What Does Email Have To Do With Burnout?

Emails sent and received in a workday

After a year of working from home, burnout is at an all-time high. Most of us are working hard with few breaks and recharge opportunities. After all, we’re all doing so much more than working from home: we’re managing our kids’ online school, caring for young children, navigating health risks, and the list goes on.

Fortunately, there are many ways to mitigate burnout. One of the smallest and most impactful ways to help your team is by being mindful of your email usage. Here are four simple steps you can take to lessen the psychological burden of email on your teams.

No emails on the weekend

I coach on this all the time. I hear from so many leaders that weekends are the best time for them to catch up and do some thinking. But for many, especially during COVID, the weekend is time to decompress and ignore email. As a leader, if you tell your team that you don’t expect them to return emails over the weekend, they will still return your emails if you send them. Think of it from their perspective; your team members don’t want to give the impression that they don’t care about their careers—or the company—by not responding to emails. Resist hitting ‘send;’ schedule your emails for the work week. Stick to this hard and fast rule: don’t send emails on the weekend.

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Limit the length of your emails

Another way to lessen burnout is to be mindful of the length of your emails. If you are sending pages of follow-ups with lots of details, you will burn out your audience over time. No one on your team should have to read your emails multiple times to decipher your message.

If you need to write a lengthy email, opt for a phone chat instead. Emails should be short and succinct. It may help you to think of composing email as if you’re composing a tweet. With everyone working from home, less is more—be mindful of how much time your teams are already spending in front of a computer and resolve not to add unnecessarily to that amount.

Careful with the cc list

Take great care with how many people you include on your email’s cc list. Consider how demotivated you feel when looking at all the emails in your inbox that simply don’t apply to you. Don’t burden your team with endless cc’s that have no bearing on them. If you can, respond only to the person in question. Your limited use of the cc function will help to keep your teams on track.

Show you care by sharing your email rules

Even if you get your email use in check, other leaders on your team could still be sending too many emails. Set up parameters about email usage and help other leaders realize the importance of mitigating email burnout. Then, have a conversation with your direct reports. I recommend being transparent about your goal to lessen burnout. Take the temperature of your team to see how they are doing and what level of burnout they are experiencing.

Showing you care about your team’s wellbeing will help you build trust. But remember; if you ask about burnout, you must be prepared to take action in response to what your teams share. Follow through on the conversation and stay committed to the action steps discussed here.

I am an executive coach and speaker who has advised top leaders in such verticals as technology and life sciences. I serve as an executive coach for Harvard Business

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