IT projects and service operations make for a hectic, challenging work environment. Considering the pace, burnout is an all too common occurence. Will staff members speak up? Some may be reluctant and that is certainly understandable. And when they speak up - if they speak up - it may be too late - the problem may have already taken hold. It's best to act before that happens. Read on to learn how.
Watch for the Burnout Warning Signs
A smart, attentive and proactive IT manager will quickly recognize the need to monitor all aspects of staff morale and performance, and will learn how to detect the warning signs before they become readily visible to others who may care to see them. (Also Read: Making Criticism Constructive and Productive)
- Attendance Changes - sudden, chronic lateness or an increase in absenteeism.
- Productivity Changes - decreases in the quantity of work accomplished over a period of time.
- Performance Changes - decreases in the quality of work accomplished over a period of time.
- Attention to Detail - small, but noticeable mistakes and omissions in work completed, marked by their unusual nature (i.e. things that have been done correctly in past are now slipping through the cracks).
- Procrastination - a fixation on minor details and routine tasks at the expense of riskier, more complex activities.
- Relationships - a reduction in socialization and team activities, marked by conflicts, arguments and withdrawal from group activities.
- Attitude Changes - a negative shift in attitude towards the job, the organization, end-users and co-workers, marked by anger sarcasm, irritability, fatigue, sensitivity to criticism, or indifference.
- Perceptions - a general feeling that IT is unappreciated and taken advantage of by the organization as a whole.
You See the Signs – Now What?
Once you have identified the signs of a burnout problem, what can you do to prevent a full blown burnout disaster? Burnout can occur on a "team" or individual level. Team burnout occurs as the overburdened group reacts collectively to difficult projects and work environments. Individual burnout can be brought about by underlying emotional or physical problems. These situations should be escalated immediately to management and human resources. When individual or team burnout appears "environmental", you should look to the working source of the problem.
Learn to Fast Track
When it comes to managing, you need more than one approach to be consistently successful. The way you manage when surrounding conditions are good, is not the way you manage when time is running short, resources are stretched thin and people aren't working together. That's what fast tracking is for - and we can teach you how it's done. Learn More
Take Action To-Do List
Burnout is most often the result of a unusually heavy workload, exacerbated by short timelines, long work hours, demanding end-users, and negative perceptions of IT as an organizational entity. In consideration of these issues, the following tips and tricks can be used to relieve the pressure and hopefully shift the workplace dynamic.
- Seek out every possible process, procedure and tool for efficiency and productivity.
- Set realistic schedules for projects and other activities - allow for the unexpected problem that may cause delays.
- Let your staff have some downtime - do not schedule work for every weekend, and encourage staff to go home "on time" as often as possible.
- Be visible - show your staff that you are in the boat along with them. Even if you cannot contribute to an installation on a technical basis, be there to provide moral support.
- Set aside "cool-down" periods after every major project - allowing staff to regroup and savor the accomplishment.
- Consider the consequences and impact on staff before making promises and commitments. And be prepared to quantify and communicate those consequences. At the very least, said consequences can be used as a bargaining chip in service and project negotiations.
- Take advantage of remote access technologies for off-hours support, and to allow for flexible work schedules and telecommuting.
- Rotate on-call schedules as often as possible. And "not on call" should mean just that ... give your staff some time to clear their heads and refresh their perspectives.
- Take every opportunity to publicize IT successes, making sure management and end-users are aware of the contribution that IT makes to the organization. These facts can be very useful to bolster any effort to minimize demands for unreasonable support.
- Create and enforce realistic Service Level Agreements.
- Maintain proper systems documentation and problem tracking databases to leverage prior experiences and facilitate problem resolution. This will allow a greater number of staff members to share off-hours support duties.
- Set limits on off-hours contacts, and get management concurrence to enforce those limits. Not every problem is an emergency and certain boundaries must be accepted. Recognize and reward long work hours whenever possible. Depending upon your circumstances, you may be able to offer additional vacation time, personal time, allow staff to attend free seminars or trade shows (frequently offered by vendors), or just have a team party. (Also Read: Ending Projects on a High Note).
THE IT SERVICE STRATEGY TOOLKIT
If you're looking for a fast, easy way to achieve IT service success, you'll find it inside the IT Service Strategy Toolkit. This unique, informative online course gives you everything you need to become an IT management leader and service planning expert. Here's what you'll learn:
The I.T. Service Strategy Toolkit is an easy, engaging online course, containing over 50+ education components, teaching you how to use the multi-stage 'Service Strategy Process' to organize the I.T. service function and deliver value-added I.T. services.
Topics covered include developing the IT mission, organizing the IT service department, planning IT management policies, managing the IT/end-user service relationship, performing the IT service review, and more.
Techniques covered include 'Define, Align and Approve', the 'Manage by Process Framework', the IT/End User Partnership, Proactive Problem Management and more.
Download the tools and templates to produce the I.T. Vision Statement and multiple Service Review deliverables.
Build and improve strategic planning skills, as you learn time-saving techniques to become a more productive IT manager or service professional.
Course enrollment provides lifetime access to all components, with all future updates and additions included.
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ITtoolkit.com staff writers have experience working for some of the largest corporations, in various positions including marketing, systems engineering, help desk support, web and application development, and IT management.
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