms of burnout and find ways to take a step back and reevaluate your priorities. Someone from the audience at the panel added to make sure you’re paying attention to whether you’re feeding your ego or your soul, which boils down to recognizing whether you’re doing things that make you feel good momentarily or if you’re putting effort and time into things that nourish you. This is relevant in and out of the workplace and can really help turn your mindset and approach to work around. Everything requires a balance, and sometimes re-centering yourself requires you to reevaluate your priorities.
Burnout isn’t new and it isn’t going away anytime soon, but this panel showed us the need for more open and honest conversations around the topic, especially in team settings between employees and leadership. Change starts with conversations, so feeling empowered enough to share when you’re struggling can make all the difference in your professional, and personal, health.