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How Do Leaders Help Staff & Themselves Recover from Burnout?
How Do Leaders Help Staff & Themselves Recover From
The pandemic has been exhausting for employees and leaders alike, which has led to increases in burnout. We spoke with two leaders about how they and their employees are dealing.
Bridget Lopez is managing partner of the Dallas law office of Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, and has experienced burnout firsthand. Her plan to confront it? Tough conversations, avoiding 2 a.m. emails and providing time off when employees need it.
Carrie Boyd is managing principal at architectural and design firm M+A Architects in Columbus, Ohio. Since adding more than 50 workers to her 115-person firm last year, managing burnout has become a challenge. She counters by making employee health her No. 1 priority.
Q. How has burnout affected you and your staff?
There’ve been some retirements — we’ve seen that with our clients, too. We represent schools, counties and cities, and we saw a lot of city managers, executive staff and superintendents retire. Within our own ranks, some retirements happen where people don’t want to risk their health coming into the office. Or they look ahead and ask themselves, “Do I really want to spend my life working 10-to-12-hour days?”
Burnout causes fatigue, low motivation, disengagement and poor performance. I used to have this vision where I would flip this switch and be the strong, supportive leader and never show when things affected me. But this pandemic has shown that there’s a different level of transparency and empathy needed now.
Q. How do you help them deal with burnout?
I had a time in my life where I suffered from anxiety, and I went to counseling. I was surprised when it happened to me; I was a go-go person. I did not know what anxiety was when it hit me. When people come to me and say, “I’m having some problems,” I feel like I can recognize that and help them. I’ve told them to take time off and get help, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
We have a respite room that helps with anxiety, migraines or other symptoms of burnout. When leaders use a space like that, it shows staff that it’s OK. My boss isn’t going to be looking at me like I’m not working if I go into this space. It starts with leaders reminding everyone that we all go through this.
Q. How do you cope with burnout?
For the first time in my life, I took a two-week vacation. And I decided after that, I’m going to do that every year. If you have two weeks, you really do get a break. I came back super excited and motivated to get back to work and see what people had done. I had a lot of ideas.
Like anything else, if you don’t talk about a goal or a plan, and you don’t write it down, it’s not going to happen. I’m fortunate to have a lot of supportive people around me. I just had a conversation yesterday with our client experience person, and told her I wanted to get better at taking breaks. She said, “Carrie, I’m going to keep you to that.” Having accountability partners who know what you’re trying to achieve is important to preventing burnout.