As we enter the final months of what has been yet another unprecedented year, it is imperative that we take stock as leaders and ensure that we are doing all that we can to prevent burnout amongst our teams.

Burnout in not a new concept for so many corporate environments.  Detached company cultures, long working hours, business models linking success with billable hours, archaic leadership tactics – are just some of the factors at play.  So many organisations in so many industries are built on competitive environments, blurred boundaries between personal and work life and perfectionist tendencies.  The perfect ingredients for a mental health crisis.

It truly boggles the mind that these strategies are still utilised, accepted and endorsed as productive ways of getting things done, while others have realised that a shift needs to take place and are focused on integrating conscious leadership attributes to foster growth and wellbeing.

As leaders we have a responsibility to ensure that our work environments are healthy – there is nothing healthy about working 12 hour days, overtime, weekends, feeling guilty about taking a day off, feeling stressed constantly, succumbing to bullying, ignoring physical ailments for fear of putting in for a sick day and being met with accusations of weakness and inability to perform.  These are the signposts leading to burnout and burnout cannot be overlooked – left unattended it leads to serious health issues including hypertension, severe anxiety and depression.

Even where a conscious culture has been created, it is imperative that we constantly be on the lookout for the warning signs to help our teams navigate the added stress the pandemic has thrown at us.

How can we do this effectively?  Here are 3 things we should all be doing on daily basis:

1.            Observe.  Observe our team members, without judgment and preconceptions to look out for any distress signals.  How is their physical health?  Are there signs of exhaustion?  Are they detached from their colleagues or cynical about processes?  Do they leave things half done or avoid dealing with more difficult tasks?  Do they have the support they need? 

2.            Foster Gratitude.  Nurture a culture of gratitude.  Give praise and thanks wherever possible.  Allow adults to act like adults – let them take responsibility for their tasks and their workload.  There is nothing more demeaning and disconcerting than being treated as though you are incompetent.  We hired our team members because they were the right fit for the job – let them do their job with thanks and praise.  Gratitude fosters connection, happiness and creativity – which in turn increases productivity in a healthy way.

3.            Promote Self-Care – Allow people to take their days off uninterrupted.  Create boundaries between work and home life so that there is a clear time for people to focus on their families and themselves.  Ensure that at least once per weak the teams have time for social interaction and mindfulness practices.  Encourage them to take lunch breaks outside, to get fresh air and physically move throughout the day.

Life as a leader has never been easy – there is no question about it.  The nature of the job requires incredible resilience and mental aptitude.  But as leaders we can relieve some of this pressure as we exercise our own self-awareness and emotional intelligence.  Afterall, that is a key part of our job and we are responsible for executing it properly.