Marketing Department Burning Out? Use These Tips to Revive Your Team

Is your marketing department experiencing burnout and stress?

Thanks to the coronavirus (COVID-19), chief marketing officers (CMOs), directors of marketing, small business owners, and vice presidents were forced to toss out their marketing plans and pivot to operate in what some call the “new normal.”

But being constantly stressed out, tired, and anxious isn’t normal.

I reached out to those who run marketing departments, life coaches, psychologists, and productivity coaches to gather tips on how to motivate marketing teams during the pandemic and moving forward and how to keep them from burning out. Here’s what they have to say.

Preventing Burnout: 13 Experts Give You Tips to Keep Your Marketing Department Strong

David Shar, PhD Candidate – Business Psychology; SHRM-SCP, IlluminatePMC

Review your policies (both written & unwritten) and eliminate anything that is standing in the way of your employee’s success! So much has changed over the past months and yet many of us are still hooked on to old policies. When employees need to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get the job done, that exhausts them and can lead to burnout.

Make time to support your employees and for them to support each other! We often take for granted how often a casual bump-in in the office will give you an opportunity for a quick check in (“How’s your mom doing?”… “How was your kids birthday?”… “How are you feeling about the new project?”). People need this kind of emotional support and sense of community now more than ever but we need to be more deliberate in making it happen. Managers should put 5, 10, or 15 minute “check in” times on the calendar to call individual employees and just check in – absent of any agenda.

Aaron McWilliams, Director of Marketing, 1Dental

A lot of people are under more stress now than they have been in a very long time, if ever. They are worried about their safety, their family’s safety, and the added challenge of adjusting to working from home. If you can offer an empathetic ear, hear out your team, understand what they need, and help them out, they are much more likely to stay motivated during this time. When people don’t feel heard, they often lose motivation and passion for work. Scheduling one-on-one meetings with your team can get a dialogue going about what needs to be done to reach their performance goals. Being a supportive leader will take your team and company further during these uncertain times.

Anna Caldwell, Content Marketer & Copywriter, Accredited Debt Relief

If it’s time for a software upgrade, don’t put it off. Giving your team new tools that will enhance their work experience can be a big boost for your team.

If your department recently experienced layoffs or a reorganization your team may spend their work hours worried about their futures rather than focusing on their work. Whether your company outlook is good or bad, be honest with your team about the state of things. If things are rough, you can foster a “we’re all in this together” attitude that helps everyone invest fully in fighting for the survival of the company by continuing to innovate and do their best work.

Encourage innovation by prioritizing idea-sharing regardless of job title or role. Successful marketing departments are not closed ecosystems. Make sure your team members feel empowered to share ideas, even when they might fall outside their typical scope of work.

John Ross, President & CEO, Test Prep Insight

Toss out your KPIs for the year and create some new ones! COVID has made a number of KPIs completely irrelevant anyway, so turn the system on its head.. Sit down with each of your marketers and get their thoughts on what they’d like to see as a new KPI. Ask them for any ideas they may have on how to expand business and explore those ideas with them. Allowing employees to create their own KPIs empowers them and gives them a sense of ownership. This should help to reinvigorate them through the end of the year and beyond.

Sarah Ohanesian, Chief Marketing Officer turned Productivity Coach, SO Productive

Employees want to feel that they are a valuable asset to your team and company. Boring work that’s always in their comfort zone and feels meaningless doesn’t get them there. I recommend that managers push their teams to try new things and stretch them out of their comfort zone. This could be as simple as asking for their opinions and insights or as big as giving them a whole new project to manage. Challenging your team will help them grow and feel more empowered at the same time.

It’s important for employees to understand the bigger picture and the end result of their work. A Gallup survey found that only four in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that the mission or the purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important! Employers should communicate the value and role each individual employees’ work plays for the greater company vision.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls

Give yourself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), meditating, taking a walk, or just turning off my phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give myself. You can fill a calendar to stay busy but what matters most is having impact on people’s lives and that has nothing to do with volume of activity, it is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy not more.

Cameron Thaxton, Digital Marketing Director, High10 Digital

One solution we have discovered in staying motivated is to actually limit our communications throughout the day to select hourly blocks, allowing for more regular chunks of what we call ‘locking in’.

An example of this might look like:

9-10 am | Open Communication – phone calls, emails, text messages, etc..

10-11:30 am | 1st Lock in – no official communication outside of emergencies. Dedicate time to solo projects and critical thinking.

11:30 am – 2:00 pm | Open Communication – This block is typically reserved for zoom/google-hangouts. More face-to-face time on calls to brainstorm, work on projects, handle in-house tasks, etc.

2-3:30 pm | 2nd Lock-In. – no official communication outside of emergencies. Dedicate time to solo projects and critical thinking.

3:30-5 pm | Open Communication – I use this time to follow up individually with team members on client campaigns and projects they are working on. This is where I hope to instill accountability for the ‘Lock-in’ times, asking what got done and checking on overall progress towards client KPIs.

While this system has been refined and evolved to match our specific team and their needs, I do feel that the basic idea of ‘locking-in’ would help many different organizations avoid the dreaded ‘zoom-fatigue’ that comes from virtual-meeting after virtual-meeting. Our team has expressed heightened productivity, greater cohesiveness, and an overall sense of happiness in the job they are doing.

It has not been easy from a leadership point of view; however, once we learned that we could trust our team and the work they are accomplishing, we felt that the transition to a remote working environment was no longer something to fear.

Janet Patterson, VP of Marketing Communications, Highway Title Loans

Brainstorming sessions always help to bring out the best of a team. If your team is struggling to stay motivated and their creativity has come to its saturation point, then we’d suggest adding a little twist to your brainstorming activities.

Ask your team members to pitch in their weirdest possible ideas. There are often irrational strategies that come to a creative mind, but they let go of it because it can’t work. When you make your team pitch such weird ideas, it’ll make the engagement span enjoyable and make room for more creativity. They’ll feel motivated, and the session would turn out to be fun as well.

Now, choose the weirdest idea amongst those all, and polish it further! This will motivate the person whose plan gets selected, and others would enjoy working on it too.

Everyone knows it’s not easy to maintain your productivity levels during this time of the pandemic, especially when working remotely. So, it is always good to celebrate small wins and moments. Set little targets for your team. It can be something as simple as achieving 100 more followers on a client’s social media page or achieving a sales target for the week. When that happens, reward yourself and your team with a day off the next day or maybe sending in gift cards to your team. This will make them feel appreciated and motivated at the same time. Small tokens of motivation can help your team keep moving.

Irina Georgieva, CEO, Enterprise League

My number one tip on how to approach employee motivation is to see your team members as individual and unique employees. Since companies are now faced with an unprecedented situation, the traditional motivation and reward systems may not be as effective anymore. Therefore it is important to adapt your motivation strategies to your employees’ needs.

Rethink your benefits and well-being packages. Ensure that these are more personalised, compassionate and inclusive of the needs of your employees. Some employees value more their social life and overall work life balance which is now endangered with the working from home practices. Introduce virtual happy hours which will give employees a chance to socialise outside of the usual work topics. If you want to allow people to go to the office, you may organise a one work from office day, where employees that want to go to the office can do so.

Additionally, home offices cause a lot of physical well-being problems such as eyesight issues or muscular/posture issues. Give your employees access to virtual exercise/gym classes or vouchers for well-being treatments. Explore what are the best benefits you can give to your employees to keep them happy and take care of their well-being even during working from home arrangements.

Owen Drury, Editor, ODDigital

Work overload is often a factor of burnout. Especially now, when most of the businesses are facing a financial crisis, profit loss, online transition, and many more — some employers demand that employees work longer hours with unrealistic load and deadline, at times for less money. What a headache! You haven’t started anything but you feel drained already, hoping to skip to the weekend really quick. Employees are humans too, like the bosses and CEOs. So adjust to cope with this pandemic but don’t go beyond your work agreement with the team.

In short, rest. Let us remember that even there’s no problem at work at all, we still have a private life with a fair share of stresses, shortcomings, difficult people, and situations. Health is wealth, there’s thousands of work but we only have one body. Give ourselves sufficient rest and balanced recreation. Also, let them enjoy the weekend – no work emails, please!

Jason Akatiff, Co-Founder, Boundery

I don’t think the idea of burnout is as simple as it seems. It’s not black or white. It is very hard to measure the level of someone’s burnout because everyone handles things differently. I notice my productivity levels drop and I become less motivated to push through my work when I work on one project or task for too long.

The obvious solutions to burnout are; take a vacation, change your environment, or incorporate small breaks into your schedule. From my experience, I can work much harder on a project that is new, exciting, and challenging. I am not one who thrives in repetitive environments.

Consistently having the opportunity to do something different and learn is highly rewarding for me and keeps me engaged longer. From an employee standpoint, I would recommend asking to be included in new projects or task forces.

Also, time blocking your schedule can help to keep the excitement alive. Making sure you are not overworking yourself by trying to keep up with different time zones if working with people from all over the world. I always stress the importance of rest and work-life balance to all of my employees.

When focusing on employee motivation, it is vital to make sure your employees feel appreciated and heard. Employees want to have a voice within the company; they don’t want to be taskmasters; they want to feel valued and needed.

Understanding their needs and developing systems that showcase that appreciation is key to employee happiness. Furthermore, managers need to stay on track with each employees’ development.

It is up to the manager to challenge each employee with a steady pace of growth that is pushing them to learn but not at the speed of being overwhelmed. If an employee doesn’t feel like he/she is learning or being challenged, they may begin to experience burnout. With that considered, if an employee feels he/she is being pushed to their limits by the speed of their growth, they may also experience burnout as the workload may become overwhelming for them. Besides, executives need to make sure there is a visible opportunity to grow within the company.

An employee should always have a viable position to be striving towards. It will motivate them to work harder as well as provide a visible success path within the company. Lastly, integrating core values into the company culture that support the team members and place value on their best interest as well as encourage open communication and feedback.

Cameron Mitchell, Life Coach/Director Of Marketing, B.R.E.A.D. Multi Media

To keep my team motivated, I offered them a small percentage of equity in the company. I have a marketing team of 5 people, and they are the most valuable assets of the company. A happy team is a productive team. After offering this incentive, I’ve noticed an increase in production and sales.

To deal with burnout, we’ve automated our operational system by upgrading and adding new software to speed up our process, and create an environment where we can work on the go from our smart phones. It has frees us up to spend a little more time with loved ones and to sleep better at night. Things are looking up and we are excited to see what 2021 has in store.

Michael Hammelburger, CEO, Cost Reduction Consultants

Millennials continue to disrupt norms in the workplace, and we can’t deny that the future of our company rests on their fickle outlook. In my observation, being a Millennial myself, I believe that it’s the changing corporate culture that makes them want to experience and prioritize career fulfillment rather than money. There are startups that revolutionize working culture for this new breed and Millennials will gravitate towards them because they know they have a choice.

Growing compassion in one’s workplace, for example, has a strong impact on the organization. When your prioritize diversity, individuality and inclusion, significant cultural shifts can take place.

Here are some of the ways I motivate our millennial staff.

I send them food delivery as a surprise gift for sticking with us in this time of pandemic. The restaurant industry has suffered a lot from their closure due the pandemic and now that protests are happening around the globe to condemn the death of George Floyd and so many other victims, it’s time we raise the morale of the black community by supporting their livelihood. As a CEO of a startup, I advocate buying from black-owned enterprises to show our support in their struggle for equality and provide meaning to the lives lost in this struggle. Here’s a list of of black-owned restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, food trucks and pop-ups compiled by the L.A. Times in a Google Sheet.

I enrolled them in online training sessions to Upskill despite working from home. This provides them with the assurance that our company is investing in their future. Finally, I regularly organize online team building activities to inspire them to foster teamwork in this most challenging times.

Final Thoughts

As a leader, it’s up to you to check-in with your marketing department to ensure they’re doing okay.

If they’re not, it’s your job to find out why. Take the time to listen to what each team member has to say. You may learn that they’re struggling and stressed out.

Use the tips above to help your marketing department to get relief from burnout.

You may find that attitudes turn around, KPIs and performances improve, and creativity soars.

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