Help stamp out burnout in a 24/7 world

You know them. They left the office at 10pm, kept working overnight and they’re back in the office at 6am. By then they’ve already scanned what was trending, the media clippings and their emails.

Breakfast was a double shot coffee. But it didn’t really pierce through that dull headache like it used to.

They’re living on adrenalin, and even though they’re desperate to stop working they can’t. They really can’t. Because the phone never stops. Ever.

In the modern communication world there are no deadlines. There’s no off button. Media, communities and stakeholders expect instant answers, 24/7.

Here’s recent proof it’s getting worse:

1. It’s not unusual for some of our stakeholders (themselves no doubt under time pressures) to email staff at 1, 2 or 3 in the morning, wanting answers that day.

2. Print journos have to publish on print, online and blogging platforms so there’s no such thing as getting back to them later in the day. They might have a 12-noon deadline.

3. Every communication opportunity needs words plus at least one visual (video, interactive, animation, photo, map or meme), a hashtag, and tailoring for multiple mediums. And even then people say they didn’t see it.

4. Deadlines are set for 9am, but the source materials don’t arrive until 5.30 the day before. And it’s not that the source materials were running late. That’s the earliest they could be delivered.

So what can we do to stamp out burnout?

Here are some things that our favourite clients and colleagues are doing:

  • Taking leave – have a system to make sure people are taking annual leave
  • Having two points of contact on projects so if you’re sick you can rest because someone is already across the project
  • Forward planning to avoid mad rushes
  • Templating everything you can
  • Setting deadlines with margins, so there’s a time buffer
  • Simplify approvals processes by setting delegations of authority to those with knowledge but more time

What else can the profession do to help stamp out burnout?