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How to Prevent Employee Burnout

Sean: Physical touch. As a leader, how can we bring that back? Or what is some kind of superficial way that we can have that? How can we replace that? What is your advice for that one?

Bret: You’re never going to replace physical touch because we can’t now. Unless we all get back into an office and it’s all fine, but what you can, what you can do is you can replace the impact of physical touch.

So one of the companies I work with, they do an 8:30 AM company walk. So everybody gets their phone. Everybody dials into zoom and they’re all walking and they’re all chatting. Some people don’t chat, but they’re all walking and it just brings everybody together in the morning and starts everybody on a good day.

And they’re feeling healthy. They’re feeling well, they’ve got their bodies moving. So it’s a different way of bringing that connection in. Another company I work with will surprise their people with a card or a – depending on the person, it may be a bunch of flowers or something.

They literally will –  their aim is to surprise you and “wow” you, as the customer of the leadership team. So, so they just remind you that we are humans, it’s a handwritten card or it’s a book that they say, you know, “read this. It’s really short, you’ll enjoy it.” And so, it’s that it’s bringing humanity in different ways because we don’t have touch, but you can find humanity.

Sean: What do we do when someone in our team who is working remotely at home says that, and you mentioned this a couple of times earlier that he or she is, is burning out or has burned up, how do we solve or solve that or help the person or the individual?

Bret: The problem with burnouts is it doesn’t tell you it’s happening both to the person and to the manager. So burnout is something that is happening in every single company. In yours Sean, in everybody’s. And it can take longer in some cases it’s shorter in some cases, but there’s no warning sign until I’m burnt out.

And actually when I’m burnt out, then I’m frazzled. And I don’t want to work in your organization. I don’t want to talk to your people. I just want my own space. I’m depressed. I don’t know what to do with my life. There’s a whole lot of issues around this. And actually what as a leader, what leaders have to do is get ahead of burnout. And the remote companies that do this well, train their leadership teams on how to have conversations about their own issues. So if I was in a leadership team now, and I was the you part of my team, I would honestly tell you, Sean, that I’ve got as you know, because we’ve chatted about this. I’ve got a one-year-old and a three-year-old and I’m really struggling to get six hours of work done during daytime hours.

You know, it’s really hard. I’ve got, you know, I’ve just moved house. I was really struggling to get the work done. And by doing that, I demonstrate my vulnerability to you. I show you that I’m struggling. I’m human, you’re human. I’m not Superman. And I say to you, you know, for the next couple of weeks, I am going to actually be working 9,10, 11, or 12 o’clock at night.

I’m not going to be messaging you. I’m not going to be emailing you at that time, but I’m, I don’t want you to do this, but I have to make up for that for some of the time being lost. I’m getting it in different ways. I’m getting an experience with my children that I would never have gotten to five years working from an office.

So I’m getting something on the one hand, but I, you know, I’m telling you this and I’m explaining to you, I do not want you to – I want you to decompress. I want you to take time off. I want you to stop working at five o’clock or six o’clock or whatever time suits you and find something else to do.

But really as a leader, I’m first of all, demonstrating my vulnerability. As a company I need to bring in coaches and bring in therapists, that if you want to have a chat with a therapist, it’s completely confidential. You can book this therapist. They’re available for you. You know, you can spend as much time as you need with them. And if you need to talk, nobody will know it’s completely confidential.

So companies are doing different things around this, to make sure that the leadership team is vulnerable, demonstrating their vulnerability. And there are systems in place in the company if you do have issues. If there are concerns, if you are feeling stress, and if you are feeling pressure that you can overcome this.

Sean: There is one other thing that I personally also have struggled with before now, it’s a lot less because my HR does a fantastic job with it, but I used to struggle with having my team complete when we have a webinar or a virtual event that I either hosts and speaking, or is from a partner. How do you encourage team members in your organization to attend the virtual events?

Bret: The virtual events, and this goes back to my point about we’ve moved from earth to the moon. If you think back and you go over the drinks events that were happening in a bar, they are not the same as Friday drinks then.

Yes, but we’ve left the earth. We are on the moon now we have to adapt. Okay. So don’t compare. Firstly, and actually as a leadership team, it’s your responsibility to get your people to mourn and grieve over. Move to the moon, subconsciously and consciously in their heads. Change the reality. Secondly, make your team responsible for social.

As a group of 50 people, they’re going to be damn hard to make everybody happy. Do one formal team, get together and make it fun, but make the team responsible. Create a committee, get a group of squads together and make it a diverse squad. And then get them thinking about what we should be doing.

Don’t you do it or your, or the rest of your leadership team. Get the team to do it so that you are not the one getting it wrong. And then be open about the fact that we’re going to try things. We’re going to fail at certain things, we’ll get better at certain things, but really we have to, you know, this has to become something that adapts for the reality of where we are.

By getting the team responsible, you can try things and they can say, we tried this, it didn’t work.  The real opportunity here is to push the responsibility for social connection down and to allow things to happen. The other thing that a company like Hotjar has created what they call tribes.

So they take one person from sales, one person from marketing, one person from engineering, one person from customer success, one person from operations, and that’s a tribe. And the tribes meet every Thursday half-pass 4. They sit and talk together for half an hour, and now you’re breaking the typical communication patterns that happened in your organization.

 And these tribes, they’re forming, where they share different things, but they take it back into their team. So this tribe’s idea is really cool. Also, Zapier for example, has 100 hashtag fun slash channels. You know, red wine society, dog walkers society, Dungeons and dragons, yoga, lunchtime etcetera.

And what they do is they create micro communities that actually form the strength of the global community. And they allow these micro-communities to happen and form naturally. So that you, if you’re into Dungeons and dragons or you’re into walking or you’re into painting. Whatever it is, you can find somebody like you and you can build a connection that is different from a work connection, the social connection.

So there are lots and lots of radical things that companies are doing. GitLab they are very, very, very disciplined at this. They do talent shows. They do virtual home tours. They do coffee chats. They do team social calls. They do show and tell. They do a team DJ room. Ask me anything. Celebrations and holidays, virtual lunch tables.

They do scavenger hunts virtually they do lots and lots of stuff, but they’ve got a team working on it, trying things and repeating and, and getting better at it all the time.

Sean: Wow. They really invest in that.

Bret: Yeah. Yeah. Big time. Big time.

Sean: Awesome. Well, Brett, it’s been a pleasure learning from you. And before I let you go, I want to know where do you want people to find you and get in touch?

Bret: So, well, Sean, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation and I would like to have another conversation with you. I’m not sure if you’ve got the time. I know you’re busy. I’ve just felt that you and I could talk for another hour. People can reach me via my website, ; if they want to email me, it’s

They can buy my books on Amazon – the ones called “Own your Culture.” And the second one is called “Culture Decks Decoded”. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on Twitter. I’m not really on Facebook. Well, I am, but Facebook’s a waste of time. And yeah, I’m happy to talk to people about building great culture. And that’s why I’ve enjoyed this conversation with you so much.

Sean: And I have enjoyed it and learned a ton Bret.

We are going to have all of your links on the show notes. So yeah. To you listening, all of you podcast listeners, all of the leaders out there and entrepreneurs and managers go to Look for the episode with Breton Putter, and we will have all of those links, including his books and what he’s doing, on the show notes to make it easy for you.

Well, Brett, again, thank you so much. And we know that we are better for having you here on the show.

Bret: Sean. I really appreciate it. And good luck with your, with your business. Good luck with everything you’re doing and stay safe.

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