Minimizing Burnout and Building Resilience

Co-authored by BRI CEO Giles Shih and Thinc Strategy Partner Karen Albritton.

We’ve all been there at some point in the past year – working on a project, staring at the screen, we look at the time and 4,5,6 hours have passed, and we don’t know where the day went. While we’ve turned the page on 2020 and are looking forward to 2021, some of us continue to adjust to work-life balance in these pandemic times and wonder what we can do to avoid burning out.

We know how important it is to encourage our hard-working team members to be productive while also keeping a healthy balance. Here are some ideas and actions we’ve implemented to ensure the well-being of our whole team.

1 – Encourage people to use vacation time and take sick leave

Many vacation plans have been cancelled due to travel restrictions. That can be hard on people mentally. We know people struggle to vacation at home. However, unplugging is vital. It is natural to feel like taking time off decreases productivity, but according to science (and we trust the science!) that is not the case. Taking breaks actually makes a person more productive; and according to research conducted at the University of California, vacations help reduce stress levels and improve the immune system.  Who doesn’t want a more productive, healthier, and less stressed workplace?

Don’t make people feel guilty about needing a break. We provide a generous vacation package and encourage all team members to use them. Furthermore, we expect folks on vacation to also take a break from their work emails and texts while they are out of the office!

2 – Make space for your needs and the needs of those around you

While some aspects of our lives have been disrupted by the various COVID-19 regulations, all the ups and downs of life still continue, and our team members have experienced their share of births, deaths, kids starting college, kids starting kindergarten, illnesses and even a marriage during this pandemic. We have been intentional about taking care of our team members’ needs. Our team has made space for people to work from home, and then understand when their kids (or pets) interrupt a Zoom meeting. We make sure when people need to be in the office, they feel safe by providing masks, social distancing and modifying workspaces. It bears noting that while we are all weathering the same storm in this pandemic, we’re weathering it in different boats with different types of challenges and reactions. We do our best to treat people as individuals and to meet them where they are.

3 – Building resilience while socially distanced

We believe in a spirit of life-long learning. This global pandemic has taught us a lot. We have learned to be more productive with the use of technology, we have learned to think about other’s safety a little more, we have learned about juggling in a new way and we have learned to lead with our heads and our hearts differently.

Recently our CEO kicked off a Zoom meeting with the concept of “Three Good Things” and encouraged each member to reflect on something good in his or her life. It turns out social science researchers at Duke University and elsewhere found that taking time to acknowledge the good things in our own lives has been shown to increase resistance to emotional exhaustion in various work environments. The work was so impactful that experts at Duke University developed free online tools to help frontline healthcare workers develop resilience to deal with the stressful situations they face in their daily work.

COVID fatigue is real and so is the burn out that comes with it. That is why we encourage our team to do what they can to build resilience within themselves and with their colleagues. So while we will still have days when we look up to wonder where the time has gone, we hope that those are more productive, healthy and happy hours.

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