Addressing agency burnout

As most of us continue to work from home, agency leaders must focus on our people.

More has been asked of all of us in the past year. 

For many, the “new normal” has led to burnout. Under our current conditions, work is a struggle without redrawing the swim lanes on when a typical day begins and ends. 

We can’t measure the price of burnout, but it’s absolutely real. “Unprecedented” times demand more from us, but work should be secondary to our mental health and wellbeing. 

As most of us continue to work from home for the foreseeable future, agency leaders must focus on our people. With interactions limited to video, it’s easy to deprioritize community building. But it's more important than ever. 

As leaders, we can’t lose sight of our responsibility to provide our employees with career growth opportunities and maintain their wellbeing. As we continue to work from home, we must also reimagine our policies and programs to make that manageable.

Here a few small things that agency leaders can do this year to make their employees feel supported and engaged.  

1. Focus on individuals 

Not all of us have struggled with working from home. Some have actually thrived. That led us to create a flexible working program that allows our people to work from wherever they want. 

We’re striving to accommodate people who thrive in a remote setting, those that want to be in the office a few days a week and those that want to come back full-time. We anticipate those needs and preferences will continue to evolve. 

2. Redefine work-life balance

We can’t create a future workplace built on old paradigms. With most people still at home, we’re facing a new “work/life balance” defined by time in front of the screen, and getting on with life away from it. 

To that end, we have instituted a no-meeting policy before 10:00 AM and after 5:00 PM. We also encourage lunch breaks that include a walk with no calls or meetings. We need to create strict boundaries for our people to avoid burnout from the top down — and we need to lead by example. 

3. Maintain morale

As the months pass, maintaining a high esprit de corps has gotten more difficult. The key has been to avoid overdoing it. Extracurricular activities should not feel like a second job. 

We’ve created an online platform for non-work discussions on topics including parenting, books, movies, nutrition and recipes, which has proven popular. We’ve also started bringing expert speakers to offer training and learning sessions for staff. 

As people juggle work and personal life in the same space, leaders can offer an objective place to seek support outside of HR. Encourage open conversation, make sure people are aware of where they can get help and remove the stigma around the discussion.

4. Communicate differently

The pandemic has caused fatigue, but societal issues are taking an added mental toll. At-home isolation might strip away communities where people share ideas and vent. Town Hall sessions have proven particularly helpful for us as judgement-free space to learn, ask questions and share personal experiences. 

This year, we will focus more on diversity and equity through coaching that will enable people to thrive. But don’t wait for a town hall or a meeting to check in with your team. We need to bring back the spontaneity of the office catch-up online. 

I strongly believe that when we can get back to the office, it won’t just be good for business, but for the health of our people and partners. 

This business is built on relationships, after all. 

Marco Scognamiglio is the global CEO of RAPP

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