Hey, you, stop pouring from an empty cup

Dhruv Saxena

You’re sitting in your office chair at 9 AM, stunned.

On your laptop screen is an email you never expected to get, but somehow seems obvious in hindsight. It’s a resignation letter from your star employee, effective immediately. The reason? Burnout. You knew they’d been working hard, but when you look back on their calendar, you see they hadn’t taken a break in months. No long holiday, no sick day. A wave of regret washes over you. You realise their stellar performance came at the cost of their wellbeing. If you knew this was about to happen, you’d have done something to help, maybe sent them on a relaxing vacation, stat. But now it’s too late, and the repercussions are heavy.

Here’s where the problem lies

You run a team of motivated individuals you’ve worked hard to hand-pick and hire. We totally get it: building a team is hard — it takes blood, sweat and tears. Retaining them is harder, and losing even one member will pinch.

But d’you know what would make that pinch unbearable? If you lose them for all the wrong reasons, reasons you could’ve addressed. Like burnout.

Burnout isn’t right, but it’s normalised and makes for unsustainable workplaces and unmotivated teams. Nobody wants that — least of all, your team themselves.

Here’s how we tried to fix it 

Watched any sports lately? Ten to one, there was a player or two on their end-of-season rest period, cooling down or charging up for a fresh start. Why not apply the same logic to your team, to ensure your performers get to rest and don’t burn themselves out?

A modern workplace like yours definitely calls for keeping your teammates happy and engaged at work. It’s only then that they produce their best work, which helps you win big in business. And that’s where Pause comes in. 

Pause automagically reminds every team member to take a break if they haven’t in, say, the past 6 weeks. Sometimes the team might brush it off to focus on the task at hand. Then the reminder shifts to you so you’re able to nudge, cajole, even low-key threaten a hardworking team member to take a well-deserved break. 

Behind the scenes

We pride ourselves on making software obvious. That involves building thoughtfully and doing all the heavy lifting so that, for our users, using Pause is a breeze.

Here’s a glimpse at the principles that guided us and how we made the Burnout Leave feature a no-brainer. 

Identify those who haven't gone on a break in a while with Pause, a leave management and team planning tool.
Identify those who haven’t gone on a break in a while

Choose between solving for existing problems or anticipated ones

There are two ways to approach building features. One, you look at lagging indicators and solve those if necessary. The good news is that you don’t bother the user unnecessarily; the bad news is that by the time you’ve fixed the problem, the damage is done. 

Two, you look at leading indicators and solve them preemptively. You’re encouraging action to avoid a problem; on the other hand, you might be bombarding the user with solutions to a problem that might not exist at all.

You’ve also got to be mindful of the user’s needs and be clever about your intervention timing so that you’re not polluting the signal with noise.

Build to prevent, not to correct

We chose the second route when dealing with burnout leaves because the traditional approach to burnout looks like this: Burn out. Big yikes. Take a day off. Come back to more work. Burn out. Rinse and repeat.

Taking a hard left from this approach seemed even more promising when one of our customers said during a chat, “Why would you wait for people to get burnt out and then give them a time-off option? Why not proactively nudge them to take time off first to avoid burnout later?”  

They were right — taking the bull by the horns does more good than cleaning up after the infernal creature. But we were mindful of:

  1. Not bothering the user for 6 weeks as a default, so they’re not bombarded
  2. Giving the user the option to change the reminder’s frequency, or opt-out entirely

We want to be able to avoid burnout completely, by creating situations where it has no room. That means building to prevent, not correct, all the while keeping our users at the forefront.

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