My husband works for a large company in the technology space. As I was chatting with him last night, it occurred to me that while there might have been a small blip for his company last spring, by and large, they still released new products and software updates like normal. I look at my team at Carson Coaching and all of the progress we made in 2020 – launching a new online learning platform, transitioning to virtual events, creating new content and resources at a record pace, delivering more value to our coaching clients than ever before – and realize that we didn’t skip a beat either. And for many of the financial advisors we coach, while revenue was down in Q2 due to the market decline, 2020 was a record year in terms of net new asset and client growth.
Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. Business-as-usual productivity and record growth during a global pandemic? How does that happen?
The people who make up our teams have delivered consistently over the last 12 months. They’ve consistently produced results, despite the incredible additional stress and burdens placed on them – not to mention the loss of their normal restorative activities.
As business owners and leaders, we’ve asked our people to continue producing at this rate over the last 12 months. Yes, we may have offered additional flexibility or self-care resources, but how many of us helped our team find balance by asking less of them?
Our people have drawn on their “surge capacity” to deliver – but it’s pretty much run out. Surge capacity isn’t unlimited, and it won’t suddenly recharge when we return to normal.
I’d venture to guess that most of the people on your team – including you – are at some stage of burnout. Now trust me, I’m a business coach, I get it – if we go out of business, we won’t be able to employ anyone. That said, I consider what we’ve asked of our teams a sort of business “debt” that must be repaid at some point, or we’ll risk losing incredibly good team members and developing a negative reputation in our industry and communities.
Now that vaccines are out the door for distribution, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to start repaying the debt. So how do we do it? Here are five ways we can begin.
5 Ways to Support Your Team
1. Ask Less of Your Team For A While
I’m not saying that we should lower our expectations when it comes to the quality of work or taking good care of clients, but we should back off on the amount of work we expect from each person on our teams for the rest of the year.
What would be reasonable to expect out of your team if they were working 20% fewer hours per week? Aim for that quantity of work to give them a chance to breathe.
Reduce the level or number of their quarterly goals. Consider delaying a big initiative for a quarter or two. Hire additional people for your team to spread the workload.
2. Continue Providing Flexibility and Other Resources to Support Work-Life Balance
Everything you did to help your team balance their work and personal lives during the pandemic? Keep doing those things. Your team is made of people, not robots. People have lives outside of work – families, friends, hobbies, goals – and no matter how much they love their job, they care about those other things more. Providing flexibility and resources to help your team live balanced and fulfilling lives will always be good business.
3. Give Additional Vacation Time
The week-long vacation that may have been enough to recharge your team members in a normal year isn’t going to cut it in 2021. When we can finally get back to safely traveling and enjoying vacations, we need to make up a big deficit. Give an extra week or two of vacation time to your team members and encourage them to take it. It is critically important that we have a chance to mentally get away from our work and recharge. Especially this year.
4. Stop Glorifying Overwork
In our culture, overwork and burnout are celebrated. It’s everywhere. Interviews with visionaries and business leaders who claim you have to work a minimum of 80 hours per week to change the world. (News flash: You don’t). Awards for perfect attendance and unused vacation. (You should stay home when you’re sick and take time to recharge.) Bragging at the water cooler about how exhausted we are. (It’s not something to be proud of.) How many of us perpetuate this problem within our businesses and teams?
The only way this is going to change is if we intentionally stand up and say “no.”
Celebrate the people who have lives outside of work, stick to their boundaries, and take time to mentally recharge. Implement a new rule that no one can send emails outside of normal work hours. Lead by example and don’t work or check in while you’re on vacation. Tell your team that you want them to have a balanced life – and mean it.
5. Be a Champion For Humanity in the Workplace
The people on your team are people. Make it safe for your team to bring their whole selves to the workplace. As humans, we have emotions, we have struggles, we have differences. If your team member lost a family member, has a child acting out at school, is frustrated and angry with the latest example of racial injustice in the news, or is struggling with a health issue, do they feel like they can talk to you about it, and request additional support, flexibility, or time off? Creating this culture is always important, but especially now when our team’s emotional reserves are depleted. Demonstrate vulnerability with your team. Make sure it’s viewed as a strength to say, “I need help.”
Refilling our energy bucket
Many of us have heard the old saying, “We can’t pour out of an empty bucket.” If we’re to be effective and fulfilled professionals, we have to take time to refill our energy and creativity “bucket.” Expecting our teams to recover from pandemic burnout without supporting them is like asking them to refill a bucket with a giant hole in it. It will never fill up.
It’s our job as leaders to repay our “debt” and help plug that hole so that the normal self-care actions our teams take refills their buckets. It’s the least we can do, and it’s a necessary step to getting that “debt” off our business balance sheet so we can continue to attract and retain the incredible people on our teams – a key to building a sustainable and resilient business for the future.
Oh, and one last thing – all of those steps to repay the debt I listed above? They apply to you as a business leader, too.