When was the last time you heard about a Fortune 500 leader telling all employees – almost 119,000 of them – to take the day off? For me, the answer is … well, never.

But that’s exactly what happened last week when Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced a company-wide holiday on May 22. The reason? To address burnout specifically related to working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Google also began displaying a public service announcement offering coping tips for stress, and as the owner of YouTube, it’s making videos on mindfulness and wellbeing more widely available.

So, what can leaders learn from Google’s bold move to battle burnout? There is plenty, starting with how important it is to acknowledge and support employees in ways that benefit their wellbeing. The holiday also highlights the importance of mindfulness and the value of time off.


How to Battle Pandemic-Related Burnout


Give yourself (and others) a break. Burnout was already a growing concern in the workplace way before COVID-19. But the uncertainty of what lies ahead for us, both professionally and personally, has us all dealing with a unique kind of mental fatigue. Individuals are affected by it in different ways, so it’s important to be aware of how employees are coping, and realize that productivity may vary as a result.

I recently described my own experience over the last few months this way: it’s like boxing with a ghost. Give employees and yourself time to deal with mental fatigue – and all the emotions that come with it.

Ask for help. While most leaders are used to managing at least some remote team members or business partners, very few of us were prepared for managing a mostly, if not completely, remote workforce. You may have team members that are thriving, but you’ll most likely have other workers struggling. Even the greatest of leaders are having to adjust and learn new ways of conducting business. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice, help, and support from colleagues, mentors, or executive coaches. In the meantime, take a look at a recently published Q&A that addresses some of the struggles my clients have been dealing with.

Learn new things. Many of my clients express a desire to stimulate their brains in new ways, especially when struggling to combat burnout. After all, there are only so many TikTok videos a person can absorb each day. Podcasts are a great go-to resource for continued growth and learning. If you’re interested in ones that deal specifically with leadership and team building, take some time to check out these podcasts that are perfect for managers, executives, and business owners.

Model dynamic crisis leadership. What does a good leader do in times of crisis? Over the last few months, we’ve been able to learn from some of the best. In 6 Tips for Effective Crisis Leadership, I provide some great examples of people in the news who have inspired, informed, and contributed during this difficult time. In addition, I explain how things like staying connected and sharing your vision can make a positive impact.

Take it seriously. Did you know that burnout is now included in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) World Health Organization’s handbook? It’s a very real and serious issue in the workplace that negatively affects productivity. Workers are increasingly overwhelmed, over-stressed, and overloaded, which leads straight down the path to burnout. By knowing the physical, emotional, and behavioral signs of this condition, leaders can better support employees and encourage healthy practices.

Practice mindfulness. Just as Google is making more mindfulness and wellbeing YouTube videos available, leaders can model and support such practices within teams. But where do you start? I’m an avid supporter of apps because they’re easily accessible, no matter where you are. Every little thing you and your employees can do throughout each day to help relieve stress will improve overall health and well being. Take a look at my top eight mindfulness and meditation apps here.


Did Google Get it Right?

What do you think about Google’s bold move to schedule a company-wide holiday? Do you have any other examples of leaders who are handling pandemic-related burnout in effective or unusual ways? Tell us what you think, and share your related experiences or resources below.


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