How Building Camaraderie is an Antidote for Burnout

I’ve been hearing more about burnout lately from my community. People aren’t able to set boundaries between work and home life since many are still working virtually.


I believe that camaraderie is an antidote to burnout because when you build that emotional safety within an organization, then you can share when it's too much for you and have an honest conversation with your peers and your leadership that you need a break - whatever that may look like. 


So how do we build that organizational culture virtually? I want to note that not everyone is still working remotely. Some are all back in the office, some are still remote, and some are a hybrid. But we can all agree that it's still a very uncertain time.


We’re currently living through a unique chapter that’ll affect what a ‘normal’ workplace looks like in 1, 5, 10 years from now. Likely, many workplaces will offer opportunities to work from home. And studies have shown that remote working can lead to happier, more cohesive, more effective teams.


However, during the pandemic, full-time remote workers are working on average an additional 26 hours per month - that’s an extra day of work a week! According to Monster, 69% of employees are experiencing burnout while working from home. 


And obviously, when there are more work hours, it can lead to more stress because you have less time to be off, to be disconnected. 


So, it's up to us to figure out what our norms are while we're in this chapter. How do we operate together as a team and navigate these difficult times? 


Now, before I go on I want to share what burnout is to ensure that we’re all on the same page. Here’s a great visual representation of burnout.

Struggling with basic work resonates with me. I remember when a fiscal management task that normally took me 20, 30 minutes tops were taking me a whole afternoon. I kept staring at the formulas and not getting it like I used to. That’s when I realized that hmm, something’s off in how I’m operating.


My invitation this week is to look at this list and be curious about whether you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. Maybe you’re on the verge of burnout or already way past it.


If so, please be gentle with yourself and have the conversations that need to be had for your wellbeing. 


And having space for that conversation often starts with the emotional safety within an organization built on camaraderie. 


Here are three ideas on building camaraderie.


1. Using technology appropriately. 


Determine what can be done via email, Slack, and what has to be done with a conversation. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a tendency to jump on back-to-back zoom calls as a way to replicate the feeling of being in the office. And zoom fatigue is real.


Having to see yourself on camera constantly is not normal. You're’ having to pay attention by staring at the screen which leads to tired eyes. You're not moving because you're at your desk or your dining table.


I would reduce the number of hours on Zoom and see what communications can be replaced with Slack or Asana. Choose just two to three tools that’ll work for your team. And that leaves zoom and in-person meetings for the conversations that can’t be adequately addressed in an email.


2. Checking in with each other's humanity.


A great prompt question is ‘how are you coming into this meeting?’ If someone’s feeling particularly tired because they had a rough night with their kid, then create space for them to be able to say ‘you know what, please have a little more patience with me today. I'm not quite operating at 100%. I had a sleepless night because of X, Y, and Z.’ 


I'm not telling you to feel pressure to spill your guts. What I'm asking is just to highlight what you’re going through because the team may not be aware if you’re having a difficult moment. So, just checking in with yourselves and reminding ourselves of our humanity as a team.


3. Touching the rim of the future. 

When we’re feeling burnt out, it's because we’re disconnected from the future of possibilities, something to look forward to.


We can begin to shift that feeling by remembering that the future holds promise. Those who navigate difficult times particularly well are those who remember that all things are temporary. A quote that was recently shared with me is on point.


The bad news is nothing lasts forever. The good news is nothing lasts forever." - J. Cole


Just maybe, the new normal will be better because we’re learning now on how we want this new world to look like. For ourselves, our families, our teams, our communities, our cities.


Do this exercise of ‘touching the rim of the future' as a team, and individually - personal and professional. Essentially connect to the feelings and visualize the future outcome we want. And have fun with it and not limit yourself in brainstorming!


All general operating grants! Sabbatical opportunities for team members! A day without zoom meetings!


And then on a personal level, what is it you desire?


A buddy and I are going to Vancouver! Who knows when but that doesn’t stop us from planning the itinerary: trying not to look down while walking the Capilano Suspension Bridge, smelling the flowers at Butchart Gardens, and wandering the Gastown neighborhood. And don’t get me started on all the food that we’re going to eat.


And again, I don't have a plane ticket, but it's all about connecting to the rim of the future.


Because sometimes when we’re feeling burnt out, it feels the same - the same routine day in and out - like groundhog’s day. 


So it helps to connect to the possibilities as a team and get creative - visualization has power! 


So, those are my three simple ideas of building comradery within a team: use technology appropriately, check-in with each other's humanity, and touch the rim of the future.


I hope this serves.


As always, be gentle and kind to yourself.






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