February 28, 2023
Work-Life Bloom

How Effort Troughs And Open Dialogue Can Help Prevent Burnout

Because an increasing number of people are experiencing burnout, leaders of need to pay much closer attention to the amount of effort that their members put in. The long-term effects of working more than 40 hours per week are not sustainable. But those in positions of authority are keenly aware of the fact that it does happen.

The solution to the problem can be found in two ways: effort troughs and open dialogue.

Effort Troughs

When judging the work of their team members, it’s important for leaders to look at the “big picture.” No job on the planet is immune to overtime. It happens. Let me say it again: it happens. Team members are expected to put in extra hours as the situation warrants.

For instance, “extra effort” is necessary when an unexpected emergency with a customer takes precedence, when a natural disaster has occurred, when releasing a new product becomes a priority, when creating a marketing campaign is the goal, and so on and so forth. When faced with challenges of this nature, workers must remain on the clock, go above and beyond, and forget about the conventional 40-hour workweek.

Review the fictitious example below of a knowledge worker:

Dan Pontefract

Over the course of a 12-month fiscal year, there are two cases where their effort exceeds well over 100 percent. For example, in September, it looks like they are working 60-hour weeks to accomplish their goal. Or, perhaps, there was a customer emergency. Whatever the scenario, in this day and age of increasing burnout and employees expecting more from their leaders, It would be prudent for the leader to be informed of the overall effort situation involving this member of the team.

A leader is responsible for monitoring periods of “additional effort” in both a reactive and a proactive way. In the event leaders do not provide recovery gaps or what I refer to as “effort troughs,” we risk having personnel who get burned out. This situation is not only detrimental to people’s health and well-being; it also has the potential to bring about employee turnover and other unfavourable variables in the workplace.

From an effort analysis perspective, I would advise doing the following:

  • First and foremost, you must insist that all team members use the vacation time they have accrued.
  • Maintain an effort log of each team member throughout the year (not on an hourly basis but using a general tracking system).
  • Pay particular attention to the “extra effort” times in which the effort is greater than 100 percent.
  • After that, provide “effort troughs” by allowing a reduced workload (four-day work weeks, Friday afternoons off, etc.)

Open Dialogue

The “effort analysis” action from above is a leader’s attempt at monitoring a team member’s workload reactively and proactively. But that’s just one-half of the leadership equation. What more must happen? Dialogue, and hopefully, it’s an open one.

It is possible to prevent burnout and improve overall performance if a leader creates an environment that encourages open dialogue among team members. Team members feel comfortable expressing their concerns, ideas, and challenges related to their workload when a leader fosters an environment of open dialogue.

Effective leaders recognize that each team member has unique abilities and limitations. By promoting open dialogue, they may ensure that the burden is handled equitably and adequately according to the scenario. Employees are more invested in their work and more satisfied with their life when they feel they can talk openly with their supervisor about their workloads and concerns.

Additionally, open dialogue allows for continual feedback and appropriate recognition. When a leader provides feedback on a team member’s performance, it helps them understand how their efforts contribute to the team’s success. Moreover, when a leader recognizes a team member’s hard work and accomplishments—particularly when effort exceeds 100 percent—it can help to build morale and foster a more caring employee experience.

Hypothetical Workplace Situation

Let’s hypothesize a workplace situation. Sarah is the leader of a team of 12 and recently recognized that a team member, Sandeep, had been working long hours and appeared stressed and tired. Sarah decided to have a one-on-one meeting with Sandeep to discuss his workload and any challenges he was facing.

Sarah urged Sandeep to discuss his concerns and difficulties during the discussion. Sandeep revealed that he had been struggling to keep up with his work and was feeling extremely overburdened. Sarah listened attentively and offered follow-up questions to comprehend Sandeep’s difficulties better.

As a result of their open dialogue, Sarah and Sandeep were able to come up with a plan to distribute his workload more appropriately. They even pushed out a deliverable. Sarah also gave Sandeep feedback on his performance and recognized his hard work and contribution to the team. This conversation helped prevent Sandeep from a potential burnout situation and improved his motivation and productivity.

Sandeep’s performance improved, and he assumed additional responsibility in the weeks following their chat. In addition, Sarah and Sandeep’s candid conversation contributed to a more productive work atmosphere, which benefited the entire team. They even sorted out an “effort trough” opportunity for Sandeep to work a four-day workweek in the summer.

This real-world example illustrates the importance of the effort analysis action (and effort troughs) as well as the open dialogue leaders should take when managing team members’ workloads.

In Summary

When a leader genuinely “cares” about the people on their team, they will take every measure possible to reduce the risk of burnout and improve their colleagues’ overall health and happiness.


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