6 Ways to Lead Teams from Burnout to Performance From promoting work-life balance and the power of saying "no" to setting positive boundaries, how to improve team results and overall well-being.

By Nicholas Leighton

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Across the globe, workers are under immense pressure to produce outstanding results. Throw in the additional stress of ongoing inflation and the mental toll of a global pandemic, and we have a recipe for rampant burnout throughout the workforce. Even before the tumultuous Covid-19-associated events began in 2020, a study by Deloitte found that 77% of all full-time workers in the U.S. experienced some form of burnout in their current jobs. The same research revealed that 70% of those surveyed felt that their employers weren't doing enough to alleviate it.

The impacts of burnout include reduced energy, anxiety, lack of motivation, disengagement, higher turnover rates and even full-blown mental health crises. Therefore, it's critical to explore ways owners/executives, including employee experience and recruiting professionals, can help teams avoid the kinds of chronic workplace stress that hinder performance.

1. Encourage work/life balance

One of the surest ways to avoid burnout is by fostering a healthy work/life balance among team members. Since this is inevitably tethered to company culture, entrepreneurs have a lot of control over it.

Start by setting the right example: If team members see you hustling 75 hours a week, they are more likely to feel obligated to do the same. Simple changes such as not emailing them on the weekends or late into the evening can help set the tone, even if you are still putting in the extra hours.

Oftentimes, burnout can stem from the stress of never having time to deal with personal or family issues. So, consider embracing special arrangements such as remote work and/or flexible hours. Even eliminating unnecessary meetings can keep a staff more productive and allow its members to leave the office at a reasonable time.

Related: 7 Straightforward Ways to Reduce Turnover in Your Business

2. Balance workloads

Much burnout is the result of having too many tasks to perform, often simultaneously. It's your responsibility as an owner to ensure that the workload is distributed evenly and to identify when additional resources are needed. There is nothing wrong with asking a team to pitch in and put in extra hours when needed, but it will quickly become a problem when 50- to 60-hour weeks are the norm. You'll never free a team from burnout if they are constantly burning the candle at both ends.

Their lives will be made additionally easier by providing them with the tools and technology they need to streamline their efforts. Investing in things like automation or artificial intelligence can help reduce the impact of repetitive and/or time-consuming tasks.

Related: Smart Entrepreneurs Use Automation to Become More Efficient. Here Are 6 Ways to Adopt It.

3. Support saying "no," and otherwise setting boundaries

You likely have a few people on your team who crank out work like machines. They say "yes!" every time someone needs help with something. But eventually, burnout will affect even these MVPs. Encourage staff members to be vocal about their workloads and to say "no" when a request is putting their existing deliverables at risk.

4. Provide new and exciting challenges

Burnout doesn't always have to be a result of being overworked and overwhelmed. In many cases, it comes from simply not enjoying what you're doing. In fact, one study referenced in a 2019 Harvard Business Review article found that 90% of people were willing to earn less money if it meant they could take on a role or job that produces more meaningful work.

Offering opportunities to learn new skills and take on new challenges, then, also can help mitigate burnout. Reconnecting a team's work with the overall objective of the company and showing them how their specific roles matter can help them refocus on the "why."

Related: I Was Experiencing Extreme Burnout Until I Practiced These 3 Things to Come Out Stronger

5. Reach out to teams directly

Most managers have regular check-ins or touchpoints with team members. These are great opportunities for seeing how they are progressing on goals and determining how you can support them better. That said, discussing burnout isn't always easy for people, so make a point of asking directly about stress levels and other potential burnout triggers. By encouraging them to share openly, you may uncover issues that can be resolved before they become major problems.

6. Provide stress outlets

Catching excess stress before it becomes a major issue is ideal, but how do business owners deal with burnout that's already rooted in a team? A great start is offering employee assistance programs (EAPs) that provide confidential counseling and support services to help cope with both personal and work-related issues. Whether it's stress, anxiety or other challenges, an EAP can provide the necessary tools to manage mental health and overall well-being. Better yet, such resources are often available through your existing health insurance carrier.

In addition, organizations can organize workshops or seminars on stress management techniques. These cover a range of topics, such as time management, relaxation exercises and mindfulness practices.

Supporting a team's mental health can also take the form of encouraging the regular use of accrued vacation hours, or by providing mental health days. Taking time off to recharge is nothing less than essential.

Related: 9 Ways High-Performing Entrepreneurs Handle Stress

Wavy Line
Nicholas Leighton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Best-selling author, speaker & business owner executive coach

Nick Leighton believes that business owners should make more money and have more free time. He does this through his best-selling book "Exactly Where You Want to Be – A Business Owner’s Guide to Passion, Profit and Happiness," speaking and coaching. #ChampagneMoment.

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