Your team is bogged down and stressed. They’re struggling to get things done, and it’s showing in their work. How can you help in reducing their stress and increasing productivity?
In the book Time, Talent and Energy, three trends were identified in companies with low levels of employee burnout: excessive collaboration, weak time management principles, and a tendency to overload the most capable with too much work.
According to co-author Eric Garton, when workers are interrupted, it not only cuts into time needed for complex tasks or thinking up new ideas, but these everyday interruptions also take away from the essential downtime people need to rejuvenate.
In order to make your team more efficient, you first need to allow them to disconnect from any current problems. Here’s how you can help:
1. To reduce instances of burnout, identify which collaborative processes and company practices lead to it.
After analyzing research from Harvard Business Review, it has been found that time dedicated to collaboration has increased by 50% in recent years. Even though there are some good outcomes that come from collaborating, there is also a darker side to it.
The research team discovered that employees typically spend the majority of their work days in meetings, on calls, and responding to emails, which doesn’t leave much time for them to actually complete assigned tasks.
You’re probably leading your employees to burnout without even realizing it. Review your processes with HR consultancy and get rid of any that are contributing to the problem. Here are a couple ways you can do that:
To start, do as the managers at Dropbox did: eliminate all regularly-scheduled meetings for a two week period. After that, only rebook the ones you believe are necessary. (The outcome? After two years, not only had Dropbox tripled its employees, but meetings were shorter and more efficient.)
You can also give this a try. Facebook’s VP of Product, Fidji Simo, cuts meeting times down to just 15 minutes by default. This way it becomes the organizer’s responsibility to think about whether more time is actually needed instead of automatically setting 60 minute slots.
2. Develop more efficient time management practices by cooperating with your team to establish achievable expectations
According to Pat Burns’s book Master The Moment, he interviewed employees at 50 companies and discovered that many of the time management issues they face can be linked back to poor leadership skills, such as:
- Being unsure of which work to put first
- Still saying yes even when workload is full
- Feeling overwhelmed because of the tasks at hand
- Procrastinating or not finishing because of unclear timelines
- Staying in reactive mode because of unclear strategy
Many employee time management issues, such as these, are caused by uncertainty. Team members become unsure of where to focus their efforts and take on too many tasks as a result.
Instead of letting them work however they please, help them establish a daily routine that focuses on balancing time for their work with keeping updated on emails and meetings. Try allocating certain times for specific tasks, or even something as uncomplicated as setting mornings aside for concentrated work and making afternoons available only for meetings and calls.
3. Let your best employees take a break
For your best workers, establish guidelines and rituals to help them disconnect when they’re off the clock.
Not only what happens at work affects your team’s vulnerability to burnout. It’s also about their ability to unplug and relax at the end of the day. If you can’t seem to tear yourself away from work, you’re not alone–but research has shown that it’s actually beneficial to disconnect. People who have managed to cut the cord report less fatigue, fewer instances of procrastination, greater flow while working, and an overall improved quality of life.
The best way to help your team recover from work is to tell them it’s okay to not accept more assignments when they feel overloaded.
According to Eric Garton’s Harvard Business Review article, ” Most employees are left unaided to manage their time in ways that would prevent stress and burnout. They have restricted influence to oppose a corporate culture where overwork is the standard and even rewarded.”
If you want to change your company culture, it starts with the leaders. Implement policies and rituals that enable work-life balance and show appreciation for (but don’t celebrate) when people have to put in extra hours.