During the pandemic shutdown, the concept of 24/7 employee availability became normalized – especially for IT professionals, many of whom who found themselves within reach of their laptops at all times. This new normal led many IT folks to experience burnout, with stress and frustration negatively impacting the quality of their work, their personal relationships, and even their mental health.
As a leader, you can help prevent your IT team from succumbing to burnout. Here are five tips to help ensure that your team stays happy, healthy, and productive.
1. Connect strategic goals to day-to-day activities
Lack of engagement is a leading performance killer. By connecting strategic goals to your team’s day-to-day activities, you are showing each employee that their hard work makes a difference in the company’s success. This, in turn, will increase their sense of achievement.
2. Show that you are human
Lack of personal connection with a manager can lead team members to shut down and keep issues to themselves – and there’s nothing like isolation and silence to make small problems grow into bigger ones.
[ Also read IT leadership: 3 best practices to strengthen today's teams. ]
To make sure these breakdowns in communication don’t derail your mission, let your team see that you are human. When I became a new father, for example, I shared with my team some thoughts on the joys and challenges that came along with it. Doing this helped to develop connections and a sense of camaraderie that has made problem-sharing easier for my team.
3. Create regular opportunities for personal sharing
During the shutdown, I discovered that carving out a regular time to share personal information during weekly team meetings can yield positive results. For example, my team talks about great restaurants they discovered, shares songs over Slack, and more.
Team meetings are typically where problems are addressed, and in the innovation-centric world of IT, many such problems have never been solved. This can feel overwhelming, erode confidence, and lead to burnout. Personal sharing can go a long way toward helping team members to feel inspired and confident enough to share their more unconventional ideas.
4. Acknowledge and address emotions
Routinely ask your team members how they are doing and how they are feeling, and be sure to hold regular one-on-one conversations. To keep engagement high, give your team strategic goals and help achieve them.
If you notice a long silence in a Zoom call, try to discover what is not being said. Show your team that you have the patience to listen, even when it seems uncomfortable. This is one of the best ways to re-engage team members who may be struggling.
Work in small groups when possible, and check in every two weeks. This will help you understand if your deadlines are realistic so you can avoid putting additional stress on your team.
5. Embrace the agile methodology for product development
Long-term vision is essential for any organization, but short-term goals help to ensure that progress is both steady and manageable. That’s why I have embraced the agile methodology of product development and shared it with my team.
Agile helps counter burnout in IT workers, who too often work in environments of isolation and slow progress. The first thing agile methodology teaches you to do is keep your timeframes and the scope of your work suited to two-week increments. In addition, every team member has the opportunity to express what went wrong, what went well, and ways to improve. This makes every step manageable and gives projects a level of clarity that alleviates the stress and confusion that often lead to burnout.
Eliminating burnout entirely will never be possible, but there are steps you can take to ensure that your team feels supported and heard. You might not see positive results overnight; easing into more compassionate and agile working processes will take time. But by making these changes now, you can be sure that every member of your organization will benefit.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]