How to protect your high performers from burnout

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Stress is a normal part of every-day life – a tight deadline, an important interview, a high-stakes project. When the pressure is on, a little bit of stress can help workers perform at their best, motivating them to meet challenges head-on.

But too much stress can be dangerous. Chronic stress can lead to fatigue, muscle aches, insomnia, headaches, irritability, anxiety and depression. At work, employees dealing with chronic stress may feel overwhelmed or have trouble concentrating. Their performance may suffer and they may be more irritable, affecting relationships at work and home. 

We call this burnout – a state of complete mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. 

For the high performers in your workplace, the risk of burnout is high. High performers tend to put work first, agreeing to take on tasks even when they’re already at full capacity. They’re also usually put on the most difficult projects, and they tend to pick up the slack when others are underperforming.

How to protect your employees from burnout

Help them develop their problem-solving skills 

In today’s work environment, employees deal with complex issues every day. But good problem-solving skills can empower your high performers to manage their stress more effectively, helping them to identify strategies to overcome any problem. 

While some employees are naturally more comfortable with surprises and ambiguity, thinking agility is a great tactic that any employee can learn. Agile thinking and agile problem-solving gives workers the skills they need to switch between thinking styles based on the situation at hand. It helps them anticipate challenges and make intelligent, fast and effective decisions to solve complex problems. 

Encourage them to look after their minds and their bodies

Physical exercise can help relieve tension in both body and mind. A balanced diet is also important for reducing stress, as what you put into your body can have a huge effect on mood, as can the amount of sleep you’re getting each night. Encourage your high-performers to adopt healthy habits. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and breathing exercises are all effective stress-reducers, and can easily be fit into a lunch-break.

Offer flexible working environments

Flexibility in the workplace has many benefits, including improving staff work-life balance and reducing stress. Employees with flexible working arrangements tend to be less tired, and enjoy more space to focus on the things that are important to them. The result is a boost in morale, productivity and a reduction in stress and burnout. 

Keep communication open

It’s important to create a culture where employees feel comfortable to share. An environment where employees are afraid to seek help will quickly turn toxic. 

Build strong, honest and open relationships with your employees – relationships that are built on trust and mutual respect. When employees feel valued, heard and acknowledged, it gives them the confidence to reach out when they need help. 

But always keep in mind that different types of thinkers will communicate in different ways. If a relational thinker is struggling with stress at work, they’ll need to communicate in a way that focuses on their emotions and allows them to verbalise how they’re feelings. They need people to lean on. On the other hand, practical thinkers will need logic and outcome-oriented plans to make them feel at ease, so they might be more responsive to detailed plans on how to overcome an issue. 

Set clear goals and help them keep track of their time

Help your high-performers prioritise their work and make sure to set clear goals and expectations, giving them the time and space they need to focus on the task at hand. This is especially important for practical and analytical thinkers who need clear roles, goals and expectations to feel secure. 

Helping your high-performers prioritise their work also empowers them to set boundaries so that they can avoid overextending themselves. When they know what the most important priority of the team is, they’ll feel more comfortable saying no to work that’s less important. 

You could also help them incorporate some other activities into their day – a walk around the park, or a specific job they love doing. Regular time outs, including some time to switch off from technology, will help them destress and reduce tension.  

Want to help your high performers avoid burnout?

Talk to our team about one of our Whole Brain® Learning Workshops – we’ll tailor a program to help your team identify strategies for handling stress and problem-solving under pressure.