Doesn’t it seem like we don’t go a day without hearing about employee burnout–mostly what a problem it is? So many people are afraid to take time for themselves until it’s too late and we reach burnout status.
That’s why I decided to enlist the help of an expert: HubSpot’s manager of culture and experience, Tamara Lilian. I asked her about the many ways her team goes above and beyond to prevent employee burnout here–and, perhaps even more important, how employers everywhere can put them into practice in their own environments.
1) Learn How To Recognize Signs Of Burnout
This tip applies more to individual managers than it does to employers as a whole. When workloads are at a peak for everyone, and there’s plenty of stress to go around, it can be difficult to remember to observe what–and how–others around us are doing. And when it comes to signs of burnout, it’s often difficult for people to recognize them, even within themselves.
That’s why it’s so important for managers to be able to recognize them–and take the necessary actions to address and resolve them. And while that can be tough for new managers, Lilian says, with some knowledge and information, it’s certainly not impossible.
“We’re stepping up our manager training, and we’re working on trainings to support them with their teams,” she explains. That includes things like knowing how to manage workloads in a way that mitigates burnout before it even happens, as well as supporting employees during their time off.
Actionably, what does that mean? To start, if you have people on your team who are particularly overeager to tackle things, recognize that it’s a great attitude to have, but check in regularly to make sure that person isn’t biting off more than she can chew. That way, you’re working to manage her workload in a way that prevents burnout.
And while employees should also be encouraged to take time off when they need it, make sure they know that they should truly be offline during their times out of the office. For that reason, it’s fair to request as much advance notice as necessary, so you can work together to make sure there’s a support system in place at the office that can allow that person to fully disconnect.
2) Set The Tone With A Company (Or Team) Culture Code
Here at HubSpot, we have a Culture Code, a document created to represent our people, culture, and values. It was written by CTO and Cofounder Dharmesh Shah with the mentality that, to build the best company, he would build it much like an engineer builds a product with code.
But the keys here are the three aforementioned things that the Culture Code was built to support: people, culture, and values. And no matter how big or small your team or company, you can still build a “code” guide the way your team operates. In fact, there are a few things from HubSpot’s own that can be applied to a number of environments, says Lilian. These are things like:
“We share everything internally, from executive leadership meeting decks, to finances, to board meetings,” Lilian explains. “That creates trust, which in turn makes people feel valued.”
One easy way to add more transparency to your team or company culture is to always add context to major changes or decisions, especially when they impact the things your employees work on. If there’s a sudden pivot, explain why, and acknowledge that it’s sudden.
“Speaking of trust,” says Lilian, “in the Culture Code, we have a three-word policy: use good judgment. There’s no employee handbook you receive on Day One, because we put an enormous amount of trust in our employees.”
Showing that you trust your employees can manifest itself in a number of ways, but a big one is to stop micromanaging. Autonomy is also a big part of our culture here at HubSpot–which means that while managers are encouraged to maintain strong communication and be available for help whenever it’s needed, they trust us to get our work done on time, ask for help when we need it, and keep them updated on projects.
In other words, employees are given a large degree of control over their own work, which has been shown to correlate with both higher productivity and overall wellness. It also allows employees the freedom to independently discover the ways in which their work contributes to an organization’s overall success, which can lead to a greater willingness to ask questions–instead of being afraid of looking like they don’t know something. Being able to obtain that information without being judged for it can encourage creativity, too, as transparent, comprehensive answers can encourage new ideas.
People > Perks
“Sure, the free beer, being able to bring your dog to work, and having a gym onsite are cool,” says Lilian. “But that’s not what keeps people here. Keeping people motivated, challenged, and welcomed with an inclusive work environment is what keeps people here.”
That said, as you begin to build your team, remember that perks don’t go unappreciated. Free coffee is great for most of us, let alone free beer. But also think about the things for which the novelty isn’t quite as likely to wear off– things like the engaging work that Lilian referred to. If your team isn’t producing quality work, don’t assume that it’s due to laziness. The issue could just be a lack of interest. Have a conversation with employees about that to find out what’s making them lose interest, and together, figure out how to make it more engaging.
3) Lead By Example
Riddle me this: If you never see your boss take a vacation, how good are you going to feel about taking one? Probably not great–you wouldn’t be mirroring the example set by your manager to never take time off.
“You have to lead by example,” says Lilian. “For example, our CEO, Brian Halligan, just took his one-month sabbatical. If he can take that time off, then others definitely can.”
In the end, leading by the example of taking time off when you need it ends up benefitting everyone. Not only will it permit you the time you need to disconnect and recharge — which boosts productivity — but also, you’re showing your team that it’s an important thing to do.
They say that actions speak louder than words, but this tip partially goes back to the idea of knowing when to recognize burnout. Don’t just take time off– encourage it, too. If you’re planning to take some time off and realize that it’s been a while since your employees have, bring that up in your next conversation. Even if that person responds that she’s too busy to take time off, discuss the importance of breaks, and that you’re ready to work with her to make sure all bases are covered while she’s out.