Stop wringing your hands and do something. Recently I read a Forbes article that went on and on stating statistics about how burned out executives were at the office, but seemed to offer little advice about how to fix it. This drove me crazy.
There are way too many people talking about the emotional state of employees and how sad it is, without offering suggestions on how to fix it.
This is not one of those articles.
Suppose we want to fix the mental health crisis and create more effective, happier, and engaged employees. In that case, we, as organisations, need to create much more effective communication about expectations and what is reasonable and what is not.
Many organisations pile on the day-to-day projects, one on top of the other, without consideration about what projects are already in-house, what resources they are currently utilising and what the current capacity levels are of those working on them.
What happens in a manufacturing environment when machines are overloaded, they break down. Quality control becomes an afterthought, and projects get delayed because one usurps the other.
This is why there are manufacturing delays. People overpromise and set up the eventuality that those tasked with production will underdeliver.
The same can be said for any project work. When capacity loads are not understood, unrealistic timelines are implemented, and people are stressed and overworked, processes, systems, and people break down, leading to organisational failure.
So what do we do?
We talk to each other.
Before projects are greenlit and promises made, those who have to fulfil the promise must be consulted to determine if they have the time, processes, people, capital and equipment to live up to promises made.
If yes, the project proceeds and people are held accountable. However, if those people come back and say, we do not have the resources, people or whatever to accomplish this task then adjustments need to be made to make it happen. To ensure success, we must consider the option that other projects may be temporarily side lined, additional resources committed, or people borrowed from other teams.
However, before pulling resources and team members from other projects, a conversation must be had with those project leads, ensuring their buy-in and adjustments made to enable them to achieve their tasks on time and correctly.
It is as simple as departments talking to each other. Asking, “What do you need to succeed, and how can we work together to make this happen?”
It is such a simple question that no one asks for it.
If they did, departments could utilise slack effectively within the overall system and divert capacity as necessary. Without it, people get chewed up, spit out, and projects and people fail miserably.
So why don’t we take the time to ask the question?
Is it because we are afraid to say no?
Is it because we are afraid to disappoint?
Or have we built cultures that do not allow questioning and finding better ways?
I say that it is a combination of all three. If we want to solve the health issues at hand, get people more engaged within the workforce and have healthier and more productive organisations, and ultimately be more profitable, we need to learn how to communicate more effectively about what we want, what we need and what we desire.