Avoid Project Burnout | PMAlliance Project Management Blog

The end of the year is often a dangerous time for project teams. Budget responsibilities may be weighing on PMP®s as the current fiscal cycle comes to a close and new projections are needed for the months ahead. Performance reviews across past projects and staffing considerations for future efforts are also frequently in full swing as the year winds down, giving the Project Team’s leadership group more tasks to churn through while still trying to focus on moving their projects forward.

Burnout is a common byproduct of the year-end madness. It’s only a short-term problem for most Project Teams, but some teams find themselves on the cusp of exhaustion far too frequently. This creates a bad situation for the organization and there are other problems that may follow when burnout becomes the norm.

An outside consultancy can help your team escape the burnout cycle and forge a more sustainable approach. If your project office is weighing the potential costs and benefits of working with an experienced external partner, consider all the ways chronic burnout is taking a toll on your organization.

Burnout and its fallout
Tight project timelines and schedules with immovable milestone dates can be difficult to support when internal resources are lean. However, it’s unreasonable to expect that these challenges be addressed by asking the project to work an unrelenting string of long days or to sacrifice their time off. It’s not only a recipe for mistakes—exhausted professionals eventually lose their focus and errors often occur as a result—it’s also a significant drain on the team’s morale. Both are worrisome harbingers of bigger problems for the Project Team, potentially leading to a further erosion of the engagement team members are able to muster and a weakening of their commitment to remain with the organization.

Unnecessary external labor costs
As the project team runs out of gas, the schedule of activities will almost certainly begin to slip. When that happens, other labor costs often increase to compensate. In an effort to bring progress back on track, contractors already committed to the project may be asked to extend their working hours or modify their on-site schedule to match the pattern set by the in-house team. Any off-hours work is typically billed at a higher rate, even if the total number of hours devoted to the project doesn’t increase. These unexpected fees have the potential to cripple the project’s budget and outside partners may also be less willing to contribute to future projects, knowing their own resources will be drained beyond any original expectations.

Skyrocketing overtime costs
Overtime rules likely apply for some of the team’s internal employees. If draining the last bit of energy these workers possess isn’t enough of a risk, the unplanned expenditures associated with paying them for their overtime hours can quickly overwhelm the approved funding. Perhaps more concerning is when organizations begin to turn a blind eye to overtime expenditures because they don’t see any other option and long hours eventually become routine. This doesn’t solve the team’s resource or funding problems. Instead, it only drives one project after another over budget and increases the likelihood that high-performing employees will become burned out and seek opportunities elsewhere.

By partnering with an experienced outside consultancy, organizations can avoid the problems associated with burnout and the cost overages that follow. An external firm using a proven project management methodology will ensure that activity sequencing and resource management efforts are closely aligned, allowing labor and tasks to be more efficiently assigned. This approach maintains reasonable work schedules for employees, adheres to approved budgets, and retains valuable expertise within the team.

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