Do You Suspect a Colleague is Reaching the Point of Burnout? Here's How to Help
Needless to say, the current pandemic and lockdown measures have taken a toll on everyone's mental health and wellbeing. Some days it may seem like it's more difficult than ever to stay focused and optimistic. We are struggling to stay in touch with our close ones or are worried about their safety. We long for holidays under the sun, unable to figure out when we'll be allowed to properly travel again.
Additionally, (you're not dreaming!) there are statistics that report we're indeed working longer hours, sending more emails, and attending more meetings.
Not surprisingly, all these factors combined, increase the chances of burnout within a work environment.
How to notice a colleague might be reaching the point of burnout?
The person showcases low energy levels in meetings, regardless of the time of the day these take place
They don't react to jokes or take part in more informal conversations
Frustration and negativity are tangible through some of their comments and remarks
The person showcases less patience or tends to get angry while trying to overcome regular workplace challenges
They don't participate or engage in team events aimed at relationship building
Everyone experiences ups and downs and the workplace, so it's important to remark that a colleague might be reaching the point of burnout if all the behaviors above seem to be completely out of character and take place throughout a sustained period of time.
How can you be of help in this situation?
Even when you notice that a colleague is experiencing severe stress, it can be difficult to tackle the subject. You might fear stepping on their toes, damaging the relationship, or creating an awkward situation. However, offering your support can go a long way and provide the other person with the help they need to start dealing with the problem.
Start by politely expressing your observations without judgment. Ask if everything is okay and offer a supporting hand. Make sure you are speaking with compassion and empathy. Above all, listen to what the other person decides to share with you and avoid making the conversation about your previous experiences or current feelings.
Stress can be triggered by different factors, within and outside the workplace. It's really important for you to understand what the root cause might be before offering any suggestions. Is it caused by workload? Is the person lacking the right knowledge or connections? Are there unexpected roadblocks?
Once you have a clear understanding of what might be causing the situation, you can propose one of the following:
Working together to break down all deliverables while doing a prioritization of tasks. This will help set clear direction: what needs to be done and when, and what can be deprioritized or dropped completely.
Connecting the person to the right stakeholders that can support them in delivering faster or more efficiently.
Speaking to management to provide visibility on the issue and discuss how to improve it. If you can relate to some of the points raised by your colleague, this is a good opportunity to team up and present a stronger case together.
Doing activities together outside a work environment: grabbing a coffee, starting an online bookclub, going for a run together, group-watching something entertaining,...
Taking some time off to unwind, reflect on their purpose and realign priorities.
Talking to a therapist. Seeking help can be scary at first, but it might definitely be one of the best investments one can make in life.
Above all do not try to force a conversation or provide your opinion if the other person is not receptive. Part of caring about someone is understanding and respecting their boundaries. Make sure they understand you're available to support them whenever they're open to it. And remember, your role is to remind them to prioritize their own health.