Burn-out prevention

Employee burn out is increasing with the millennial generation. Does anyone have any interesting/unique /effective suggestions for preventing burnout in high stress client facing/deadline driven professions? Thanks so much!!

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@Wvanderwal, this is such a great question. I spent a number of years in management consulting, often on the edge of burnout. There were a number of things personally that I did to avoid burning out. None of these are all that unique though!

  • Regular exercise
  • Enough sleep
  • Being willing to ask for support from my colleagues
  • Finding 10-15 minutes in the middle of my day to meditate
  • Getting outside for a walking meeting

Most importantly, I found that I was less likely to feel burned out when I was doing work that had a clear purpose that I was personally invested in.

There is a good bit of evidence that taking breaks from work is critical to maintaining personal wellbeing. I think as a company, it is important to encourage people to work hard but take breaks and for leaders in the business to take breaks, turn off slack, email etc and talk about why they are doing that. I also think that leaders can help by connecting employee the effort to the value they are creating for the business and its customers.

My colleague @chloe wrote this blog about how to recognize and reverse burnout. You may find some of these suggestions useful.


I am guessing that there are plenty of People Geeks out there who have tried some creative ways to reduce burnout. Looking forward to hearing what others have tried.

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Hi @Wvanderwal!

My thought around this is that documenting norms and expectations can be helpful, since while we may say one thing, people might not actually do it because the unspoken norm is different. And that the world of work has changed so much because of technology that it can feel like there is an β€œalways on” expectation.

For example, you might say β€œtake the time you need off when you are sick,” but the norm is that people will still work because they have emails and messages coming to their phones, and they have seen leaders or coworkers respond when sick. So I think one of the things you could do is see what your unspoken norms are, determine if they are the right ones for your company, and then perhaps work on establishing/documenting new norms.

So that could be things like:

  • Re: time off:
    – Provide a simple template to managers to use in their 1:1s that encourage people to take vacation (e.g., asks them where they will go, when they will go, what they need to plan, etc)
    – Have no meeting days the day before people go on vacation and the day after they come back (and include these days as part of when they are out in their OOO messages)
    – Incentivize people to take vacation by providing a small travel bonus to use toward their vacation
    – Encourage people to stay home and take sick time when sick

  • Re: meetings and time management:
    – Encouraging people to block off focused work time and for others to not schedule over those blocks
    – reducing standard meeting times (25 and 50 minutes instead of 30 and 60) and add agendas so people know what the meeting is about and if their attendance is really required

  • Re: expectations around response time and being online:
    – Have discussions around how and when to communicate/respond. We often feel like we need to respond to something immediately because we hear a ping, but often times that is not the case. A team can set up expectations for how to communicate what items (e.g., urgent items communicated by DM in Slack and response expected within 2 hours, vs non-urgent items sent by email and response time expected is 48 hours)

I think multi-tasking and context-switching, along with many of us working across time zones, is part of what contributes to this stress and burn out and we can help people better manage this.

Some of the ideas I list here I have seen done in other companies, and some ideas I got from seeing this report a while back: http://www.ideas42.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/I42-863_RWJ_Report_DesignSolution_final.pdf

Hope this sparks some ideas!

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