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14 Ways Tech Team Leaders Can Help Their Staff Overcome Burnout

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IT teams often have a stressful workload—many times members have to deal with packed schedules and long hours. The mental and physical toll on IT team members can be detrimental for both them and the company.

Employees may try to hide the symptoms of overwork they are experiencing, so it is up to tech execs to keep an eye open for the signs and have a plan in place to give their team members some relief. To help, 14 experts from Forbes Technology Council discuss the best strategies that tech team leaders can implement to help their members deal with burnout.

1. Identify The Root Cause

I have learned that the last thing a person experiencing burnout needs to hear is verbal confirmation of their state from the team leader. Sending them on forced vacation can be more stressful than not. It is better to set some friendly one-on-ones and identify causes and solutions, be those more clearly defined goals and expectations, encouraging better work-life balance or simply listening to the employee. – Daniela Moody, Ursa Space

2. Push Decision-Making Closer To The Problem

Giving employees more power to dictate their productivity helps take the pressure off while providing much-needed context that gets them out of the day-to-day grind. Employers don’t really care when and where the work gets done as long as it gets done. Such a structure will quickly weed out the underperforming and undisciplined while showcasing others who simply need more freedom to thrive. – Abe Ankumah, Nyansa

3. Democratize Your Business IT

An IT team leader can address the core issue of unrealistically heavy workloads by working to “democratize IT,” empowering business users—those on the front lines—to help build the everyday solutions they need. This can address IT employee burnout and enable greater efficiency and productivity in organizations, as well as help to develop a more engaged and satisfied workforce. – Dave Landa, Kintone

4. Review Human Resource Planning

It is tempting to focus on the one employee showing signs of burnout. The situation presents a great opportunity to do a proper review of human resource planning, looking at human resources as well as current and future requirements. The results will point one in the right direction and toward the right action to take. – Unathi Mtya, Grindrod Bank

5. Provide A Clear Focus

As an IT team leader, it is important to provide a clear focus for each team member. A leader should understand what the top goals and priorities are for the broader organization and then distill these priorities into specific actions and projects for team members. Employees who have a clear direction and are supported by a manager who is consistent in prioritization are less likely to burn out. – Jonathan Babad, DIRECTED

6. Provide A Clear End Game

Most engineers I’ve worked with come to have a sense of ownership and pride in the “thing” being built. As such, occasional overtime comes with the territory. Workloads can quickly become overwhelming, though, when there is no end in sight. It’s important to approach projects in phases and delineate clear start and stop points with adequate milestones and opportunities to recharge along the way. – William Francis, ENO8

7. Hold Yourself Accountable

Take responsibility for how you may have contributed to their burnout. It might not be easy to hear, but oftentimes burnout is a symptom of a less-than-ideal work environment. Remind him or her that they’re valued and help them find meaning in their role again. Be open, flexible and willing to change in order to create a more positive space. – Kison Patel, DealRoom

8. Keep It Personal

First, enroll your team members in the project’s purpose so they know what they are working for! Second, make sure you are there with them every step of the way—sitting with them, buying them dinner or whatever they need. Last, when the work is done, reward their hard work with time off or a date night to appreciate the employee’s family, who was also affected by those long hours. – Amy Czuchlewski, Bottle Rocket

9. Recognize Big And Small Wins

IT team members accomplish so much it can sometimes go unnoticed. As a team leader, take the extra time to continuously recognize the hard work of employees so that they feel valued for their contributions and continue to succeed. Instead of trying to address burnout reactively, take measurable steps to proactively build a positive work culture as you scale your organization. – Ryan Chan, UpKeep Maintenance Management

10. Help Them Prioritize

IT teams often manage a complex workload of running operations, deploying new projects and fighting fires. Leaders can empower teams by clarifying problem statements and being brutally realistic about what is really urgent, what is really important and what can wait (allowing teams to truly focus on the most urgent and most important initiatives). – Caroline Wong,

11. Encourage Work-Life Balance

Encouraging teams to create work-life balance is essential for avoiding burnout. This not only helps them but the company, as well, so encourage employees to set boundaries and take a full two weeks of vacation. The best way companies can increase retention is to resolve burnout issues quickly. If not, those employees will leave and it will be very difficult to replace them in this job market. – Robert Reeves, Datical

12. Offer Flexible Locations And Hours

The demand for IT workers typically outpaces the supply, which can lead to overload and burnout for IT teams. With a plethora of tools for working remotely—spanning from collaboration boards to video meeting tools—working remotely is a viable and productive option. Most employees who work from home utilize flexible hours and work harder and longer than when in the office. – Kerrie Hoffman, Get Digital Velocity

13. Implement A Day Of Digital Detox

Burnout is an all-too-common occurrence in the tech industry. Fortunately, we’ve had great success stymieing it with a day of digital detox. When a team member displays burnout symptoms, we’ll ask them to take a three-day weekend to disconnect from tech and replenish their mental health and well-being. Employees usually return to the office refreshed and ready to take on their responsibilities again. – Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC

14. Force The Party On Them

I was once this guy! I fully believe in forcing a party on them or sending them off to relax far, far away! Forcing them to take a vacation or  forcing them to sit down and have a cup of coffee with their teammates and not talk about the project or business, but talk about life, or about Star Wars—anything but the project—will help them clear their mind and “be one with the Force.” – Christopher Carter, Approyo


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