Beware of Culture Washing; How To Avoid Burnout and Build a Thriving Culture in 2024 and BeyondJan 17, 2024
By Ivan Hollingsworth, workplace culture expert and founder of Centric Consultants.
Open LinkedIn on any given day, and you'll see it is awash with heartfelt posts about #mentalhealth, mindfulness talks, and yoga in the boardroom – but amid a burnout epidemic, where should we as business leaders focus our mental health efforts to truly support our teams?
In the current economic climate, it is more important than ever for businesses to adopt sustainable models for business resilience and growth. To achieve amazing results, companies have to take an honest look at their team culture and walk the talk, not just talk on websites and social media channels. True culture is more than the perks that you offer; it's how psychologically safe your people feel within the organisation, and that's what delivers results.
We’re Sleepwalking Towards Burnout
Many organisations are sleepwalking towards burnout, and while the pandemic has potentially exacerbated the feeling, burnout is nothing new. Burnout was first described in the 1970s by psychologist Dr Christina Maslach as a "state of emotions, stress, physical exhaustion, cynicism, psychological overwhelm, and a decline in professional efficacy that a person exhibits in the presence of workplace stressors". If any of these characteristics are becoming common in your team or workplace, then you have a potential problem that you need to address sooner rather than later.
Employers and leaders have a responsibility to create a healthy environment where people can thrive and build their resilience individually and collectively. According to research, teams with a thriving culture can reduce the rate of burnout by as much as 125% - but what does that mean in practice? A thriving culture is built on two main components:
1. Vitality - a person's sense of being alive, passionate, and excited by their work, sparking energy in themselves and others.
2. Growth through learning - while learning can also give a competitive skills advantage, it also sets in motion a virtuous cycle; people who are developing their abilities are likely to believe in their potential for further growth.
Prevention Is Better Than a Cure
The best way to beat burnout is to prevent it in the first place. Thriving teams and organisations can mitigate the risk of beat burnout by generating vitality – to put it simply, they give people a sense that what they do daily makes a difference. Hand-in-hand with that goes learning and the growth that comes with new knowledge and skills.
The Workforce of the Future
We have a very different workforce today than we have seen in the past; this workforce isn't necessarily going to stay in a role for 20 or 30 years, so the organisations that are more adaptable to the needs and ideas of their new colleagues are the ones that are going to last and get the pick of the brightest and best new talent. Without the best people, you've just lost a competitive advantage, so addressing issues with trust and mindset now is not only a good move for your people but also vitally important to your bank manager, board, and investors.
Vitality without learning will be fun (for a while) but certainly won't achieve business goals and will quickly become tedious to a motivated and ambitious workforce. A culture solely focused on learning, without vitality, will lead to burnout. Fostering a culture that embraces both will enable your people and your organisation to truly thrive.
So, what can leaders start doing today to create environments for our teams to thrive?
Invest in Positive Relationships
According to neuroscientist Paul Zak, having a caring habit and cognitive empathy is the highest of all behaviours to increase oxytocin and build trust. If you do nothing else, working on your active listening is a great starting point to build those relationships that will help you and your team thrive.
Get rid of distractions, don't text or send emails while you are having a conversation, look your colleague in the eye and listen with an intent to understand, rather than an intent to respond immediately. Ask questions that show you are interested in what they are saying and pay attention to non-verbal cues like them looking excited about a project or nervous about what they are about to tell you.
Empower Your Team
When people feel safe and supported, empowering them leads to great things. Show your team that you trust them to do the big things, and explain that while you will always have their back, they have shown you that they are more than capable of managing this piece of work independently.
Ultimately, we need to commit to building environments that celebrate when we succeed but that also give team members the space, to be honest with leaders when they are struggling, or something hasn't gone to plan.
Centric Consultants is based in Newcastle upon Tyne and delivers workshops and bespoke training across the UK and overseas. To find out more and to speak to the team directly about the problems you are trying to solve, email [email protected]
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