This post originally appeared on Forbes.
You aren’t alone right now if you feel frazzled and burned out. In the midst of the pandemic, 76 percent of U.S. employees surveyed said they were experiencing burnout. You might be sharing those feelings, whether it’s because you’ve lost your sense of boundaries by working from home, you’ve been supervising your kids’ schoolwork, you’re tending to vulnerable relatives or you’ve had to keep showing up to a potentially dangerous workplace. You’re also not alone if you have team members and colleagues who are feeling equally crispy.
Burnout is an expression of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion that often comes from ongoing work-related stress. Burnout can become particularly acute when you keep pushing yourself to work harder, start neglecting your own needs or don’t see how to improve the situation. It’s part of your responsibility as a leader to notice what’s going on for your people and yourself. Then you can offer support to reduce burnout’s impact and help people restore their sense of drive and optimism. Here are six practical approaches you can take.
Pay close attention to individual reactions. Ask what your team members are experiencing, both at work and at home, and express your concern for their well-being. According to research at the University of Washington, communicating your compassion has the potential to shift burned-out employees’ self-perception and restore their self-esteem, sense of belonging, and even self-control. Of course, it helps if you’ve already established good working relationships.
Provide replenishment of depleted personal resources. Start by acknowledging the load your team members are carrying. Merely being noticed can reduce their stressful sense of isolation or their frustrations about meeting the present challenges. Encourage exercise and relaxation breaks, meditation practices and mental health days. Demonstrate your belief in these techniques by taking advantage of them yourself. Share your own self-management techniques from time boxing your schedule to showing how you wind down from work.
Consider structural fixes. Assess whether any of your work rules or processes could be adjusted to give people greater choices or more community support. Examples of structural choice might include making in-person travel optional, permitting changes in job assignments, or providing flexible scheduling options so long as employees commit to being available at crucial times, whether in-person or remotely. More community support could include potential job- or task-sharing so that workloads can be balanced within the group, and unpleasant tasks or necessary low-value work could be rotated through the team.
Strengthen your one-to-one and one-to-team relationships. Research at the University of Georgia found that “employees who had high-quality relationships with their supervisors and those who received greater mentoring support were better socialized, experienced less role stress, and subsequently suffered less burnout.” These personal bonds help buffer a lot of stress. Block out time on your calendar for individual and team meetings that focus on shared mission and values as well as individual career goals and quality-of-life discussions. The more that employees connect to your sense of purpose and feel that you connect to their sense of themselves, the greater comfort and strength they’ll take from the relationship.
Look for small adjustments that are within your control. You may not be able to affect major forces like the pandemic or some of your company’s policies. But it can be restorative even to take very small steps that give you back some control. For example, you could start team meetings with a minute or two of stretching and breathing as a way to increase calm and thoughtfulness. Or, equally important, when you book your meetings for 30 or 60 minutes, purposefully end them five or 10 minutes early so that everyone has a chance to gather their thoughts (and themselves) before rushing off to the next one.
Model consistent self-checks. When you can tell that you’re feeling more strained than usual, consider letting your team know this, in the same way you’ve asked them to let you know when they’re feeling on edge. One simple practice that can actually make a difference is identifying whether you’re looking for support in the form of advice or empathy, and then declaring to your team which one you want. Urge team members to do this too. If what you really want is for someone to listen to you kindly while you vent, receiving a load of advice can actually ratchet up feelings of helplessness and hopelessness; but too much sympathy can be frustrating when you’re looking for practical suggestions.
It will probably take a long time before the majority of employees feel fully energized and completely present at work. But by applying these six approaches, you may be able to reduce some of the damage and symptoms of burnout that have already taken hold—and make it less likely that new cases will occur.