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Are you rewarding "availability" with your team at work?

As a workplace leader, a huge piece of burnout prevention for your team is around

a) supporting a manageable workload for each team member and

b) encouraging good work-life balance (easier said than done!)

you can read more about this in the "is your team at risk of burnout?" post.

Even when we think we are doing a good job of supporting our team, there may be subtle (or not so subtle) ways that we are rewarding the idea that they always need to be "on" or be available.

Here's some ways we might be rewarding team member "availability":

  1. A team member emails or texts you at night/ outside working hours. You respond right away, continuing the "immediacy" of the correspondence and subtly encouraging (rewarding) work outside regular business hours.

  2. You are working at night and sending emails to team members. This sends the subtle message that they should be checking or responding outside their regular working hours. (note: I'm all for flexible work, a solution for this is you can schedule your emails to send during regular working hours, see more solutions-focused ideas below).

  3. You schedule meetings for first thing in your work day morning or last thing in your work day afternoon (are you considering the start and end of day for everyone involved) or during mid-day (i.e. noon- 2:00 pm when people would most likely need to take a lunch break).

  4. You rarely get up from your desk to take breaks throughout your day. Despite a company culture that may encourage breaks and rest, your personal actions may send conflicting messages to your team that there is no time or space for rest in the work day.

  5. You rarely take vacation days OR you take vacation but are always available to respond to work emails or calls while on vacation. Similar to the work day breaks comment above, what message does this give your team about work time, personal time and boundaries?

  6. Not talking openly about mental health and burnout prevention with our teams. Conversations are a great starting point to set expectations around work, availability and talk about preventing burnout.

What can we do about it as leaders?

  1. Lead by example. I hear so many leaders share the "do as I say, not as I do" example with me. This is your reminder that actions speak louder than words and we need to prioritize our own burnout prevention strategies in order to effectively lead our team for burnout prevention.

  2. Get to know your team and understand who might be most at risk based on personality and work habits. It might seem challenging to spend more time on this up-front, but in the long run this could save your team (and company) thousands in medical/stress leave costs, turnover costs and more.

  3. Talk about burnout and other preventative strategies. Most HR leaders tell me that their healthcare and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) programs are vastly under utilized. Many people won't look to, or access their benefits until they are desperate for some kind of help or support.

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Hi, I'm Alison and welcome to the blog.

I have been a speaker and trainer for 17 years. I offer Mental Health First Aid in Canada and work with workplaces to improve mental wellbeing and psychological safety and reduce stress and burnout.

Join my free weekly email list Resilient for tools & resources to reduce stress, overwhelm & burnout , delivered to your inbox.

Be sure to connect with me on IG @alisonbutlernl or on LinkedIn.

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