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Editor’s note: In this series, we are sharing tips to help IT professionals manage their stress - and guide their teams through challenging times. Here, Todd Deshane, chief automation and proof of concept specialist at Computer Task Group, shares how he avoids burnout in his career.
How to manage stress during a pandemic
Do anything. Walk, jog, bike, or do yoga – daily. Take breaks to actually rest/meditate, nap, or listen to classical music. Don't rest on your phone or social media. Actually disconnect, even if only for 15 minutes at a time.
Also, read physical books. ( Or dedicate an ebook reader that you don't do web browsing on.) The last two physical books that I read I highly recommend: High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard, and Personality Isn't Permanent by Benjamin Hardy.
When and how to disconnect
The first way to prioritize rest and disconnection is to establish good morning and evening habits and routines. If you start by going to bed earlier (and not wasting time on low quality activities and consumption of low quality food/entertainment), you will wake up more rested and be able to follow a morning routine more effectively.
From there, the second important way is to be clear on what your highest priority is and to make actual progress on it. Take breaks at breaking points and/or when stuck on a problem.
[ Want to help people be intentional about time and energy? Read also: COVID-19 leadership lessons: 5 ways to help your team recharge. ]
What can leaders do to support their team?
For leaders, it's important to realize that it is easy to burn out your employees. You don't see them all the time and can't tell what level of frustration or personal issues might be coming up for them at home or in their personal lives that they might not want to share. But those types of things are affecting them.
Be clear on the top priority, and don't burden them with too many lower priority items. Remember that you, as their manager, saying something about a task or intiative might imply to your team that it's a priority. If you don't want it to be treated as such, be explicit.
Find ways to expose the team to bigger picture stuff (e.g. company vision/values and/or human values) that keep employees from burning out emotionally. It's easy to get stuck in such uncertainty from world events that we lose sight of the bigger picture things that can lower our stress and put things into the proper perspective.
Practically speaking, when there are all-hands meetings and company-wide policy meetings (such as discussing Black Lives Matter or work-from-home policies) bring those to the team and give them a chance to engage with the company and their peers: They can process and respond and realize that the human side of things matters to the company just as much as completing high priority tasks.
Reminder: Be honest and direct
Be honest with yourself and your team/leaders. I like to phrase it as follows: "I'm a high performer, and I've noticed that I'm close to burning out." Be sure to give examples of things noticed: output reduction, mistakes, chronic stress, etc. And then explain that you need to take time to unplug.
[ Need to improve meetings? Read also: Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. ]