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work-life balance

How to Avoid Burnout: 3 Tips Your Boss Needs to Read Right Now

A CEO shares 3 things his company, Mekanism, did differently to help employees thrive while working from home.

There's a Zoom meeting. Then there's another Teams meeting. Then, hold on a minute, can we circle back on that upcoming meeting? (It's about how we want to structure these meetings going forward.) Meanwhile, your emails, Slack messages and regular old work assignments are piling up. Oh crap, did you ever have lunch?

With the Delta variant still out there, working from home probably beats working in an office or other in-person setting right now...but it's not without its drawbacks.

Among them - being cooped up all day can be damaging to workers' mental health. Parents working from home while their kids learn have been flying by the seat of their pants for over a year now. Extroverts are lonely working at home, without idle chit chat with office buddies.

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So how can we get through this?

We asked a CEO who gave us some good ideas, and put them all together for you to show your boss right now. Send a little note in the #watercooler Slack channel, "wow, just thought this was interesting!" Or if you'd rather not be the one to share, get that extroverted colleague talking. You know they need to.

Taking a meeting-free period

Jason Harris, the CEO of advertising firm Mekanism, noticed employees' days started getting longer - a lot longer - because virtual work tends to be meeting-heavy.

"It took more meetings to actually collaborate versus doing it in person," Harris said.

So the company, spread across different time zones, found a two-hour block during the day for a work experiment they called "Mekanism Off."

"And you weren't allowed to book any meetings during that time period," Harris said. "And that would let people do their critical thinking and their their hard work that they had to do that was non-meeting work, such as writing, creating decks, coming up with creative ideas."

"And then it wasn't as if the workday ended with meetings and then you had to actually go ahead and then do your work and sit down and do your your best thinking," Harris added.

The time came in the middle of the day for the company's four offices across the country.

"And that sort of ended a little bit of the ongoing meeting, meeting cacophony that was happening."

Take time off - and have a plan to relax

If burnout comes from too much work, maybe the solution is more time to recharge.

"I absolutely felt burnout more during the pandemic than at any point in my 20-plus career," Harris said. "And so whenever I feel burnout happening, I try to look a week ahead, or two weeks ahead, and plan for a day or two off."

"I encourage people to take a day or two, plan it a week or two ahead and then not have anything scheduled that day. So it can truly be a day of relaxing, reading, meditating, working out, whatever they need to do to detach from work can really be beneficial."

"You need something in the future that you know is coming, because if you don't have anything scheduled that connotes to the brain that you're taking a break of some kind...burnout can just feel overwhelming."

If you can look forward to upcoming plans or scheduled relaxation, "it's going to be easier to push through."

Mekanism added an unlimited paid time off policy and Harris tries to set a good example by keeping all his off days on his schedule for employees to see.

"So people can take as much time off as they feel they need...as long as they're executing on their responsibilities of their job. So we always encourage folks to take an extra day, wrap it around a weekend if it helps them," says Harris.

"Whenever they are feeling burned out, we want them to rest and recover and take a day off. So we encourage people to let us know if they're getting a little crispy."

Get in a good routine

Regular time off and understanding employers certainly help with this.

In the morning, have a ritual - it could be a meditation app or yoga or boxing, maybe going for a walk or playing with a pet.

"I think the morning is the most precious time and having a repeatable schedule that has some type of mental and/or physical exercise, preparation for the day to come, that's something that I really recommend...versus letting the day just take you over."

"It helps you have some control over the day to start it with doing something non-work-related, that can get you mentally prepared."