Beating Burnout: A Complete Guide for SMB Leaders

Published on
Mar 22, 2024
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Burnout has become an epidemic in today’s 24/7 business world. Employees feel constant pressure to do more and be always available.

This chronic stress not only damages wellbeing but also hurts productivity, performance, and retention.

As a leader at a small or midsize business (SMB), you have a duty to combat burnout and create sustainable workloads for your team.

Here are in-depth strategies to prevent burnout:

Watch Closely for Warning Signs

Keep a close eye out for any red flags indicating possible burnout on your team.

Look for signs like exhaustion, lack of engagement, increased cynicism, irritability, negative attitude toward work, and reduced output or productivity.

Make it a priority to check in regularly with staff to ask about their current workload, stress levels, and overall job satisfaction.

Listen closely to what they share. If you're not getting much back, maybe you can conduct stay interviews to better understand what motivates employees and what causes frustration or fatigue.

Track productivity metrics and attendance rates to notice any sudden declines that could signal burnout.

Re-Evaluate Workloads

Take time to thoroughly audit current workloads and responsibilities across your team.

Assess whether expectations are realistic and appropriate. Look at who might be overloaded taking on too much and who is underutilized with not enough to do.

Determine if extra hands are needed or if duties should be re-distributed among existing staff to even things out. Build in capacity planning to anticipate busy seasons, workload fluctuations, upcoming projects, and staffing needs.

This allows you to plan ahead and prevent employees from feeling perpetually overworked.

You can also teach your team to be more proactive - giving them the freedom to say no to non-essential requests.

Encourage Disconnecting

Institute mandatory vacation policies requiring that employees take a minimum number of days off.

Many organizations utilize an unlimited vacation policy and wonder why their teams are still encountering motivational difficulties. You can manage this by leading with your example. Make sure to take vacations, yourself, and set expectations for others.

Additionally, you can set limits around after-hours work and email, making it clear that people are not expected to be connected 24/7. Discourage any culture of martyrdom and normalize disconnecting outside of working hours.

Another route you can go is to provide perks like extra paid time off, flexible schedules, mental health days, and “bonus holidays” throughout the year so people can recharge.

Build Resilience

Offer stress management workshops to give people tools to navigate stress. This can be as simple as a "lunch and learn" to discuss mindfulness or meditation practices.

Go crazy and sponsor office exercise classes and walking meetings to encourage movement and mental breaks.

Make sure you're also fostering friendships and social connections among coworkers. This can bolster resilience against burnout by reminding people they are not alone and are in it together.

Shape a Burnout-Resistant Culture

Make wellbeing a core company value, not just an occasional perk.

Have leaders model taking time to recharge by being vocal about taking their own vacations, mental health days, and not working after hours.

Critically, make sure to provide management training on spotting burnout warning signs. While you'd like to think you have a pulse on the entire team, the managers can be your eyes and ears on a daily or hourly basis.

Reward those who make caring a priority and model a healthy work-life balance.

Preventing burnout needs to be a key goal across your entire organization. If you do it the right way, you'll be protecting your team’s health and wellbeing while also boosting productivity, morale, and retention in the long run.

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