Organizations require employees to collaborate with more people than ever before, both internally and externally. This ever-increasing demand can be tough to keep up with. It ultimately leads to frustration and sometimes even to collaboration burnout.
According to research, managers spend the majority of their work time on activities such as electronic communication, virtual meetings, or talking on the phone. Although there are advantages to this increased level of collaboration, it also leaves less time for independent work, reflection, and decision-making.
The average employee spends most of their work week communicating with others through various platforms on chat, phone calls, email, or even video. However, there are some things you can do to manage your time better and make the most of your collaboration efforts without feeling overwhelmed.
What is collaboration burnout?
It’s when you’re working with a team and things are going great, but then one day your productivity drops off. You start feeling overwhelmed by all of your responsibilities. You might find yourself getting anxious about how much work needs to get done. Even worse, you could start blaming yourself for not being able to keep up with everything.
Collaboration burnout is also referred to as a collaborative overload and it can be a real problem in the workplace. It happens suddenly, when you bite more than you can chew, or it can build up slowly over time. Either way, it can be pretty tough to deal with.
Why is it happening?
As you advance in the company, you’ll find yourself managing more people and projects than ever before. This can be a great opportunity to build your network and expand your influence in the organization. But it can also lead to increased workloads and stress. To manage this transition successfully, you’ll need to develop new skills and work habits. These will help you stay focused on what’s most important while still staying connected with others.
If you are one of the go-to people who is constantly overloaded with work, you might be very susceptible to collaboration burnout. You might feel like it’s your responsibility to help anyone who asks and find it difficult to say no. However, this constant need for approval and praise could get to the point where your identity becomes intertwined with your reputation. This makes it harder to take a break when you need one or refuse someone asking for help even when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
In order to combat collaborative overload, it is important to first understand how much of it is driven by your own need to appear helpful, knowledgeable, or influential to your colleagues. Also, you might feel anxious about declining to participate in group work because you fear it will reflect poorly on you, or maybe you just find it hard to let go of control.
How can I avoid collaboration burnout?
The first step is to recognize that collaboration burnout is a real thing and that it’s happening to other people too! If you can acknowledge that collaboration burnout happens, then you can also acknowledge its causes and take measures to prevent it. Here are some strategies that could help you:
1. Set boundaries
If you feel that you are affected by collaboration burnout, the first measure you must take is to reset colleagues’ expectations about your engagement timeliness and availability. For example, make it clear that not responding to an e-mail right away doesn’t mean you don’t want to collaborate or offer your help. You just need to do it at your own pace.
You might also want to consider setting boundaries around when people can reach out. For example, no calls after 6 PM or no emails past 9 PM unless something urgent comes up.
2. Identify the triggers
It’s essential to do some thinking and identify triggers that may be contributing to your collaborative overload. Is it meetings? Emails? A particular coworker or boss? Whatever it is, take some time to identify the triggers that are causing you stress. Then, think about how you could eliminate them from your life.
Once you’ve identified the triggers causing you stress, it’s time to take action. Start by reviewing your calendar and email communication. Take a look at the activities, group chats, and projects you’ve been involved in during the past few months. Identify the ones that don’t align with your medium or long-term development plans.
Consider decisions you’re being pulled into unnecessarily and how processes or teams might be changed so that you don’t need to be involved in them anymore.
Finally, recognize when you’re being sought out for information or expertise in areas no longer central to your role or ambitions,. Ultimately, learn to say no without feeling guilty.
3. Maximize productivity
Meetings are an important part of any workplace. Unnecessarily long meetings can be a time-waster and should be avoided.
Instead of having everyone in the same place at the same time, try asynchronous work and communication. This is the best way to make sure that people won’t stop their important work just to hear about something they don’t necessarily need at that time.
To minimize your efforts, try using Hubgets as your meeting space. It allows you to keep in sync with your colleagues but still have your own workspace open and available on your screen. You can also share files with others and work together while allowing every team member the freedom to participate at their own pace.
4. Learn to let go
You might be feeling that without your involvement, a project won’t turn out as well as you expect. This is a common mistake made by perfectionists, who often believe that no one can do things as they do. But it is just that – a mistake!
Learn to let go of your ego. Accept that your colleagues are capable professionals who will do just fine by themselves. Adjust your expectations. Open your mind to accept other ideas and respect other people’s way of doing things. Otherwise, you will make yourself easy prey to burnout, and affect others too.
Finally, know that you don’t always have to be perfect. You are allowed to make mistakes, you are allowed to take breaks, and you are allowed to fail. Once you understand this and embrace the possibility of failure, you won’t overstretch yourself to the point of burnout ever again.