We Asked the Project Management Community: How Do You Help Team Members Prevent and Recover from Burnout?
We asked the project management community: How do you help team members prevent and recover from burnout?
MAKE IT PERSONAL
“Burnout on a meaningful project can happen for a variety of reasons, despite best efforts. So I tailor my approach to the situation, asking team members what they feel will best rejuvenate them. Generally, I consider addressing or eliminating any elements of the project the team has found to be eternally wretched. I'll reduce the work hours—at least temporarily—by expecting no overtime or a shorter workweek. I ensure that team members are supported and have the resources necessary to work well. I take steps to recognize and celebrate accomplishments. Finally, a change of environment can reinvigorate team members, such as having an off-site strategy-planning event.”
—Jan Schiller, PMP, partner and chief project officer, Berkshire Consulting LLC, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
“I'm always looking for new ways to break up the monotony to prevent burnout—and help teams recover from it. One option is to mix it up: Provide team members a diverse portfolio so there's always different types of projects to work on. Another way to keep team members engaged is to provide professional development during work hours or encourage them to pursue volunteer activities. I also like to plan a team-building event. For example, my last event was an escape room game; it was both fun and a chance to use our deductive project skills.”
—Cathy Hoenig, PhD, director, project management office, Exemplis LLC, Cypress, California, USA
“You have to be proactive to avoid burnout. I focus on looking out for signs of burnout and working with the team to consider options that can reduce it, such as adjusting resources or reassessing priorities. Transparency in communication as to how and why their skills are being used—and the benefits at the end of a project—can help to prepare people and provide some extra motivation.”
—Emma Longstaff, business readiness lead and project management office support manager, Wesleyan, Birmingham, England
“Sometimes the best idea is to let team members try something new. I like to let them exchange roles on a temporary basis. It might decrease project velocity, but it also can reduce the feeling of burnout. Giving them new tasks or placing them in a different environment can stimulate the senses and bring workers out of a professional rut. Then, when they return to their previous roles, they'll have a new appreciation for the entire project team.”
—Artur Gula, IT project manager, Euvic, Katowice, Poland
LIGHTEN THE LOAD
“The best way to recover from burnout? Don't let team members burn out. I'd view it as a failure of leadership—and the team as a whole—if even one team member burned out, especially if we are talking about a project team that works together in person and not virtually. However, if the burnout was unavoidable, the best thing you can do is give the team member a chance to recover without putting additional pressure on him or her to return to work quickly. For instance, you can reduce the volume of email you send, encourage others on the team to respect that team member's need for breathing room and touch base with the team member on a regular basis to see if additional support is needed.”
—Kiron D. Bondale, PMI-ACP, PMI-RMP, PMP, agile coach, TD Bank, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Down and Out
Workplace burnout is becoming a problem in today's fast-paced business environment.
Frequency of employees feeling burned out:
What's one approach you take at project kickoff to ensure strategic alignment?
Email responses to [email protected] for possible publication in a future issue.
Employees who frequently experience burnout at work are:
63% more likely to take a sick day
50% less likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager
23% more likely to visit the hospital emergency room
13% less confident in their performance
2.6x more likely to seek a different job
Source: Gallup, 2018