It is no secret that burnout has infiltrated our workforce. Surely you have encountered this state of numbing exhaustion, after a period of excessive and prolonged pressure. Sound familiar?

In fact, experts say that management burnout has reached record levels. In my recent interview for a book on stress management and wellbeing, by Marina Bezouglova, I argue that whilst employees have a corporate infrastructure of emotional support to rely on, senior managers and especially small business owners often find themselves fighting burnout on their own.  

Fifty-nine per cent of managers say they feel overworked and seventy-two per cent say they are feeling more pressure to deliver during the pandemic, according to a survey by Limeade, an employee experience platform. Ironically, poor task management often is a chief contributor to the problem.  

Always busy does not equal always successful  

Some say burnout is inevitable. However, I believe that there are a plethora of tactics you can use to minimise the chances of contracting such a state of mind. Burnout is a chronic state of stress, but it doesn’t happen suddenly. The workload you burden yourself with accumulates over time until you notice the deterioration of work quality sweeping through your team – a whirlwind carrying missed targets and disaffected colleagues.  

It can be difficult to detach yourself from an important project when your workplace today is so often in your home, and it is tempting to overwork yourself. However, this is preventable through a range of strategies, such as agile management and task distribution. This will aid in dispersing the burden in a way that both encourages productivity and looks after the collective wellbeing.  

What is Agile management and how it can help to avoid burnout ?

The root causes of burnout are unattainable expectations and an uneven workload. You must tactically plan the tasks you are assigning, to maximise productivity and keep motivation at a high. If your people feel overworked, they will adopt a mindset that can demotivate the rest, and diminish the quality.  

There must be substantial rhythm and routine to the work you are setting, all contributing to a clearly defined end goal. Here I’ll explain three key aspects that will surely enable your project and wellbeing to be a success, and they fall into the agile management methodology:  

  1. Collaborate in a practical and engaging way.  

The end project will profit from the contribution of the entire group. Furthermore, this gives space to make positive alterations. Consider any suggestions, no matter how late within the project. ​​ The Agile manifesto states to “build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done”.1 

  1. Keep a constant focus on business value and expectation of quality.  

As a leader, you must ensure that you are unconditionally focused on business value. However, don’t bite off more than you can chew! Keep in mind the extent to which you can push your team, and maintain that mindset for yourself. 

  1. Keep tasks visually organised, clear and easily accessible by all. We call it the principle of visualisation.  

You will only hinder your team’s engagement if they work on their tasks in isolation and maintain individual to-do lists. Accessible visualisation is so important that I would like to elaborate specifically on what it is and how to implement it effectively in the next section.  

The principle of visualisation: free up your brain power, time and energy 

Visualisation 

/ the representation of an object, situation, or set of information as a chart or other image/ 

In agile project management visualisation means offloading your planned actions into an accessible, well-organized layout that the brain can easily process and relate to. 

Achieving effective visualisation in 3 steps:  

  1. Set a clear action-focused task  

Keep it result-oriented: from something like ‘Collect feedback survey after purchase’ to ‘Create an employee instruction for collecting customer feedback after every purchase. Train employees to collect clients feedback and to analyze the results weekly.’ Now we know exactly what to do and won’t waste time or rework!  

  1. Use technology 

There are many useful agile online tools that will boost your capability to manage your team efficiently. For our agile CX practice, we use Monday.com. This platform allowed us to create a CX Actions App2  that helps me as a leader to manage my team, client teams and many internal projects. When I quit doing manual grunt work, automatically adjusted to changing needs and schedules, and found the ease of connecting collaboratively – I could feel the burning out vanish.  

  1. Get used to skill-based allocation of tasks 
an image showing a team applying agile management practices.

Task distribution is not as easy in practice as it is in theory. The idea is that each employee is assigned a task that fits their skill level, and the manager must delegate work according to skills, abilities, workload and existing duties. However, this becomes challenging when facing a large team or a heavy project.

Here are some steps that aid in task distribution: 

  • Selection – create a clear plan of work that needs to be completed. Schedule the project, and set out a clear plan of task delegation.  
  • Presentation – when you have split the project into tasks and jobs, explain what is required of your team. By setting achievable expectations, you prevent burnout through not overloading your team with unrealistic or vague presumptions.  
  • Authorization – team leaders and local managers must ensure that the appropriate level of quality is being produced, under set deadlines. This further removes the need to micromanage, and allows your team to perform to their full potential.  
  • Relevance – ensure you allocate the tasks based on individual talents and development objectives. Having the right people doing the jobs is the only way to achieve project success, employee happiness, and, consequently, less change of management burnout!  

Final Thoughts  

These steps are key for bouncing back from a state of burnout. You must ensure that expectations are communicated clearly, and reworked at appropriate intervals to keep everyone on the same page. To improve retention, optimum talent-based task allocation is also needed in order to meet business and emotional requirements.  

Include your staff members in decisions related to their work, keep team tasks accessible and visible, and ensure consistent progress assessment. Keeping people in the loop will allow them to manage independently, avoiding the need for you to micro-manage.  

Finally, make sure you consider agile management and task distribution when faced with particularly hefty tasks or multitasking (that means always!). Turn to the tips above when the feeling of stress and expectations get too much and collaborate with your team to ensure that productivity and mental well-being stay at a healthy level. In these trying times, we all need to be aware of the toll that burnout can take on us.  

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