Fighting Burnout Together as a Design Team

How is your product going to solve a user’s problems, if their main ‘problem solver’ is having difficulties working on it themselves?

7 Hours a day

Quick! Compare burnout with Covid-19.

  • Destroying a company’s productivity (though many would argue that it is even more destructive than the pandemic because during the lockdown you can still work from home, but I digress)
  • Not good for your team’s physical (and emotional) health.
  • Highly contagious within the same environment

Let’s just say this in conclusion: Burnout is never a good sign in your team.

One of our burnout countermeasures: Pool table and awesome views!

Self-destructive nature of… us

Imagine being a product designer who just started this new exciting project with tight timelines.

You would think about work all the time. The hidden anxiety of being told from the client as “not good enough” would always loom around the corner and keep us up at night. Design is subjective right? Who would know that your next solution wouldn’t be a total flop in their eyes?

So to prevent that, you have been staring at those beautiful Dribbble shots and reading 20 Design case study articles. The constant struggles to be relevant in the industry are stressing you out as much as the actual work itself. You lose track of time and your current project at work begins to consume you.

My work can be better.

Next thing you know, you will have spent another 4 hours tinkering with your work until morning, only to be disappointed by the outcome the day after and begin the cycle again, ad infinitum.

Overnight working is not a good sign

Within this recurring behaviour, it will just be a matter of time before you realise you are in too deep, and it will eventually cause you to burn out in the end.

Help your team member find the causes

So you got together at your end-of-week design meeting and someone said:
Say if you're the team leader, what would you do?

Perhaps you're being nice and the project was not that urgent. You'd advise them to take a vacation. Maybe have someone replaced him/her in the meantime.

What if you're short on staff and couldn’t let up on the workload now? You may wave them off with a firm assurance that nothing is wrong, and this is pretty normal for a designer.

But is that actually true?

“Meh, I've been there before, it'll pass, don't worry about it”

To be painfully honest, you're currently not seeing burnout as a problem.The real problem for you may be the project timeline or the availability of resources within the team.
Is this what you actually think?

The thought by itself is a  management mindset - a little less 'human' and a bit more 'business' oriented. Further misunderstanding of the problem could lead to more and more potential problems, e.g., people leaving, unproductive work which could damage team morale and further hinder productivity.

Get it (solved) together

So how do we mitigate this potential risk of people burning out?

Here at OOZOU, as a member of a flat-hierarchy design team,  we dive into whatever's bothering our colleagues causing them to overwork and potentially cause a burnout.

Our famous 1-1 meeting
The analysis of the problem could be derived by asking them more and digging deeper into the problem:

  • Are the clients being difficult?
  • Are you being pressured to deliver work while there are internal changes constantly?
  • Have you underestimated your time to finish the work?

Getting to the core of the actual problems from our designers is the key to our next step which is to create a sustainable solution to the problem.

What we did

These solutions included but were not limited to:

  • Team-wide adjustments of how to deliver our work (Which is why we extensively use version control features on our handoff process).
  • The daily hour limit for designers to prevent overtime stress.
  • Fun activities and an outlet for our design itch (like dribbble shots and design challenges) to hone our skills and shift our mind from work.

We’re constantly iterating on how to further improve the work-life balance of our team so that they are happy working within this fast-paced industry together.

Looking for a new challenge? Join Our Team

Working towards the betterment of our industry

Throughout all the challenges that we have faced over the past year, it was a fun and rewarding time setting up the OOZOU design team policies to help prevent burnout.

We're doing it together

Seeing as we are tailoring our workflow to fit both business’ and our own needs without sacrificing work quality in the process, we as design community members can be proud knowing that we are building towards an ideal world of good design practices where no burnout is necessary. It sure was worth it in the end.

Ready to start your project? Contact Us

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Gavin Chiemsombat
I'm a full-time Product Designer (and a Front-end enthusiast) at OOZOU in Bangkok, Thailand

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January 22nd, 2021
I like the way when OOZOU focus on the work-life balance of the team.

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