We all feel the pressure to get as much done as possible – it’s the way we have been socialized, from school to the workplace. While productivity and hard work are necessary for a business to thrive, so too is protecting your employees from burnout, especially when they are working from home.
During the pandemic, there has been an added cultural pressure to be more productive than ever before. Whether its baking fresh bread every week, or learning a new language, we have all been asked to substitute the time taken up by our previous routine with something arbitrarily worthwhile. Many people have found this increased productivity mindset spilling into the way they work. While that extra effort from a team member is great, it’s also your job as a leader to make sure they don’t burn themselves out.
Think about your team. Who is doing more than usual? Who is volunteering for more than you suspect they truly have the time to complete? Who is taking less time for themselves? Call it Type A, workaholism, or ‘toxic productivity’ – call it whatever you will, but make sure it’s being addressed.
One of the main problems with this compulsive productivity mindset is that it can be fueled by guilt. Employees prone to this behavior may be experiencing a sense of guilt and insecurity for not having done more. Setting impossible standards for productivity, and feeling shame when those are not completed, can also lead to a perception of self-failure, even when the opposite is true.
This burn-out inducing pattern can lead to poorer quality of work, irritability, fatigue and exhaustion, lack of engagement, anxiety, and even physical illness. You care about your employees’ wellbeing, and want to retain talent; advocating for your team before they reach this point is just one of the many ways you can show your strong leadership.
Foster a culture that acknowledges the importance of downtime.
Even if your team insists on jumping from one project to the next, ensure they know they can and should take the proper time to care for themselves, especially outside of work hours.
Lead by example when it comes to self-care. Share with your employees how you prioritize your time off, and take some of the guilt away from the prospect of them completely removing work from their Saturday vocabulary. Make the expectation clear that engagement is important during work hours, and detachment is encouraged outside of that time.
A lot of the time, employees who are prone to ‘toxic productivity’ are anxious that it is required to keep in good standing with their manager. You can nip that in the bud by assuring them that this isn’t the case. Be enthusiastic and acknowledging of their accomplishments and deliverables, not the fullness of their schedule.
It’s easy to preach self-care and work-life-balance, but it’s harder to know how your advice is being put to task. Maybe some aspect of your expectations for a team member is preventing them from feeling able to relax outside the workplace.
If you notice an employee struggling, take the time to show concern, ask questions, and graciously accept feedback. If you can take on the role of coach or counsellor to help an employee flourish in their career, that will be hugely rewarding to you, them, and your business.
Don’t Gate-Keep Time Off.
Within the appropriate requirements of their position, allow your employees to take the time off that they need without feeling the need to defend that decision. When sick days and holiday days go unused, you have to ask yourself, does my team feel safe to ask for time off?
Especially when working from home, it can be hard to ask for a day off for something like stress or fatigue. And yet, these conditions can drastically impact the quality of work.
Being understanding, respecting privacy, and giving employees the space to choose themselves can help them develop the trust they need to prioritize themselves.