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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Promoting work-life balance in a time of burnout

You can choose to see the pandemic as a challenge that can help your team become more resilient and connected.

Promoting work-life balance in a time of burnout
{Kateryna/Adobe Stock// Man Running: Syda Productions/Adobe Stock //Mother and Baby: Miramiska/Adobe Stock}

Before the pandemic, I was intentional about creating a strong work culture—one that emphasized team bonding, professional development, and leadership. We put families first, with our team being one of those families. We offered office perks that promoted a fun and engaged culture.

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When the pandemic set in, I was worried that members of my team wouldn’t feel supported, either personally or professionally. Not only were we down a cofounder, who was on family leave with a new baby (along with myself with a one-month-old), but we were also in the midst of transitioning into a fully remote company.

As we began to log onto work remotely, I was presented with a challenge. How do I help my team preserve good work-life balance? How do I help my team stay connected? One of my biggest fears heading into this pandemic was my employees experiencing feelings of loneliness or isolation. It wasn’t just that we weren’t hanging out with our friends; the whole world had shut down. I knew that this was a problem that needed solving.

GETTING CREATIVE WITH NEW CHALLENGES

Quickly, we learned that the pandemic was not just a challenge, but also an opportunity. It pushed us as an organization to find creative ways to help our team members feel more supported than ever. Now, we have several new policies that we like so much that they’re here to stay.

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I wanted to share some of our best practices that we’ve picked up along the way.

PRESERVING CULTURE IN A VIRTUAL SPACE

I started out by being very intentional about getting the entire team on regular Zoom calls. We used to gather in person for coffee, lunches, and team outings. My first task was in figuring out how to capture the essence of these activities but in the virtual space. We quickly transitioned to virtual happy hours and conducted consistent outreach. Instead of team lunches, we started giving employees gift cards for food delivery services. It wasn’t about the cost; it was about the thought.

REMOTE-FIRST WORK

Due to the pandemic, the majority of our team works from home daily. This was also an opportunity to hire new team members in different areas of the U.S., which means we’ll continue to have a remote workforce even when some of us return to headquarters.

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If your team is in a similar situation, think about how you can offset the cost of setting up a home office. Consider offering every team member a generous stipend to cover work-from-home expenses. Your goal should be for each of your employees to have an ergonomically safe and comfortable setup at home.

CONTINUED LEARNING: BRING IN GUEST SPEAKERS

We also instituted a monthly guest speaker series. This series is open to all employees and provides an opportunity for all of us to learn about leadership, personal and professional growth, and finances, among other topics. So far, we’ve invited experts to come help us celebrate Women’s History Month, Financial Literacy Month, Disability Month, and Juneteenth.

Before the pandemic, bringing in speakers wasn’t always easy. There was the cost of travel, plus it was tricky to get on their schedules, especially for the high-profile ones. But now that everything is remote, you’ll likely find that you have better access. It’s easier to ask speakers for their time, especially when it’s for a good cause.

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ADDRESSING BURNOUT: FRIENDS AND FAMILY DAY

The next area that needed addressing was the potential for burnout. There have been so many articles about how burnout rates have soared during the pandemic. Before, I had a solid division between my work and home life. Now, everything has sort of blended together. I find that I’m constantly running around trying to get things done while taking care of my household at the same time. I’ve become a new parent this past year, and several team members are in the same boat. Personally, I’ve never felt busier.

We decided to ask our team members if they’d rather have a pay raise or an extra day off. By and large, our team preferred the extra day off. This goes to show how much work-life balance is valued.

To try and prevent burnout in your team, try instituting a friends and family day. Each month, allow every team member to take a flex day for their mental health. Encourage everyone to take off for a full eight-hour workday to take care of themselves. They can run errands, spend time outside, see friends and family—whatever they need to create a healthier work-life balance.

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RESILIENCY AND INTERCONNECTEDNESS

This pandemic has affected us all, but in a way, it’s proven to be a good challenge that’s helped us become more adaptable, innovative, and resilient. I encourage everyone to continue coming up with new best practices and improving upon their policies. We should all aim to continue adapting and evolving in a way that puts team members and their families first.


Cody Barbo, Founder & CEO, Trust & Will.

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