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How to Implement Effective Strategies for Burnout Prevention in the Workplace

Updated: Mar 22

Factors such as an unmanageable workload, unrealistic expectations, and few opportunities for career advancement all lead to burnout, which is caused by our workplace environments. So, how do we prevent burnout and retain our star employees?

Burnout is chronic stress caused by a workplace environment. As discussed in previous articles, chronic stress is dangerous for our health so we need to learn to recognize and treat stress to prevent burnout.

Set clear and realistic expectations (aka manageable workloads)

One key factor of burnout is a feeling of overwhelm because there is simply more to do than time allows. Nonprofit leaders can address this feeling by spending time goal-setting. Accept that you will not be able to do everything for your mission, and focus on the 20% effort that brings the 80% results. Break down the goal into specific and achievable actions and clearly define the roles that each person plays.

Better yet, involve your team in developing the goals and actions (AGILE is a great way to do this!!). Involving your team gives them a sense of agency in the decision-making process, which is crucial for burnout prevention. Feedback from team members also allows leaders to be more realistic in workload management and recognize team members' efforts.

Allow growth opportunities

Burnout and disengagement occur when people feel no opportunity for growth or career advancement. Small organizations may not have much to offer in terms of career advancement, but we can all offer growth opportunities. When our people grow, they are more engaged and bring more skills to impact our mission.

Growth and development opportunities are not limited to conferences and one-and-done training. In fact, developing a learning culture where learning is integrated into daily practices will bring the greatest rewards. To be most effective, allow people to set their own learning goals. Perhaps someone wants to master using macros in Word or learn about podcasting to broaden your audience. Allow them time to search Google and YouTube and find opportunities to apply those skills. They can share those new skills with your organization, and now your whole team may be able to save hours by using macros. You may also find new donors by having a podcast that reaches a new audience. Your organization has made huge gains from the 'loss' of a few hours of learning, and your employees are now more engaged and recognize that they still have growth opportunities even if there isn't a new position for them.

Encourage Work-life balance

Organizations that have a wellness plan or just tell people to practice self-care have taken a step in the right direction, but stopping there will only create resentment because you are not addressing root causes. Leaders need to have a full spectrum of practices that incorporate work-life balance.

The first and most important is respecting personal time. Leaders must set an example by not working more than a certain number of hours. I promise you that working more will prevent you from getting everything done. You will work more effectively by limiting your work time and taking at least one day per week of rest where you do not work. Don't send emails after hours - schedule them to go during office hours. Our minds and bodies need downtime to process and repair. Consider how when athletes train, the off days and downtime actually are what make them stronger - it gives their bodies the time to take advantage of the training they have done.

Recognize that self-care is key to giving us energy for our work. That means full nights of sleep (sorry, catching up on the weekends does NOT cut it). Self-care also means regular movement to release cortisol. Self-care means learning to be mindful and to make time for joy and connection in our lives. Self-care is not being selfish but the way we 'put on our own mask' so we can care for others and keep well to work for our mission. Mission-driven workers often put their own needs last, but that is a sure formula for burnout, which means you won't be able to work for your mission.

Achieve Work-Life Balance with Group Coaching

I offer a coaching program to help you develop work-life balance habits. Maybe you already know what to do, but you need someone to help you make time for yourself and hold you accountable to changing your habits. Visit to find our latest programs.


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