Burnout is a growing epidemic in our workplaces, and it’s affecting not just employee well-being, but the corporate bottom line. Consider The Great Resignation, in which we’ve seen workers leaving jobs at unprecedented rates, many citing overstress and burnout. When we experience persistent negative stress that we feel we can’t control — that’s when burnout can set in. No matter where your employees are clocking in, leaders need to build in ways to protect our teams from burnout. 

Try these steps to embed well-being into the fabric of the daily work experience:

Help team members prioritize what matters

Your direct reports don’t work in a vacuum, so when stressors start to affect their performance and morale, it’s all the more important for you as their manager to understand how they perceive their workload — or as researchers from Harvard Business School call it, their “inner work lives.” Set aside your own expectations of what you think their workload should be; instead, ask them how you can make their experience of the workday better. Consider allowing some more breathing room for certain deliverables to alleviate unnecessary time pressure, or let them take a few hours or a day off after a sprint of working long hours (we call this Thrive Time) to rest and recharge.

Try this Microstep today:

Help a team member make a “Do Not Do” list. 

Knowing what’s not a priority will help them focus on what matters most.

Establish clarity and connection

Many stressed out employees feel that too much is expected from them on too short a time frame. Even worse, only 60% of workers say they know what is expected of them at work, according to a Gallup report. This ambiguity and uncertainty can contribute to a lack of control and predictability over their jobs, both major risk factors for chronic stress. The best way to approach this as a manager is to check in with your direct reports with compassionate directness. A warm, open dialogue can help recalibrate expectations on both sides, course-correct any standstills, and encourage solutions to help keep the workload on track while safeguarding your colleagues’ well-being.

Try this Microstep today:
If you’re a manager, make a point of reaching out to every member of your team regularly. 

Even a quick hello will let your colleagues know you’re thinking of them, which helps them feel valued. You can also ask how their workload is feeling — since remote workers are harder to diagnose with burnout, this practice can help you keep an eye out for its signs.

Model life-work integration as a leader

It’s not just about looking outward at your team, it’s also about re-evaluating how you approach your work day as a manager — which plays a role in the example you set. To manage from a place of empathy and strength, managers need to follow their own advice by taking breaks and setting an end to our work days, even if there are incompletions. 

The rise of remote and hybrid work has yielded an era of “boundaryless permawork” — in which employees are attached to work messages 24/7 and may feel obliged to be on call whenever work pings. But mentally detaching from work during non-work hours fosters higher life satisfaction and lower burnout. 

Encourage your staffers to take the Thrive Microstep of calling an end to their workday and staying offline after that point in the evening. And model this yourself so you normalize unplugging for your team. 

Try this Microstep today:
Declare an end to the day, even if you haven’t completed your to-do list. 

In any leadership position, it’s almost impossible to do all you could have done in any one day. Effectively prioritizing means being comfortable with incompletions and taking the time to recharge, so you’ll return to work the next day ready to seize opportunities.