We live in an “always on” culture that prizes grit, perseverance, and maximizing opportunity. As a result, professionals can feel enormous pressure to never quit — to the point where the World Health Organization now recognizes burnout as an official syndrome. That pressure can be even worse during times of crisis, and the explosion of remote technologies and setups make it all the easier to blur the line between home and office. So it’s critical that you recognize your workers’ need for rest. If you’re not sure how to encourage them to stop and recharge, any one of the following strategies could work.
1. Get to know your employees on a deeper level.
This is what makes the difference between a good manager and a true leader. It doesn’t require you to invade privacy or become joined at the hip with your team. It just means building a relationship that’s strong enough that you can determine what they really want to do and what is going to help them take a break. For example, if you know your workers really want to head out early the day before a holiday, then go ahead and let them know they can leave at 2 o’clock (or whatever time works best).
2. Offer time off in response to long hours.
One day, I saw that one of my employees had worked long into the night because she’d CC’d me on an email time-stamped at about 1 A.M. Not wanting her to start feeling burnt out or overworked, I talked to her about it and said, “You know what? You already worked. Why don’t you take the afternoon off?” And she really appreciated that.
This strategy allows you to recognize the great lengths your employees are going to. But the reward isn’t just kudos, a bonus, or other reward that would only reinforce the overtime mindset. Rather, the reward is the guilt-free ability to go decompress. Your worker can see that your priority is work-life balance and that you’re not going to sacrifice the wellbeing of the team to get what you want.
3. Plan a fun outing.
Mentally, your environment influences how you think. So if workers stay in the office, their minds naturally are going to stay in work mode. Fun outings offer a simple solution, giving cues to the team that it’s OK to shift gears, slow down, and enjoy each other.
Admittedly, in the midst of the health crisis, this might take some extra planning or precautions. But there are still ways to connect, even with social distancing or other hurdles. To illustrate, I’m taking my team out for lunch in the middle of the workweek next month. We’ll need to go to a place where we can eat outside, properly spaced apart, but we’ll still be able to see each other in person, which we haven’t done in months. Then, as a surprise, I’m going to give everyone the rest of the day off, too.
4. Use certificates, coupons, and similar offers to circumvent habits and excuses.
Some workers genuinely can struggle to afford basic self-care resources, or they are so habituated to their routine that they need a gentle push or incentive to break out of it. Certificates, coupons, and so on can ensure that workers don’t miss out on the chance for a break because of their money situation. They also make it easier for team members to explore how to rest and enjoy themselves. For example, I’ve sent Grubhub certificates to encourage workers to treat themselves to a proper lunch or dinner.
5. Look to lighten their load.
Workers often don’t want to take a break unless they feel like all loose ends are tied up. They can also be so overwhelmed trying to wrap everything up before their time off that trying to prepare just stresses them out and discourages them from taking a rest in the future.
So, see where you can lighten their load. For instance, I recently had an employee who was going on a vacation. I asked her if there was anything I could take off her plate so she could leave. This didn’t give her a longer vacation, but it did ensure that she left on time, didn’t have to worry about leaving with things unfinished, and didn’t have attention on work mentally distracting her from really enjoying her vacation in the moment.
Whether your workers say so or not, they need to shut off on a regular basis. Because our culture pushes them not to, you have to be a counterweight and get them back on track. The more you push balance, the better your team and company will likely perform in the end, so don’t be afraid to find whatever opportunities you can to help them clock out.