What to Do When Vacation Doesn’t Cut It: 4 Tools to Energize the Team
Posted on April 27, 2022
My client Fischer is back from two weeks of vacation — and more exhausted than ever. In an attempt to rest and re-energize his family and professional life, he spent the later part of last month seeing relatives and taking a full break from the daily pressures of a growing business, only to return to a deteriorating team plagued by flagging morale.
While Fischer’s vacation may have provided him with temporary relief from the breakneck pace and challenge of the last two years, his team — ever mired in the trenches of startup life — is feeling increasingly disconnected and strained from remote work and on the verge of quitting. He called me at a loss for how to energize the team and re-engage a staff clearly burned out — without any end in sight.
Burnout and Stress: The Ongoing Workplace Crisis
According to a poll conducted by PwC, as many as 65% of full- and part-time employees are currently searching for new work, citing an increased desire for flexibility, better pay, and expanded benefits. Thanks to the opportunities and constraints imposed by the pandemic, many employees have chosen to seek out greener pastures as they re-evaluate their professional options and contemplate future career prospects.
But employees are also looking for new work for the same reason about a fifth of Americans have moved to new homes and are charging towards major life shifts today: Mired in the ever-repetitive and uncertain landscape of the last two years, individuals tend to seek out new situations and move into action to recover from stress. In a world where coping with uncertainty has become the new norm, changing jobs seems like one of the only predictable levers for improving current circumstances and bringing much needed “pattern interrupt” to the unending routine of working from home.
For many managers, like Fischer, this potential talent exodus spells disaster. High turnover for employers comes with culture churn and business disruption, not to mention high cost — an average of about one-fifth of an employee’s annual salary to replace them. And from a psychological perspective for employees, the risk of changing jobs motivated by a desire for the fresh and new is that they will find exactly what they just left once again confronting them on the other side: Firmly ensconced in a new job with new challenges and patters, the employee can find the same frustrations and boredoms staring them in the face, once again struggling to get out of a mid-career slump or break up the daily remote-working grind.
Energize the Team Through Coaching
In coaching, we believe that instead of changing jobs to cope with burnout, there are several things that both employers and employees can do. For example, they can work together to refigure jobs and energize the team in order to make the work more sustainable for the long term.
When Fischer met with a key staff member who came to him to give notice upon his return, he asked, “What parts of your job can we offload now that would make your work more energizing and joyful?” Through the course of answering this question together, they discovered that the staff member could step into a vacant role on an adjacent team that much more closely suited their skillset and interest. Remember that open communication is the first step toward building high-performing teams.
Here are some tools from Co-Active coaching and other resources to try if you or members of your team are feeling burned out and contemplating a job switch.
Rework the role. Before you abandon your job entirely, make a list of the parts that energize you and the parts that drain you now. Is it the hours, pace, relationships, or grunt work that feels most unsustainable? What would your dream job look like if you could recraft it? Spend the time imagining your perfect role at your current job now, and get clear about the parts that are most costly and taxing.
Dare to have the conversation. Traditionally, women are more likely than men to leave a job before they attempt to negotiate or ask for what they want — be it more money, flexibility, or influence. Today, to energize the team, companies have more leverage to incentivize employees to stay by changing titles, increasing vacation leave, and providing supplemental budgets (once earmarked for travel and events) to offset learning and development or coaching needs. Broach the topic early and often with your manager or HR partner, ideally before the signs of burnout emerge.
Change one small thing in your day-to-day. My client Kimberly was working overtime to pick up her kids and take client calls every day at 6pm, despite having told her boss once that she needed to be offline during this time. After months of contemplating other jobs, she finally decided to come clean with her boss about the mental strain of this daily juggle and negotiated a new agreement to be offline starting at 6pm. What one micro change could you make today that would help your work life be more sustainable or could energize the team? Audit your external and self-imposed job expectations, and make one small shift starting now.
Double down on psychological safety at work. If you are managing a team, normalize the fact that this moment is hard and the majority of employees will experience burnout at one point or another. Make it okay to ask for help in weekly team meetings, to admit when you’re feeling burned out, and to take mental health days. Managers who can talk openly to their teams about burnout, uncertainty, and even the desire to leave and look for new work will have a better chance of retaining employees, so create psychologically safe spaces for your team members to vent their fears and desires.
In this way, if and when employees leave to pursue another opportunity, it will be not because they are running from burnout or missing an opportunity to make their workload more sustainable, but because they are genuinely drawn to a better opportunity. Hopefully, the conversations sparked by this period of challenge will energize people, create needed shifts in how our working world functions, and show sustainable paths for employees to be more empowered in creating the work they want. And vacations get to stop being band-aids for fixing burnout and instead be a healthy pause from great workplaces where employees flourish.
How about you? Have you gone through a major burnout and stress lately? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments below.