This year has forced many of us to reframe what “work/life balance” means for our lives. Whether we’re living at home with a full house and young children, caretaking for an older family member, or sharing a small space with a roommate or two, we’ve adapted quickly and to the best of our abilities. We’re moving fast because we have no other choice. 

With our personal and professional environments in constant evolution, it’s easy to forget the importance of pause and reflection. How’s our energy? What habits have we formed that are serving us, and what practices have we developed that stunt us? What does balance look like in our new world today? 

When left unchecked, increasing demands can lead to prolonged stress, and prolonged stress can lead to burnout. Now more than ever, it’s important to champion employee recharge (and personal recharge!) before burnout takes over.


What is burnout?

The World Health Organization added burnout to its list of International Classification of Diseases as an occupational phenomenon in 2019. The term later made its way onto the Mayo Clinic’s Adult Health webpage in November 2020. There, burnout is defined as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” Burnout affects us mentally and leads to feelings of overwhelm and detachment. Feeling like we have little or no control in our work or the environment around us can contribute to causes of burnout and makes the season we’re in particularly vulnerable.


Possible causes of burnout

Professional burnout can stem from several factors. Some of the common causes include:

  • Little control or influence over your schedule, workload, projects, and resources
  • Unclear priorities, job expectations, and definitions of role success
  • Overly demanding workload and regular overtime hours
  • Limited connection and social support in the office or at home
  • Lack of recognition and reward for good work


What leaders can do for their teams to champion recharge before burnout

Two of the most critical actions leaders can take to prevent burnout on their teams are to one, normalize the conversation around mental health, employee wellbeing, stress, burnout, and two, make it a priority to check in regularly with their employees.


Put these five Cs into action:

  • Clarity: Articulate what success looks like for your team, set up regular check-ins to clarify performance criteria and metrics, outline objectives and key results for your team
  • Control: Provide employees autonomy to make decisions where possible, be transparent about why and how decisions are made
  • Context: Explain the bigger picture of why your team’s work matters, provide context when discussing new projects, directional changes, or critical findings and help your team set priorities while giving feedback along the way
  • Celebration: Highlight team wins and milestones, be deliberate about scheduling your next day off and share the date with your team, celebrate employees who demonstrate learning and growth, and recognize good work
  • Connectivity: Start meetings with informal conversation, set up virtual connectivity events, enable peer-to-peer recognition and engagement


If you’re stuck on where to start

Use one of the questions below to get the most out of your next employee check-in:
  • How are you doing this week?
  • Do you have enough understanding of what success looks like for your role?
  • Are there any blockers to getting your work done that I can help remove?
  • What part of your day feels the most energizing?
  • What part of your day feels the most draining?
  • Are you taking breaks throughout the day?
  • When was your last vacation, and when do you have your next one planned?
  • Do you feel like you get enough feedback on your work?
  • Do you think your work is recognized?
  • How do you feel about your work priorities?
  • Do you feel like you’re learning and growing?
  • Do you feel like you’re part of a team?
  • How often do you connect with your teammates?


What leaders can do for themselves to recharge before burnout

While leaders focus on uplifting their teams, they can’t overlook the value of recharging themselves.


Be intentional about recharging to prevent burnout

  • Focus on the basics: Take care of the foundational pieces of your health first — get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat in a healthy way that will fuel your mind and body
  • Prioritize your time: Audit how you spend your time in a given week, notice what tasks provide you with energy and deplete you of energy, list your priorities and delete or delegate what’s not a priority
  • Set boundaries: Lead by example by creating on and off-limits for yourself, schedule time for breaks and lunch, implement times during which you shut off from technology completely
  • Be authentic: Make room for small talk in meetings, share your own experiences, struggles, and relaxation practices that bring you balance, ask for help when you need it


Preventing burnout starts with awareness -- of yourself and your teams. Assembly’s recognition tool, employees can recognize their peers for their hard work, the impact they’ve made, and why it matters. They can earn badges, redeem culture awards, and collect points to be redeemed for gift cards or culture rewards, providing just-in-time engagement channels to recharge before the New Year.


About the Author: Marissa Morrison is the former Head of People at Factual, Inc. before it merged with Foursquare where she is now on the HR leadership team. Marissa is the co-host of the Let's Take This Offline podcast and also serves as Assembly's advisor where she provides guidance on narrative, product development, and much more!