Preventing burnout: A manager's toolkit

May 3, 2022 · 3 min read · Leave a comment
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Working at a startup is demanding. GitLab team members are often under a lot of pressure. From mental health awareness to our posts on identifying burnout, GitLab wants to ensure our team members are working efficiently without feeling overwhelmed. Recently, GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij and Michelle Hodges, vice president of Global Channels, discussed how managers can support their team members and help prevent burnout.

Sid and Michelle emphasized that the earlier a manager can identify burnout the better. Identifying burnout in a remote environment is more difficult than in a co-located workplace, but looking for early hallmarks such as exhaustion and reduced enthusiasm can help managers get ahead of the problem.

Sid shared the following 12 strategies managers can utilize to support their team and prevent burnout:

  1. Encourage time off. Even taking a half day can help. Managers can take an active role in encouraging team members to take time off by telling their team members about their own upcoming vacations. Managers can ask team members when their next vacation is and, if they don’t have one, encourage them to plan one.

  2. Lower the pressure. When a manager senses that someone on their team may be getting close to burnout, they can lower the pressure of goals and objectives and key results (OKRs) and also ask about goals less frequently.

  3. Be more positive. Frankly, managers can be a significant source of stress, so try to be more positive about the team member and their reports.

  4. Increase headcount. Most of the time, there’s too much work for too few people, so managers can explore options to increase headcount. This can be temporary, such as borrowing time from someone on another team or hiring a consultant.

  5. Offer team members coaching. External coaching can help team members open up about their struggles, including working with their manager.

  6. Remind employees of mental health care resources. Point employees toward the company's mental health benefits and services. GitLab provides support to all team members through ModernHealth.

  7. Express gratitude. Send team members gifts to their home to show gratitude and an investment in your personal relationship.

  8. Celebrate progress. Burnout is often caused by a feeling of stagnation. Seeing the progress you’re making day-to-day is hard. Managers should create space to celebrate small wins and reflect on the mountains you’ve climbed.

  9. Sympathize. The work is tough. Have conversations about it.

  10. Lead by example. Managers should set and maintain working hours. For instance, Sid says he waits until the next working day to respond to Slack messages that happen after 6 p.m.

    Help team members to be more effective by:

    • Reviewing recurring meetings and identifying what can be done async
    • Talking about what they're working on and helping them identify what work isn’t as important
    • Identifying work that can be delegated to other team members, and empowering them to do so

    Managers can also encourage team members to name things they won’t do.

  11. Reduce the number of hours worked by agreeing to reduce effort. Managers can ask team members to identify things that are likely to fail. Taking time to reflect on results can be very insightful and can allow team members to reduce their effort without compromising quality.

  12. Share burnout concerns with others. Using judgement or with permission, managers can give context and ask others to take it easy on specific team members when necessary.

Watch the full conversation below.

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