Preventing burnout before you have to firefight

This article was pubilshed in the ILM's EDGE magazine

Have you noticed your team are:

Snapping at each other easily?

Seemingly very tired – or complaining they aren’t sleeping?

Have they stopped voicing concerns or stopped talking to you despite an “open door” policy?

Has there been a change in their eating habits – eating or drinking more or less than usual- and often of high calorie items?

If so these are extremely common signs of stress, and if they don’t make a commitment to their wellbeing – maybe you can help!

Building emotional resilience is an essential part of any self-care routine. However, those that often need it the most are the least forthcoming in engaging with it. Perhaps this is due to a misplaced sense of duty; perhaps there is a “guilt” associated with “doing nothing”. But, busy people who multi-task, are not always offering their best, nor healthiest practice if they work consistently on auto-pilot. They can lose attention to detail, miss opportunities, and burnout personally and professionally.

However, if the world around you is not going to slow down, you will need to find a way to support them.

Making a team commitment to wellbeing while the waters are calm will help you reinforce and maintain a healthy positivity – which in turn supports performance. Unfortunately, as much as anyone may not want to admit it, when your body is under emotional pressure the reaction is physiological, and the last thing you want is for your team to render themselves unfit to do anything!

These five simple tips will help you help your teams recognise when they are feeling under pressure, and temper the effects.

1. Conduct a “wellbeing audit”

A “safe” environment - where support and development structures are clear, where executives operate within a friendly network free from harassment or bullying, where responsibility is preferred over blame, is often the best environment. However, although this may be the aim of the leader, it may not be the reality. Carrying out a “safety audit” – an informal (and anonymous) survey – of your organisation may also give you insights with regards to the level of wellbeing within your team.

Try this

Ask members of your organisation to rate it on a scale of 1 – 10 (where 10 is “very true” and 1 is not “very true”)

· I feel cared about at work

· I feel safe at work

· Work is fun.

· Everyone is treated fairly

· When I succeed or am good at something it is recognised

· I can be myself at work

· This is a friendly workplace

· I find work interesting

· My workplace takes bullying and harassment seriously

· I know how to get help when I am stuck with work.

· My workplace values my opinions.

· I know who talk to if I have a problem.

The answers will give you an insight into how your executives are feeling every day, and if there is a problem potentially open up a dialogue for further investigation and positive action.

2. Encourage an understanding of each other’s roles and importance:

At the start of a collaborative project show teams the outcome and ask them to explain their role in production for example:

In the production of a pen there may be different teams producing: The cap, the shaft, the ink, the box – each with different needs and time scales. By each team explaining their role and their exacting needs, appreciation of each element and the importance of following each team’s specifications and time scales is emphasised.

The act of making each person aware of their others’ contributions goes a long way to building an understanding of their demands.

3. If you haven’t already, introduce some formal self-care for your workplace:

· Make sure that your team also know where to signpost their own staff – perhaps add a wellbeing page to the organisational intranet.

· Find out about the wellbeing events on offer within your organisation and organise a team session to attend.

· At the next “team day” consider a wellbeing activity eg. yoga, singing/playing music together, a massage session

· Encourage your team (if possible) to have personal effects near them so that they can get a “hit” of oxytocin (the bonding hormone) as they see them.

· Have fruit on offer rather than cakes or sweets.

4. Engage in relevant and forward-thinking staff development

By knowing where your department is going to be in (for example) three years’ time, you are able to choose appropriate training for your teams. The world changes quickly, and it is important to upskill for the future as much as current developments. Making training meaningful helps your teams recognise you consider their future as well as appreciate their current work.

5. Encourage teams to recognise and respect their boundaries

There are simple things that you can do to make the working day more pleasant:

- Teams must be able to go to the toilet when they need to

- Encourage them to stretch their legs by taking a short walk during the day

- Remind them to drink water – and ideally have it accessible

- State and maintain office hours (and switch your phone/laptop off at a certain time each night) – and encourage the same in them.

- Get them to practice saying:

o Of course I can help but I can only do it at X time

o I only have 5 minutes, and I must get on with X

o Can I let you know at the end of the day/tomorrow?

o Here’s one I made earlier (give them a sample template)

o How would you like me to help you/What do you think is best for me to do/What would be of most help to you at this time?

(or other means of setting boundaries).

Remember that setting boundaries not only protects one’s own emotional strength but makes it clear to others when they are available to help them. Sticking to them as much as possible is part of making a commitment to valuing ones-self and thus preserving performance.

By recognising and respecting the importance of personal wellbeing, your teams will refine and enhance the skills they already have rather than feel you have placed an extra demand on their multi-tasking selves. Most importantly, it will support and assist their successfully longevity with you.

Audrey's ILM webinar on mindful leadership through change can be viewed here:

Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), and the author of "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" (2018) and "Be A Great Manager - Now" (2016) She is a CPD Accredited speaker, trainer, and qualified FIRO-B and NLP Practitioner. She is the founding Development Coach and Training Consultant with her training consultancy CLICK Training, and the resident psychologist on The Chrissy B Show (Sky191), the UK's only TV programme dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. She consults, coaches and often presents at National and International conferences in the fields of leadership and team cohesion, as well as being part of the Amity University conference panel. She currently lectures in Personal Development and Mindfulness and provides psychological consultancy in these areas to organisations.


Insta/Twitter: @draudreyt

©2019 by Resilient Health: Wellness before the point of crisis.