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Edition 257 – Burnout

I’ve had some interesting conversations with family business owners and managers over the past few weeks. The return to work after the Christmas/New Year break inevitably brings up the issue of what people did with their time off. As many and varied as these people are, there’s a constant theme amongst all the conversations. Everyone was ready for 2020 to finish.

A great many people have noticeably observed a change in their behaviour and attitude coming out of their summer slumber. What’s particularly noteworthy is the number of people who have openly declared they’d burned themselves out in 2020.

What was apparent to me, as far back as early June 2020, was how little time and space people were committing to switching off. Usual plans of weekends away, or long booked holidays, were all put on ice as we re-emerged from a 5 week lockdown. The focus at that time was merely to get back to work and try and recover as much as possible of what was missed when the lights were turned out for a while. Plus, no one could go anywhere, so it was home or nothing!

The question for you is, if that’s how you felt at the end of 2020, what about your staff

As we head into 2021, it’s my firm belief that staff welfare is going to be very much top of the tree in terms of business productivity, performance and profitability in 2021. I alluded to that in Edition 255 of Growth (New Blooms – Wednesday 6th January, 2020).

Whilst certainly not exhaustive here’s what I believe the best family businesses are going to need to do in 2021 to ensure they look out for their staff:

  1. One on one conversations purely around a welfare check-in. It’s the “are you OK?” discussion.
  2. Encouraging staff to lock in holidays throughout the year, now. That will help them stay refreshed, as well as reduce a significant contingent liability in your business.
  3. Introduce staff to professional help if they feel they need it, but don’t know how to go about doing it. I understand that most business owners will feel this is not in their area of responsibility as an employer. However, in this new decade, I believe it will play a greater role in employer/employee relations.
  4. Talking with your people about their careers, what their desires are in terms of progression and learning, and working with them to facilitate both.
  5. Cranking up the barbecue, or unlocking the fridge on a Friday afternoon, and bringing everyone together so they understand that not only are they appreciated as individuals, but they are a team.
  6. Being open to considering flexibility around work hours, particularly for those with young children and ageing parents. Yes, it is hard to juggle rosters when people don’t work full time. However, some of the demand for flexibility will be temporary, not permanent.
  7. Rewarding outstanding performance that is clearly above and beyond what is required. The rewards, by the way, don’t necessarily need to be financial.
  8. Being conscious of staff that travel away for extended periods of time and ensuring, where possible, that you can bring them home more often than you may have done previously. Certainly, the additional travel costs can be a concern, but they’ll be less than the cost of training a replacement employee.

All of this might be a bit “warm and fuzzy” for some business owners to contend with. However, there’s not many business owners that I’ve come across that didn’t give their employees a glowing acknowledgement for the effort they put in throughout 2020 in what can only be described as trying circumstances. 2021 might just be the year that employers reward those efforts to ensure there is the feeling that you’re all in this together.

When rewarding staff, don’t automatically assume it’s dollars they’re after.
Often, all they want is just a little more time!