Virtual Work: Preventing Burnout For Your Team: Part II

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As we wrote in Part I of this series, as the tumultuous events of 2020 have proceeded and many of us have begun to work from home full-time, you might be experiencing the newly-coined “Zoom fatigue” or, “World Affairs Fatigue.”

How does burnout manifest for your team? Is it the feeling of work piling on? Dreading looking at your calendar to see yet again you have meetings from 7 am till 5 pm? Is it the sense of wasting time – a two-minute hallway conversation now happens a week later over a 30-minute call? Maybe some team deadlines are starting to be missed?

We would like to offer one way to relieve your team of burnout – embedding within the team the idea of being 100% responsible for what team members gave their word to in terms of outcomes, as well as their state of mind they bring to work every day. Many people feel a sense of burden upon hearing the word “responsible.” That’s not our intention here at all. You can choose to be responsible in order to empower yourself. For example, if you need an answer from someone in order to move a project forward, choosing to be 100% responsible means you are going to try every means possible to obtain an answer, instead of waiting and letting the deadline pass, and then blaming it on the person for not getting back to you in time. If every person on the team chooses this perspective of looking at their work, they will be more empowered around communication, making decisions, and making their calendars work for them.

While choosing to be 100% responsible is a powerful place to stand in, we do have some more concrete practices to prevent burnout that your team can start utilizing today:

  • Give yourself the permission to decline and negotiate your attendance at meetings – just because someone senior or a peer invited you to join a meeting, doesn’t mean you have to accept. Make it ok for your team members to do the same.
  • Jump on the phone to resolve issues when possible- you may not need a meeting.
  • If you do need a meeting, schedule 45 minutes instead of the default 1 hour; schedule 15 minutes instead of the default 30 minutes.
  • Start a meeting with the outcome you are generating: Is there a decision that needs to be made? Do you have the right people in the room? Is it simply a meeting to inform?
  • Send pre-reads ahead of time so that attendees have a chance to process the information.
  • End meetings with clear action items with who is accountable, attached to a by-when that they will deliver, and send these action items out right after the meeting.
  • Call a time-out in meetings when the discussion is going around in circles. With virtual meetings, we lack the benefits of body language, so it is important to introduce a way to do this at the beginning of the meeting- explore what options are there within the virtual meeting software you use.
  • When emails are flooding in, take the time to distinguish between what is urgent and what is important – assess the importance of urgent items, if not more important than the item scheduled in your calendar, then decline, and counteroffer.

Last but not least, for team leaders, empathetic listening is an often neglected skill. It is even more important now to be proactive about assessing the workload of your team members and what you can do to make the virtual work environment for everyone on the team effortless. For instance, can you offer a team member more flexible work hours so they can help their children with virtual learning?

Empathetic listening can begin with some simple questions: What do I do that works for you and/or your team? What’s not working? What do you need to be successful in your role? You might be amazed at the impact of simply asking these questions.

If you haven’t already, read part one of this series, Virtual Work: Preventing Burnout For Yourself.

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