Jacobs says his workers have several ways to change up their routines. They can seek out new positions at Mitre, temporarily work in other divisions when needs arise, or propose new ways of working within their existing responsibilities if they see ways to bring higher efficiency or higher capability to those processes.
“It’s really about getting people to think about where they can get more leverage,” he says, adding that encouraging opportunities where employees step out of normal routines is good for the employees’ psyches as well as for the organization as a whole. “An enterprise that inspires IT, along with the rest of the company, to bring their best reaps a lot of advantages,” he says, “while those that allow their employees to burn out will lose in the long run.”
5. Create a positive culture
Kapper, the district manager from RHT, says he worked with one company that had about 600 workers on its help desk. Turnover was high among these entry-level tech pros, with workers reporting on exit surveys that they felt burned out by the division’s constant toil.
The company sought to do better by improving the help desk culture, according to Kapper. Managers increased recognition for worker achievements and sponsored lighthearted events such as catered lunches with DJs to give workers a break during the typically slow lunchtime stretch. Additionally, they introduced flexible work schedules and work-from-home opportunities.
“It’s an example of what a company that has a lot of workers who are working very, very hard can do. Now [these workers] want to work there because the culture makes it a great place to be,” Kapper says, noting that the company slashed turnover in half and employees report significantly less burnout.
Baskaran Ambalavanan, former senior HR manager for IS at law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton and now a consultant and panelist with the Society for Human Resource Management, says several key programs can help organizations combat burnout, including flexible schedules, remote work options, training opportunities, and a supportive environment that includes elements of fun. He says it’s important to note, too, that managers at all levels can adopt some elements of these best practices – even if they’re not sponsored at the executive or companywide level.
6. Change course when necessary
Chris Caruso, vice president for IT at PPG Industries, a global supplier of paints, coatings and other materials, says IT workers have had a backlog of work throughout his 35-year career in the profession. Still, he acknowledges that there’s more interest and demand in IT resources and the capabilities today than ever before. “But that’s for us to manage and to throttle the workload,” he says.
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