Let’s Talk Burnout: How to Listen & Help Your Team




No one is immune to burnout.

2021 Software Playbook


For some, it happens all of a sudden. For others, it can take years of buildup. But at some point, it will happen.

Even if you love your job.

Even if you’re grateful for your career.

What is important (and what many leaders get wrong) is when burnout occurs in your organization, you need to talk about it. And most importantly, you need to talk about it in an honest, vulnerable, validating way.

Burnout ≠ Overworked

This may be apparent to some, but it’s important to distinguish the difference between burnout and being overworked.

Being overworked is a problem too. When leaders demand 50, 60, 70 hours of work for weeks on end, that’s not burnout. That’s unsustainable overtime which will quickly kill your company culture.

In a healthy workplace setting, burnout stems from stress, anxiety, monotony, uncertainty, and other emotions that are difficult to control.

If these negative emotions aren’t addressed, they manifest and turn into burnout.

The true definition of burnout is again, a bit different for everybody, but some of the common effects are:

  • General dissatisfaction with your work
  • A feeling of demotivation
  • Feeling physically and emotionally drained
  • Feeling physically and mentally exhausted
  • Feeling–there’s no better way to describe it–“bleh”

So in a nutshell, burnout sucks.

But it’s something that any company owner, manager, or leader should be aware of.

How To Talk About Burnout

In my experience, a lot of leaders try to conquer burnout by becoming a cheerleader. They might send an email or make an announcement to the effect of,

Hi Team,

I know times are hard and we’re all feeling a little burnout, but WE CAN DO IT! Keep grinding and keep crushing it. We’ll get there and once we do, every problem in your life will vanish.

Go Buckeyes!

-Your Manager

It’s not hard to understand the intent behind this kind of message, but it isn’t helping your team that is suffering from burnout. It’s creating a wedge between team and leader and causing resentment.

What you should do is level with your team. Talk about burnout as humans. Validate their concerns. And ask questions.

You will not have a quick fix for them. You won’t have all the answers.

As leaders, that’s tough.

But so is burnout.

In the end, vulnerability and honesty go a long way. COVID, long-term projects, unsatisfactory work is a grind, and in today’s climate, it can be hard to look on the bright side. But starting a discussion around burnout can help, even if there is no simple fix.

A Few Tips That May Help With Burnout

Since everyone recharges their battery in different ways, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all for combating burnout. That being said, at Devetry, we crowdsourced some of the ways our team handles burnout. Hopefully one or more of these tactics works for you or your team:

Engage in Passion Projects

It’s important to ask yourself what “fills your cup.” This might be running, playing guitar, or calling an old friend. Making time for the things you’re passionate about can help balance you out and give you a new perspective.

Take Mini Breaks

Taking a vacation can help your team relax and recharge, so if that’s an option, encourage it. If it’s not, due to COVID travel bans, important projects, or something else, you can still encourage small breaks. Things like:

  1. Take a long lunch
  2. Go on a morning walk
  3. Go on a lunchtime bike ride
  4. Practice the Pomodoro technique 
  5. Get up from your at-home work station and complete some chores, like laundry

Changing up your day helps with the monotony many of us experience while working from home for extended periods. Breaks away from the computer help.

Give Back

For some, giving back and helping others can be liberating. Give your time or energy to a volunteer opportunity. It can refresh your outlook and make you appreciate things that you were underappreciating before.

By talking about burnout, offering some possible solutions, and being patient, you can help your team get through some of the worst cases. Then, keep the topic open. Even if your team seems to be productive and motivated, having consistent conversations around burnout can increase trust and confidence from the ground up.