Earlier this year, like so many other companies, my workplace heard loud and clear from our employees that they were feeling exhausted, disconnected, and burnt out. Sadly, this wasn't a surprise.
The pace of high-growth organizations is often unsustainable. In a recent survey, nearly 70 percent of U.S workers said their level of burnout has worsened throughout the pandemic. My workplace responded by introducing a few days of rest and new initiatives to normalize taking breaks and prioritizing wellness. But steps like these aren't enough -- employees everywhere still need more balance and less burnout.
That's why companies need to invest in long-term changes to how they operate in order to truly battle burnout. While my workplace hasn't banished burnout for good just yet, we have discovered strategies that are helping employees prioritize rest and minimize stress. Here are three to consider bringing back to your organization:
1. Be vulnerable with your customers.
To respond to burnout, companies like Bumble have given their staff a week off. I know what you might be thinking: That would never work for your organization, right? You have customers who depend on you-- they'd be livid if you were offline for a week.
We were worried about this, too, before implementing HubSpot's annual 'Week of Rest' and so we proactively communicated to our customers why we were taking time off as a company and what to expect from our support staff in case of emergency. We braced for hundreds of angry replies but instead, we got the opposite.
Our customers were thrilled that we were investing in our people's wellbeing, asked how they could implement the same benefit at their company, and even said they were proud to work with us. This was a good reminder that when customers invest in your product, they're investing in your people, too.
So if you're adopting initiatives to prioritize employees' wellbeing, proactively let your customers know. It helps set expectations for how they can work with you, but it also gives them transparency into your culture, values, and priorities.
2. Prioritize deep work.
When was the last time you had a few hours to dig into a strategy document, plan ahead, or think creatively? If you can't remember, you're not alone. Jumping from Zoom meetings to Slack to email barely leaves time for lunch, let alone productivity.
That's why we adopted a 'No Internal Meeting Fridays' rule. This ensures we're taking care of our customers and candidates by continuing external meetings, but that we're creating space for our employees and leaders to do deep work.
The goal isn't to cram meetings into every other day of the week, either. It forces us to ask the million-dollar question: Can this meeting be an email? By having an operating system that values intentional work over time-in-meetings, people have more time to think, create, and reflect.
3. Set the tone at the top.
Building a culture of flexibility and balance only works if employees feel empowered to use it. That's why your leadership team needs to be leading from the front in battling burnout.
For example, when we had our global 'Week of Rest', our executive leadership team fully unplugged. If you tell employees not to work but then spend the week racking up tasks, emails, and assignments for them, you're missing the point.
Similarly, leaders should practice leaving loudly, using Slack statuses to signal that you're with family or taking a break, and prioritizing your own time to rest and recharge. It's critical we're normalizing unplugging and mental health by walking the walk ourselves.
We learned the hard way that burnout gets worse before it gets better. Uncertainty has only made burnout even worse, so I wish I had made deeper changes earlier to our operating system to address them.
If you're struggling to get buy-in or alignment on long-term burnout initiatives, just remember that your people are your strongest asset. Investing in their success long-term is investing in your company's and customers' success long-term.