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Burnout is not your staff’s fault, it’s your company’s fault

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Employee dissatisfaction is on the rise, resulting in burn-out from a variety of factors. These could be amenities, company focus, or management.

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burn-out employee

Have you ever worked at a company only to eventually get completely burned-out? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has seen so much “burn-out” that they decided the term is actually one that is health-related; more specifically, a disease.

The WHO released this information in conjunction with the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), but a day after the ICD came out, WHO corrected itself, saying it’s actually not a disease, but an occupational phenomenon.

This topic does bring up a good point though – who’s to blame when burn-out occurs – the company or the employee?

There are plenty of people out there who have started a job, one that was exciting and oriented with their goals, only to be completely fed up with the job 6 months later. For some, it may take longer, and for others, it may take less time, but regardless, if you’re truly burned-out, the problem may not be your fault. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.

When Stanford researchers looked into how stress in the workplace can raise health costs and even mortality in the US, they found it led to more spending (almost $190 Billion) and nearly 120,000 deaths each year. Worldwide, over 600 million people suffer from depression and anxiety, which can be a direct result of an inhospitable work environment or a job that’s simply dissatisfying or mundane. Of course there are other reasons for anxiety and depression, but feeling undervalued or unsupported on a job can have a huge impact.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. When the WHO made the mistake of calling the term “Burned-Out” a medical disease (which we now know is not the fact) it got a lot of the community thinking, including myself and Jennifer Moss of the Harvard Business Review. I asked myself who is really to blame for the high burn-out rates we’re seeing? Is anyone to blame?

Having been a victim of this “disease” (Just kidding! Remember, it’s not a disease guys), I know first-hand how hard it can be when the feelings of wanting to give up come a’knockin’. I’ve worked at multiple startups, each of them with their own initial allure and charm. Sometimes, that’s all there is and you don’t realize it until you aren’t happy in your role, which is exactly what happened to me.

You see, my first startup right out of college was super fun. Not only did they care for my needs as a person, but they also nurtured my abilities and eagerness to grow. They were your typical startup with Ping-Pong tables, holiday parties, monthly contests, and so much more. Sounds like a standard startup, right? Maybe, maybe not.

When it finally came time to leave the company for another role, (something they absolutely supported as it pertained to my growth), I quickly realized that not all companies are created equal. The next job I took turned out to actually be a 10-month series of ups and downs. Not only was the job totally different from my last one, but the company itself was highly disheveled and aimless.

Not only was it out of sorts, but the company had zero warm and fuzzy extras I had been so accustomed to. To start, there was absolutely no company culture – something I thrive on. There were no amenities like a fancy pool table or swings, which was totally fine, but alongside this and many other factors, I quickly learned how ill prepared the owner was to make the office a nice place their employees were excited to work.

The management was awful, and the owner was even worse, turning down ideas only to, weeks later, proclaim them as his own. The environment was hostile and there was no time to get to know my co-workers. But in the end, the nail in the coffin was that there was no direction at all – from the owner, management, or co-workers.

When I finally realized that I was burned-out and that my needs weren’t being met, I took an introspective look at myself and asked, “what’s wrong with me?” and after thinking long and hard, I had a moment of clarity. This wasn’t 100% my fault. In fact, it was the fault of the company I worked for.

Now, it may sound like I’m complaining (and to a degree, I am), but my point really is that if you’ve burned-out on a job, and your needs aren’t being met, you’re definitely not alone.

To further illustrate my point, I’d like to bring up Fredrick Herzberg’s dual-factor, motivation-hygiene theory. This theory primarily focuses on motivation and hygiene-related needs in the workplace and how they relate to job satisfaction. Herzberg found that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are in no way tied together and, in fact, are completely independent of one another. This means that it’s entirely possible to be satisfied and dissatisfied in the same job, at the same time – something leadership and management are not always prepared to understand or address.

Moss explains the difference between hygiene and motivational needs. She describes hygiene-related needs as things like “salary; work conditions; company policy and administration; supervision; working relationships; status and security.” On the other hand, she defines motivational factors as pertaining to “challenging work; recognition for one’s achievements; responsibility; the opportunity to do something meaningful; involvement in decision making; and a sense of importance to the organization.”

She explains that much of the time, employees don’t even recognize when the organization they work for has good hygiene, like Apple who has an excellent company culture and freebies for days (I know this from my own personal experience working there). However, when a company has bad hygiene, like what I described earlier, employees typically notice pretty immediately. Frivolous as it may seem, as humans, we’re creatures of comfort. If we’ve been comfortable for a certain period of time, and something related to that comfort is suddenly taken away, that can have a major affect on the employees’ happiness and willingness to push forward. Likewise, feeling unappreciated and underutilized can have the same effect.

As a matter of fact, burn-out can be directly correlated to situations when pre-supposed features in our daily work lives are removed or are missing. For instance, my first startup supplied coffee to all of its employees. If that was suddenly taken away or it didn’t exist at all, there would have been a lot of noise – especially form our coffee-guzzling sales team. The company knew how important this was and took every effort to make sure they gave us coffee.

From there, they raised the bar even further, asking the team what kind of coffee they wanted. This is exactly what it takes to keep employees happy and to prevent them from reaching “burn-out”. Again, it may all seem totally innocuous and low-priority, but from a leadership perspective, they knew perks like this were exactly why their employees liked their job.

Now, you’re probably wondering what it is business owners can do to learn more about burn-out and how they can combat it. The answer: employers should prepare and align themselves with employee needs. There are a variety of ways to figure out what it is your employees want, including surveying them.

Christina Maslach, social psychologist and professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, has been studying burn-out for 25 years and is now seen as the foremost authority on the topic. She offers surveys for employees and employers-alike, such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory and Professional Quality of Life Scale.

Aside from that, look at your employees as actual people. Ask yourself what reasonable steps you should take to make your employees happy in their job as well as whether or not you’d be happy in their shoes. If the answer to the second question is “no”, you probably have some serious research and thinking to do.

If you’re an employee, you’re not off the hook yet. You have some homework, too.

What do you need to be happy in the workplace? I challenge you to make a list of your must-haves and to seriously consider whether you’re settling for less.

Rachael Olan is a Texas-based Staff Writer at The American Genius and jack-of-many-trades. She's well known for her abilities in Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service, with a focus on SaaS and eCommerce businesses. Outside of writing, Rachael spends much of her time with her swarm of pets, including a 70 lb tortoise named Frankie.

Business Marketing

Buffer’s four-day workweek experiment: Boost or bust?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) After trying out a four-day workweek last year, Buffer is moving forward with the format going into 2021, citing increase in productivity and work-life balance.

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Man working in office with headphones on, making use of flexible four-day workweek.

The typical five-day workweek is a thing of the past for Buffer, at least for now. The company has decided to implement a four-day workweek for the “foreseeable future.”

Last year, the company surveyed its employees to see how they are dealing with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and the anxiety and stress that came along with it. They soon learned employees didn’t always feel comfortable or like they could take time off.

Employees felt guilty for taking PTO while trying to meet deadlines. Juggling work and suddenly becoming a daycare worker and teacher for their children at the same time was stressful. So, Buffer looked for a solution to help give employees more time and flexibility to get adjusted to their new routines.

Four-Day Workweek Trials

In May, Buffer started the four-day workweek one-month trial to focus on teammates’ well-being. “This four-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first,” said Buffer CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne in a company blog post.

“It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days,” Gascoigne said.

Buffer’s one-month trial proved to be successful. Survey data from before and after the trial showed higher autonomy and lower stress levels. In addition, employee anecdotal stories showed an increase in worker happiness.

With positive results, Buffer turned the trial into a long-term pilot through the end of 2020. This time, the trial would focus on Buffer’s long-term success.

“In order to truly evaluate whether a four-day workweek can be a success long-term, we need to measure productivity as well as individual well-being,” wrote Director of People Courtney Seiter. “Teammate well-being was our end goal for May. Whether that continues, and equally importantly, whether it translates into customer and company results, will be an exciting hypothesis to test.”

Trial Results

Company Productivity
Buffer’s shorter workweek trials showed employees felt they had a better work-life balance without compromising work productivity. According to the company’s survey data, almost 34% of employees felt more productive, about 60% felt equally as productive, and only less than 7% of employees felt less productive.

However, just saying productivity is higher isn’t proof. To make sure the numbers added up, managers were asked about their team’s productivity. Engineering managers reported that a decrease in total coding days didn’t show a decrease in output. Instead, there was a significant output increase for product teams, and Infrastructure and Mobile saw their output double.

The Customer Advocacy team, however, did see a decline in output. Customer service is dependent on customer unpredictability so this makes sense. Still, the survey showed about 85% to 90% of employees felt as productive as they would have been in a five-day workweek. Customers just had to wait slightly longer to receive replies to their inquiries.

Employee Well-Being
With more time and control of their schedules, Buffer’s survey shows an increase in individual autonomy and decreased stress levels reported by employees. And, the general work happiness for the entire company has been consistent throughout 2020.

What’s in store for 2021?

Based on positive employee feedback and promising company results, Buffer decided it will continue the company-wide four-day workweek this year.

“The four-day work week resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These were the exact results we’d hoped to see, and they helped us challenge the notion that we need to work the typical ‘nine-to-five,’ five days a week,” wrote Team Engagement Manager Nicole Miller.

The four-day workweek will continue in 2021, but the company will also be implementing adjustments based on the pilot results.

For most teams, Fridays will be the default day off. For teams that aren’t project-based, their workweek will look slightly different. As an example, the Customer Advocacy team will follow a different schedule to avoid customer reply delays and ticket overflow. Each team member will still have a four-day workweek and need to meet their specific targets. They will just have a more flexible schedule.

Companies who follow this format understand that output expectations will be further defined by area and department level. Employees who aren’t meeting their performance objectives will have the option to choose a five-day workweek or might be asked to do so.

If needed, Fridays will also serve as an overflow workday to finish up a project. Of course, schedules will be evaluated quarterly to make sure productivity is continuing to thrive and employees are still satisfied.

But, Miller says Buffer is “establishing ambitious goals” that might “push the limits” of a four-day work week in 2021. With the world slowly starting to normalize, who knows when a four-day workweek might reach its conclusion.

“We aren’t sure that we’ll continue with the four-day workweeks forever, but for now, we’re going to stick with it as long as we are still able to hit our ambitious goals,” wrote Miller.

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Business Marketing

Should your content management system go headless?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) You may be familiar with your typical content management system, but had you heard of a ‘headless’ model? Let’s dig into it together.

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Person using content management system with hands on keyboard and small bit of desktop visible.

At some point, you have probably worked with a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. If you haven’t already, you at least know that this computer software is used to manage website content.

But, have you ever heard of a headless content management system before? We didn’t. So, we set out to find out what it’s all about and how beneficial, or not, it can be for your company.

What is headless CMS?

Unlike your classic CMS, headless CMS is a back-end only content management system. It decouples where your content is stored and authored (body) from the front-end where your content is displayed (head).

This CMS isn’t tied to a particular output like a web page. Content is transmitted as data over an application programming interface (API). It’s a content repository that delivers content seamlessly to any device.

Benefits of Headless CMS

More versatile
Headless CMS isn’t your classic “monolithic” CMS so you aren’t constrained to an all-in-one system that might work for websites but not mobile devices.

Content is consumed by customers in more than one place now. Headless CMS provides a more versatile way to deliver multi-channel content to websites, Android and iOS apps, and even IoT (internet of things), like a smartwatch or in-store kiosk.

Businesses will benefit from this because only one back-end is needed to manage and publish content for different services and products.

No need for specialized developers
Developers aren’t tied to a specific programming language or framework. A developer can choose between using Javascript, PHP, Ruby, or any language they prefer.

If you already have a talented developer, you don’t have to scramble to find someone else who specializes in a specific system or language you are moving to. Your current developer can do the job for you in the best way they know-how.

Better Security
Security is important. Not being married to the front-end, headless CMS has a security advantage a regular CMS doesn’t. Usually, content provided to a headless CMS is read-only, and the admin portion lives on a different server and domain.

With the back-end detached from the presentation layer, there is a smaller target area to attack. Also, layers of code can be used to hide the content-delivering API making it safer than a traditional CMS.

Real-time collaboration
With two separate systems, content editors and web developers can work concurrently. This shortens a project’s timeline and helps get your product and services to market quicker. Also, content editors don’t have to spend more time creating the same content for each system. Designers and developers can take care of that.
Downsides of Headless CMS

As with anything, headless CMS isn’t perfect and isn’t for everyone. It has its disadvantages.

More technical
Little technical involvement is called for in a traditional CMS. As a result, the tool can be picked up quickly by almost anyone.

A deeper understanding of CMS, coding languages, and front-end technologies is needed when using headless CMS. You must have a developer that can build the web or app just for you.

Increased maintenance
With the body separated from the head, there are two systems to maintain. Implementation and maintenance could potentially become complex.

Bigger price tag
Building a system from scratch costs time and money. With a traditional CMS, there is one account, and, most likely, one payment. With headless CMS, you’ll have multiple payments for the CMS, a developer, and the infrastructure running your website or app.

Your custom CMS also isn’t coming from a pre-built content management system. All that hard work takes time (and patience) to get it done right.

Conclusion

Headless CMS lets you create a unique user experience and allow for cross-platform publishing, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all content management system.

Before you jump ships, take inventory of all your content needs. Does your content need to be published on different platforms? Will a simple stand-alone website work for you? Only you can decide what works best with your business, but we hope this information helps.

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Business Marketing

Spice up your remote team building with a fully virtual escape room

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As part of a remote team, team building has become even more of a groan. But this virtual escape room seeks to make a fun and unique challenge for remote teams.

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Woman waving at laptop in living room, on team building activity.

Team building events aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. While some enjoy getting to know coworkers they don’t normally socialize with, others dread the day before it arrives. Plus, there’s always work that needs to be taken care of, and using some of that time to mingle might seem like a waste of time.

Love it or hate it, working remotely has made team building slightly better, maybe? You don’t have to worry about physically being present in a place you don’t want to be. You’re not awkwardly talking to a co-worker whose name you can’t quite remember.

Nonetheless, it also has its downsides. We don’t see each other anymore so it’s easier to not be on the same page, and this makes learning how to work together much harder.

We’re almost a year into the pandemic and happy hour Zoom calls no longer hold the glamour they once did. So, what else is there to do in this virtual world?

Skyrocket Your Team has just the answer for you. This company provides virtual team building experiences through collaborative online escape rooms. The escape rooms are designed with remote teams in mind and can be tailored to accommodate different sized groups.

“If you’re working remotely, Skyrocket Your Team will help your team feel closer together and improve your internal communication,” wrote Co-Founder Jorge Sánchez Hernández. “Our puzzles are designed for teams by adult educators to trigger a set of emotions, feelings, and situations. Everyone sees a different screen and you need to communicate in order to get through the challenges. There is no way to continue without teamwork!”

From the comfort of your office or couch, each team member joins from their own computer and location. The escape room consists of an immersive story about astronauts trapped in a damaged spaceship. By solving puzzles and challenges, the team must work together to repair the spaceship and return to earth.

After hopefully, safely landing your rocket, there is a debriefing session. During this time, teams can share their experiences and discuss what they learned.

Skyrocket Your Team says their new form of team building will bring your company several benefits like:

  • Bringing your team closer together
  • Fostering collaboration instead of internal competition
  • Improving communication across your company

The end goal of the experience is to learn how to communicate effectively by solving the different sets of problems together. And, I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.

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