A post-COVID effect in the workplace has been an increased prioritization on individual mental health, which has often led to a phenomenon known as the Great Resignation. The Great Resignation is generally agreed to have started in early 2021, and as of January 2023 is still ongoing. The prioritization of mental health and consequent behaviors have also left managers in unique quandaries. Employees are more likely to resign, take more time off, schedule for more flexibility, or look for a new job.
However, what most people don’t truly realize is how managers are affected by mental health issues, and how they can combat it. As of October 2022
, a whopping 76% of executives and managers have reported feeling burnt out or overwhelmed as a result of their work. Now, given the higher compensation, one might argue that the pressure is a part of their job. However, there are a few ways that a manager can not only manage effectively, but also have a better grip of their mental health. These methods are often changes to how a manager chooses to work, as well as some mentality changes.
Preventing your own Burnout
1) Plan for different phases of the day. Not every hour of the day should be treated equally. Now you might wonder why every hour of the day doesn’t deserve equal treatment. The answer to this is quite simple, and can be answered with a question- how do you feel after your lunch break? Some might say drowsy, or a little heavy. Just as worker efficiency can ebb and flow throughout the year, your attention and energy can change depending on the time of day. Schedule yourself accordingly. You know your body best, and if you have the power to choose times to schedule meetings, utilize that privilege. Some people use mornings for the most attention requiring work, which makes sense for them. The caffeine might have kicked in, or they might just be morning people. However, not every individual is that way. Some people feel too impatient after waking up, and something with fine details might not be the best possible thing for them.
2) You can afford to be less reactive, and more passive. Not every issue needs to be dealt with urgently, especially by you as a manager. Sometimes, issues can be passed off to direct reports who are able to handle it with less stress. Consultant David Allen penned a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
. This book proposes a mindset similar to an email inbox. Think about how you organize that inbox. Some messages might be of a priority, while others simply sit in your inbox. You don’t mandate yourself to respond to every email immediately, do you? It’s a very similar concept.
3) Preserve your work hours, and even more importantly, your off hours. You will not be as efficient if you are always working. A brain is like a muscle- if it is taxed or worked, it needs to have time to recover. While emergencies happen, for the most part of the normal work cycle, you do not always need to be on call. Stick to the nature of the off-hours. Don’t check emails, don’t draft any, and don’t worry about getting work done. Relax, and get yourself into a mindset for the next day.
4) Set firm boundaries with when you are accessible and when you are busy. If you keep an open-door policy, you will become overwhelmed by the amount of requests that come your way. Create a specific set of hours in which you can deal with issues brought to you, and do not keep the metaphorical door open any longer than this. While this boundary may seem harsh, you cannot help others if you have problems of your own to address. Therefore, setting this boundary will benefit you in the long run.
5) Prioritize what you do per day. If you’ve ever meal-planned before, it’s a very similar psychology. You can’t achieve everything you want to in one day, so you have to plan the tasks you have to do per week across the entire week.
6) Avoid micromanaging things. Your staff was picked either by you or your predecessors for a reason. Having this faith in your staff will be much more rewarding and efficient than doing it all yourself. Your primary role as a leader is to help enable your staff.
7) Find your anchor points. In the case that you need to take a break, or a leave of absence, you need to make sure that your team will not be left high and dry. Have a second point of communication, and don’t be afraid to make subleaders.
8) Finally, don’t be afraid to recognize if you need help. Plenty of managers, as well as plenty of people take extended breaks to work on their mental health. It is always more than okay to do something to work on yourself. A manager functioning at 50% is much worse than someone who is healthy and capable of making difficult decisions. Be communicative with your team and your peers, as well as senior leadership to allow for a smooth transition due to your leave.
Mental health as a manager can always be scary at first. After all, you’ve been conditioned to always put your direct reports first. And that’s completely okay, as long as you remember that you need help occasionally as well.