How to support your staff to prevent burnout in a remote setup
When I ask people what keeps them motivated and aligned to a company they work for, they usually say people, culture, and challenging projects. At least two of those factors have been put to the test since a coronavirus outbreak in many companies, including ours. People trapped in their homes practically overnight, facing stress and ambiguity, needed the presence of other people, the solid frames of culture, and tasks to accomplish more than ever before. It all gave them a sense of belonging, a purpose to their work, and some degree of stability. We began to wonder how we might address these needs while transforming to work in a fully remote mode? Challenging! And worth trying.
In the fall, we launched a series of workshops in several groups up to twelve, focused on well-being issues. Starting from the simplest possible idea of sharing practices on how to keep the work-life balance in uncertain times, we came through meaningful discussions about nurturing well-being factors (researched and defined by Gallup Institute) and finally focused on daily habits that form our resistance to stress.
The work-life balance paradox
Interestingly, by sharing our experiences, we have challenged the popular myth that the advantage associated with remote work - work-life balance - improves in remote teams. For some people, in remote mode, it’s even harder to stick to regular work hours and keep the routine of “switched on” and “switched off” work mode. By working more and more they sustain the pretence that if they work hard enough, they can hold onto the world we once knew. Even those who welcomed remoteness enthusiastically found themselves trapped, feeling separated from the course of things, lonely and uncertain after a couple of months in lockdown.
So… how can we remedy the negative emotions associated with remote work? And how can we prevent fatigue and burnout in the workplace? Here’s what we came up with.
1. Building resilience
We focused on resilience. The most inspiring definition of resilience has been created by the attendees of our workshops. It is a picture of a suspension bridge: an example of an object that bends under stress and reform afterwards. The bridge has been built with the inner strength to maintain the right and safe frame while experiencing the pressure. Without it, it would collapse and fall to dust.
What creates this inner strength? Every group of attendees has created their own list of action items that help them cope with stress and awaken that inner power. We concluded that resilience is being created by a set of techniques which - in a course of a daily routine - make us able to recharge and face the challenge one by one. Things such as: taking healthy breaks during the day, practicing mindfulness, acts of kindness and gratitude, identifying stress triggers and disarming stress and anxiety, good sleep, regular exercises, quality diet, a realistic work schedule, the discipline of keeping non-work-related hours, staying disconnected from tools after work are as much important as keeping good relationships with people. From a work perspective, it also means having a meaningful relationship with the manager.
2. Regular input from your line manager
One of the major takeaways was the discovery that although we value autonomy, the manager’s direction and support is invaluable in a remote set up. Both leadership and company culture create a kind of connective tissue. It connects the dots, widens the perspective so remote workers can understand the company's goals and the direction we follow as a team much better. If the connective tissue does its job, we can use the whole energy for moving forward and working effectively.
This conclusion is extremely important in that it acts as a precaution against burnout. If leadership is a key to boosting employee’s engagement and mental health, we need to pay more attention to its quality and empower leaders with proper tools and skills. One of such is constructive feedback, regular performance conversations which we carry through a professional tool for people enablement.
3. An effective onboarding process
Last but not least we have introduced some of the well-being practices to the onboarding training and deliver it regularly. This way we put into practice one of our values - humanism - and create a culture of well-being that cares for everyone as a person. Newly hired 10Clouders can be a part of this process from the first day.
Remember that everyone is different
We believe that a culture of work enhances individual resilience. So we encourage our people to establish their own routine, manage and respect time, be an active member of the 10C community, have meaningful conversations with leaders and... take breaks. If we're mindful and take care of ourselves, burnout is less likely to happen. If we stick to the good habits mentioned above, it’s likely we will become as strong as this bridge that maintains the right balance while experiencing the pressure.