The abrupt transition to remote work in the pandemic has caused employee burnout. Leaders must set clear work boundaries and expectations, and adopt best practices for hybrid and remote work, to facilitate burnout recovery and protection. That’s the key take-away message of this episode of the Wise Decision Maker Show, which describes burnout recovery in the hybrid and remote future of work.
Video: “Burnout Recovery in the Hybrid and Remote Future of Work”
Podcast: “Burnout Recovery in the Hybrid and Remote Future of Work”
Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast
- Here is the article: Burnout Recovery in the Hybrid and Remote Future of Work
- The book Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage is available here.
- You are welcome to register for the free Wise Decision Maker Course
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the wise decision maker show where we help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. I’m Dr. Glen Spolsky, the host of the wise decision maker show on the CEO of disaster avoidance experts. And today we’ll talk about burnout recovery in the hybrid and remote future of work. Now, unfortunately, despite the large amount of people who suffered burnout during the pandemic, with both the stress of the pandemic and the challenges of remote work, leaders did not really focus on this issue because they didn’t recognize how long remote work would last and the transition to the hybrid and remote future of work that we’re in during the post pandemic recovery. And the future of work is clearly a combination of hybrid work mostly, with some people working fully remotely. But most people working hybrid come into the office one to two days a week, of course, talking about the people who can work remotely at about 50%, a little bit over 50% of the American workforce. Now, making sure that you have effective hybrid and remote teams that collaborate effectively have higher retention, morale, engagement and productivity requires addressing problems of burnout, protecting from burnout and recovering from burnout if it happens. And that means adapting best practices for employee well being. And that’s what I want to talk about in today’s episode. Now, organizations unfortunately failed to adapt to remote work effectively during the pandemic. What they did is they transposed existing office practices to remote work. They did things like communicate and collaborate as though it was in office activities, but just transposed to remote settings such as some happy hours, in zoom happy hours, No one enjoys some happy hours. Maybe no one is painting with too broad of a brush. But the large majority of employees feel at least implicitly and often explicitly forced to attend them. And it is draining and it’s not fun. And there are lots so that’s one kind of dynamic that really works well in the office happy hours for most, but does not work for a large majority of zoom settings. Also, leaders had many frequent team meetings because they wanted to maintain team cohesion. But video conference team meetings are draining. And research has shown that the more video conference meetings you have, especially kind of useless ones like zoom happy hours, but also team video conference meetings, if you have them often, they actually cause less engagement rather than more engagement. And of course, that goes directly against what leaders want: more engagement and more team cohesion. So you’re both wasting people’s time and wasting organizations money and causing shooting yourself in the foot with these meetings. That led to a lot of what’s called Zoom fatigue. So people are tired and drained from video conferences, and that, of course, contributes to broader burnout issues. Now, another set of issues that contributes to burnout is not being focused and disciplined in using technology. So there are lots and lots of ways you can communicate lots of technology options, whether it’s slack, Microsoft Teams, Trello, collaborative software, of course, texts, video conference calls, can be using Google Drive, you can be using Microsoft Teams Dropbox for collaboration, file sharing, and lots of organizations unfortunately, use everything. They just gave their team’s business enterprise access to all of these and said, Do what you want. Well, that led to a lot of technology overload and overwhelm. That is not good. So why don’t leaders not do the things that would adapt their teams to remote work during the pandemic. And now with the post pandemic, recovery, hybrid and remote work, one of the biggest problems that led to this series, the problems that led to this are called cognitive biases. These are mental blind spots, dangerous judgment errors that come from how our mind is wired. And they result in making poor strategic and financial decisions. When evaluating options. It causes leaders to just go with their gut. Leaders are taught to go with their gut, unfortunately, and they’re not taught how to make the best decisions using research based practices from Fortune 500 companies, which is what we’re talking about here. And this is something that you really want to avoid for yourself as a leader and you want to encourage your leaders to avoid as well. The biggest problem that I’ve seen when I’m consulting clients on how to adapt to the hybrid remote future of work, and they’ve done this for a number of fortune 500 firms altogether 17 clients as well as middle market firms, nonprofit That’s a few startups. One of the biggest problems. So this, this is the biggest problem is called functional fixedness, functional fixedness, you might have heard of this as the hammer nail syndrome. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you’re used to one way of collaborating, such as the way of collaborating in the office, you apply that methodology to all other contexts, even when it’s not a good fit, such as remote work. So this causes leaders to be fixed in their current perception. That’s why it’s functional fixedness, their current perception, their current modes of work and collaboration, and it causes them to not look for new practices. And that causes when necessary to do so. So that really harms them, team leaders in the transition to the hybrid and remote future of work. And this, of course, impedes the ability of the leaders of teams to fail to protect their employees from burnout, and to help them recover from burnout if it does happen. Another big problem is called not invented here syndrome. Now that is related to functional fixedness. It’s about leaders not liking practices and techniques that aren’t invented in their organization, even if they might be a better fit. So they hear about a practice developed elsewhere, they’re like, well, it wasn’t invented here, it won’t be a good fit, we’ll reject it, that’s not great, that our best practices that are developed and that are based, again, fortune 500 practices, as well as extensive behavioral science research that will protect against burnout. So that is something that you want to avoid as well. So the funk, the not invented here syndrome and the functional fixedness. Now, what do you actually do to address burnout, you want to focus on work life balance, and create a culture around that work life balance and good boundaries with work. So set good expectations for work and balanced ones that will not cause people to burnout. And then you want to also focus on protecting junior team members, helping them become more integrated into the team and providing them with some on the job learning. Because if they don’t have team integration, if they don’t have on the job learning that leads to more burnout, of course, for junior team members. Alright, so what are some of these best practices? Well, let’s talk about the problems we discussed earlier, technology overload. Avoiding that, you want to address this by designating a limited number of collaboration and communication tools. That minimal required number, because too many different tools cause overwhelm. So decide on the minimum required set of tools, don’t use the same tools that do the same function, don’t use both slack and Microsoft Teams. Don’t do that. Don’t use both Dropbox and Google Drive, make sure that you use one set of tools so that you can collaborate effectively using that set of tools. Next, set good clear boundaries for work time balance. So flexible work hours, of course, you want to make sure to do that. So if you’re having hybrid teams or remote teams, though, hybrid teams will be coming in maybe a day or two a week. So we’ll still be spending the majority of their work time remotely. And even if they’re coming into the office, they’re likely not coming in for the whole day, they’re just coming in for a team meeting at some project work or something like that. So you want to set some common work hours, for example, 12 to 4pm. That would be the time when the hybrid works in the office days when employees come to the office. That would also be the time when they actively work. You’re in remote settings. Now, other times folks can do their work whenever they want. Some are morning owls, some are morning birds, they like to work in the morning, some are evening owls, and they like night owls and they’d like to work in the night. Whatever works for them. As long as they work during these common hours. That’s the expectation. And as part of that set norms around responding to messages within these common hours. A good default norm is within two hour responses on the common agreed upon shared set of tools, the collaboration tools within the 12 to 4pm period. Now, what do you do to avoid some fatigue? One good technique is to make sure to take 10 minute breaks physical and mental breaks every hour. A good practical application is to end your what previously were hour long meetings, set them to 15 minutes. So have them 15 minutes early. If they’re half hour long meetings, set them at 25 minutes, what you’ll find is that children get the vast majority of what you wanted to get done in 15 minutes, it causes people to be more disciplined, and it causes them to be more fresh and thus, that’s also not doesn’t cause people to run late from meeting to meeting. And so that is also helpful for having efficient meetings that have a number of benefits. So leave time for breaks transitions, people will also be more efficient, they’ll be more prepared, they know they have less time. And that helps make sure that you have productivity in the workplace without harming employee mental and physical health. Lots of benefits to this. And this is, of course, one dynamic. Another dynamic is to decrease the number of meetings, make sure not to have happy hours, make sure to avoid those and have decreased the number of team meetings as well as having breaks. Alright, next, we talked about junior employees, how do you protect them from burnout? One good technique is to provide mentoring and training for hybrid remote teams. So make sure that you provide mentoring for those junior employees to help them integrate into the team, help them fit into the organizational culture and into the team dynamics. Now, to fit into the team dynamics, you need one mentor from the team, who is not the team leader, one senior person from the team who’s not the team leader, to mentor new employees on team dynamics, what’s going on in their workplace and their work. So make sure to mentor them on what’s going on in the team itself. And within the work context, whatever projects you’re working on. You also want another mentor from outside the team to help them fit into organizational culture, develop their career more broadly in organization, and very importantly, develop connections with other people across the organization. Because one of the big challenges with hybrid work and of course remote work is that research shows people form less connections, which is natural, they bump into each other less than the workplace if they don’t work in the office nine to five, so they form less connections across the company. And having a mentor from outside the team whose part of whose job as a mentor is to develop those connections really helps address that. Now, to improve team cohesion, what you can do, which is another issue team cohesion, you can do virtual coworking for an hour to daily, this is a really useful technique, you can start you can start it up by an hour of a week, and then move it up to an hour every other day, and then move it to an hour daily within those common hours that you set. So you get everyone on a video conference call the member, you start with everyone sharing up for 30 seconds what they plan to work on during this period. And then you turn your Microsoft phones off everyone, and you leave your speakers on. Everyone works on their own tasks. But when they have a question, especially useful for junior employees, they can turn on their microphones and ask their questions. And that will allow the senior folks to answer their questions and guide them in doing things like screen sharing. This is very helpful. It reproduces the sense of being in the office shared cubicle without being in the office and sharing cubicles. Now, the thing I want to also highlight is that a key way of protecting against burnout is to have a good relationship with a supervisor. And to do so it’s really important to move from the annual quarterly or specially annual performance evaluations, those big major performance evaluations, too much prefer weekly evaluation meetings. So this is a very brief meeting where you meet with a supervisor once a week, talk about yourself your goal and what you’ve been doing for the week, resolving any problems that they’re facing, checking in on their mental well being, and encourage employees to report to supervisors and you burn out issues, talk about what they plan to work on for the following week and have a self evaluation process. This is a really effective technique for making sure that employees have a good relationship with a supervisor, which is the number one indicator of retention for productivity and engagement of employees and make sure that problems are caught in advance which is great, then also helps address and not simply work problems but mental health and well being problems and also makes sure that the employees work is well aligned with what the supervisor intends them to work on. Alright, everyone, so this is how you protect and recover from burnout in the hybrid and remote future of work. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the wisest decision maker show. Please make sure to follow us on whatever you heard this podcast whether it’s you heard it on Apple, iTunes, Amazon podcasts, whether you saw the video version of it on the YouTube, please follow us and if you’d like this episode, please share it on your social media and with friends and neighbors and everyone in your network. I would love to hear your comments and thoughts and impressions of this episode questions of course, send them to me at Gleb at disasteravoidanceexperts.com. I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the wise decision maker show. And in the meantime, the wisest and most profitable decisions to you, my friends
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Originally Published at Disaster Avoidance Experts on February 15, 2022.