We have been hearing a lot about the productivity increases and the continued productivity since a major transition to work from home, but how sustainable is that?  A lot of that productivity came from people working extra hours, working in all time zones and finishing up projects that were underway when everyone was forced out of office buildings.  Now, as work from home is possibly going to be a fulltime reality for some workers indefinitely, drain is starting to happen.  People are starting to realize that the momentum of that initial push, when all of this was new and “temporary” may not be sustainable in the face of continued uncertainty.

Leaders face the challenges of continuing work, planning for the rest of the year, planning for next year, and prioritizing plans.  In addition, leaders need ensure teams work together and get them to be engaged and productive in carrying out company plans.

Gallup research has found the top causes of burnout in a work environment.  Let’s discuss three of these causes, and what you can do as a leader to reduce these on your team.

One cause of burnout for workers is unmanageable workload.  As our work environments have changed and people are working from kitchen tables or working while having kids and spouses in the background and work/life is blurring together, workload can seem overwhelming.  We may be missing the cues and support systems that we used to rely on to stay productive, like a drive time to get prepared to go into work and the drive home to cue relaxing and focusing on leaving work. In the office we had our desk, access to colleagues, formal meeting rooms, norms and rules to follow and we didn’t think about making lunch for someone in our house, or throwing in a load of laundry while we were in that work space, because that wasn’t where our focus was and it wasn’t an expectation of us.  Now with the blend of home and office, it is easy for people to feel overwhelmed with the amount of work to do.

  1. Check in with your team on workload

As a leader, you can check in with your team members.  Find out what the expectations they have of themselves for work and what kind of other expectations they are dealing with. Can you negotiate with them about the amount of work that needs to be done?  Can you adjust timelines? Can you adjust schedules or working hours to allow people capacity to accomplish the work you need them to do and meet the expectations/needs of home as well?  Be a thought partner with your team to figure out how to get work done that is important.  Review the things that your team does that may not be adding value for the team and eliminate them where possible.  Help them feel heard and understood and look for ways to make the workload more manageable.


Another cause of burnout is lack of role clarity. When your team isn’t clear on what the goal is, whose goal is whose, what they are accountable for to be most productive, this causes anxiety in team members that can lead to burnout.  There are many areas of uncertainty for people today and many things that are outside of our individual control or prediction.  Given the changing circumstances for many companies and teams, revisiting roles may be necessary to keep everyone aligned and engaged.

  1. Create Role Clarity for your team

Given the changing circumstances for many companies and teams, revisiting roles may be necessary to keep everyone aligned and engaged. As a leader, you may not have perfect clarity on everything, but share what you can.  What are the specific things you need to see from your team?  While you may not have a full plan for the quarter or certainty that the plans for returning to work are not going to change again, share what you do know.  Share what is temporary or still under consideration.  Prioritize projects that your team is working on so they know what is most important and understand what goals are most important. Be specific about what each person is responsible for, how team members will work together and what your expectations are. If you have to change the plan shortly after laying it out, be clear about that too, share what you can about why the plan is changing, the purpose for the new direction and what might change again. If your team knows the goal and knows which targets are moving, they may be able to help you solve for some of the unknowns and may be less frustrated and overwhelmed if the plan needs to change rapidly.


That leads to the next big cause of burnout for team members, lack of communication and support from their manager. Many team members feel left in the dark and out of the loop with leaders. In times where we have fewer spontaneous meetings at lunch or in a hallway or before and after in-person meetings, this is even more critical. Each of your team members may have different needs around communication and you as a leader need to know what those needs are and work to meet them to keep your team engaged and productive.

  1. Communicate frequently and in meaningful ways with your team.

As a leader, you need to pass along information and context for work you and your team are doing. It is more important now to reach out to individual team members to ensure that they feel connected and in the loop on changing business plans and priorities.  Even work that doesn’t change frequently can feel different with a work from home environment.  Feeling disconnected and uninformed is even more of a risk in today’s environment than in more standard work environments, where is it a clear risk.  You don’t have to have all the answers, you do have to make your team feel informed and supported if you want to reduce the chance for burnout. Take time at least once a week to check in, share information and allow team to ask questions to stay connected and create a shared sense of understanding for your team.


If you are interested in hearing about more of the top causes of burnout in teams, other ways to connect with and inspire your team or how to flex your communication style to be more effective with each of your team members, I’d love to tell you more. Contact me at nikki@ridgelinecoaching.com and we can set up a call.


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