Balance in work is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.

– Betsy Jacobson

How Can I Help You When I’m Exhausted Too?

Under the best of circumstances, work can be exhausting. Too many projects, conflicting deadlines, and resource shortages may combine to cause stress and anxiety and drain our energy. (Have you noticed that while there are often resource shortages, there’s never a shortage of projects?)

Mike Barzacchini

How to Help Team Members Avoid or Recover From Exhaustion

I’ve helped lead teams for nearly three decades, through reductions in force, mergers, reorganizations, and most recently, a global pandemic. The following five practices have helped me help my colleagues to survive and succeed through ongoing changes and stressors of the workplace:

  1. I first need to make sure I’m taking care of myself. I can’t very well help a colleague manage their stress and fatigue if I’m not able to manage my own. My own wellbeing must be a priority.
  2. Next, I try to be present and pay attention. One of my mantras is work the day, don’t let my day work me. If I’m working my day, I’m attuned to the people around me. Who needs help? Who’s facing a challenge? How may I help?
  3. The next step is to listen openly and actively. So many times we want to jump to the solution. Our reflex may be to try to “fix” things, when what our colleague really needs is someone who will listen. One of the leadership muscles I’ve grown over the years is to help people find their own solutions by simply being there to listen. Often workplace fatigue and dissatisfaction come from a feeling of not being acknowledged. A practice of open listening helps to build trust and lets your colleague know that they matter and that they are heard.
  4. To do this, I make sure I’m connecting consistently, both formally and informally. For example, our team has a daily 9:30 a.m. check-in and every team member participates. It’s a great way to find out who may be overloaded and who may be able to help. It’s also a chance for us to celebrate and share successes. That’s energizing in itself!
  5. Finally, I try to lead with empathy and compassion. I may not fully understand the situation, but if I’m exercising empathy, I’m letting the other person know that I’m there to help. And here’s the thing about practicing empathy – it creates an energy of its own. I often leave a conversation where my colleague or I are reaching out in a way that conveys empathy and I find myself energized.

These five practices remind me that no matter my job or my role on the team, I seek to be of service. Letting that purpose guide my efforts helps me to effectively manage workplace stress and fatigue, for myself and others. 

Please join us!

What: #MTtalk
Where: Twitter
When: July 15 @ 1 p.m. ET (5 p.m. GMT / 10:30 p.m. IST)
Topic: Managing Exhausted Team Members
Host: @Mind_Tools

How Do You Help Exhausted Team Members?

In our upcoming #MTtalk Twitter Chat, we will explore how to help exhausted team members. Join us for this important topic in a safe discussion space!

In our Twitter poll, we asked what you do when you see an exhausted co-worker. Thirteen percent of you said you’re too tired to do anything, but a majority said you ask how you can help. See all the options and results here.

We’d love for you to participate in the chat, and the following questions may spark some thoughts in preparation for it:

  • What are the signs that your team member may be exhausted or stressed out?
  • What are some ways you might reach out to a fatigued colleague?
  • What resources might help a fatigued colleague?
  • How can you manage your own stress and fatigue so you can be there for your team member?
  • How might you handle a situation where a co-worker may not be aware that they are fatigued or stressed?


To help you prepare for the chat, we’ve compiled a list of resources for you to browse. (Note that you will need to be a Mind Tools Club or Corporate member to see all of the resources in full.)

Your Top Tips to Avoid Emotional Exhaustion at Work
Recovering From Burnout
Managing Your Boundaries
How to Find the Right Work-Life Balance
How to Be More Organized
Managing Stress
7 Ways to Keep Going When You Want to Give Up

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