Well-Being Check-Ins: How To Prevent Staff Burnout

In: BlogDate: Sep 25, 2020By: Billy Burgess

Burnout is a real issue in the creative media industry. To help prevent this, Nikki Gatenby introduced well-being check-ins. Nikki is the co-owner and managing director of Propellernet, a digital marketing agency that's been named as one of the top 10 Best Places to Work in the UK for six years running.

In this two-minute video from the 2018 Happy Workplaces Conference, Nikki shares the four questions used to prevent burnout – are you taking your holiday? Are you taking your Propel days (their day a month to innovate)? Are you working with our resident coach? And do you know about our health plan?

Hi, we are Happy

We are leading a movement to create happy, empowered and productive workplaces.

How can we help you and your people to find joy in at least 80% of your work?

More about Happy

Well-Being Check-Ins: How To Prevent Staff Burn Out

If your purpose is what you’re working towards, your values are how you’re going to get there. Everyone has well-honed bullshit detectors these days; these things have got to be lived to be believed. These are our values:

Innovation • Creativity • Adventure • Fun • Wellbeing

Innovation and creativity are what clients tend to buy us for. Adventure, fun, and wellbeing is what they tend to feel. Now, when people come into the business when new starters arrive, we do values based recruitment, which I’m sure most of you do, and I ask: tell me about the innovations you’re into, where’s your creativity, show me your spirit of adventure, are you fun to be with, and do you take care of yourself? We’ve got a real burnout issue in the creative media industry; it’s almost as bad as doctors and lawyers, probably because we sell our time. I don’t want anyone in my team to suffer burnout because you can’t be productive in that way and it’s really damaging to health overall.

One of the things we do to live and breathe values, particularly well-being, is well-being check-ins. These don’t cost anything, it’s just a conversation. We ask about four things: are you taking your holiday? We all need time out. If we don’t take time out we’re going to hit burnout, so at quarterly points throughout the year we make sure people are taking their holiday. We’re not robots - yet. We need to make sure we can recharge.

Are you taking your Propel days? I’d love people to nick this idea. We give people a day a month to go and propel themselves forward - so that’s 12 days a year. I’m not particularly interested in what they’re doing that day, although I’m happy to talk about it; what I’m more interested in is what happens when they come back into the business and how they can supercharge what we’re doing.

Thirdly: are you working with our resident coach? Like any high performance team, I believe that everyone has the ability to get better, so we’ve got our resident coach in the business. It’s totally voluntary to sign up, but if people aren’t working with our coach and aren’t taking their propel days, I seriously start to wonder and have a conversation with them about if they’re taking their own development seriously. Engagement isn’t all about being nice to people; engagement’s about challenge as well and making people see that they can be the best version of themselves.

Lastly, we have a health cash plan. Again, I don’t want to know what people are using it for but I want to know they know how to use it and they can keep themselves as well as possible.

The thing about burnout is that it not only jams productivity, but also tarnishes overall health. This puts it squarely at odds with Propellernet’s company values, which are innovation, creativity, adventure, fun, and wellbeing.

To safeguard these values (and the final one in particular), Nikki started doing regular well-being check-ins, centred around four key questions:

  1. Are you taking your holiday? “We all need time out. If we don’t take time out we’re going to hit burnout, so at quarterly points throughout the year we make sure people are taking their holiday,” says Nikki.
  2. Are you taking your Propel days? “We give people a day a month to go and propel themselves forward. So that’s 12 days a year.”
  3. Are you working with our resident coach? “I believe that everyone has the ability to get better, so we’ve got our resident coach in the business. Engagement isn’t all about being nice to people; engagement’s about challenge as well and making people see that they can be the best version of themselves.”
  4. Are you taking advantage of the health cash plan? “I don’t want to know what people are using it for, but I want to know they know how to use it and they can keep themselves as well as possible.”

Related resources

Keep informed about happy workplaces

Sign up to Henry's monthly Happy Manifesto newsletter, full of tips and inspiration to help you to create a happy, engaged workplace.

Sign up here

Happy Manifesto book cover

Learn the 10 core principles to create a happy and engaged workplace in Henry Stewart's book, the Happy Manifesto.

Download your free eBook

About Nikki

During her time at Propellernet, Nikki has overseen its transformation from a small, Brighton-based digital marketing agency to a globally operating powerhouse. She has led a team that has tripled margin, quadrupled revenue and generated ten times more profit. And she has proved beyond all doubt that putting people first creates genuine business success.

Buy recordings from the 2020 Happy Workplaces Conference

This year's conference took place on 30th July via Zoom. We were delighted to welcome James Shaw, a minister in the New Zealand government on putting wellbeing at the heart of policy and Ynzo van Zanten of Tony's Chocolonely on creating a culture of happiness to achieve an important mission (ending slavery in the chocolate industry).

If you missed the event, we are now offering recordings from the day for just £25 per person for individual access. Please ask us for details if you'd like to purchase access for your entire organisation.

Find out more and buy the recordings