On September 17, 2022, the AIANY WIA committee hosted the summer outing in Central Park. A forum on “Recognizing and Overcoming Burnout” was held at the picnic, facilitated by Rena Mande, Associate at PBDW Architects. The discussion was personal and collective and advocated for supportive work environments. The forum started with identifying the stages of burnout (exhaustion, cynicism, inefficacy), recognizing signs, and sharing stories of burnout. We also discussed the unique way that women and minorities are affected by burnout due to work environments that still operate from a systemically white male environment and that we exhaust ourselves trying to close the gap.

Stories and tips were shared on prevention and recovery from burnout, and the importance of starting to institute remedies at early stages and signs: breaking to go for walks, recognizing sleep issues, prioritizing physical and mental health, decompressing after deadlines, and breaking the stress cycle. A notable comment was that it’s easier to recoup from the physical ramifications of stress than the mental and that the time necessary to recover should not be overlooked. But it was important to note that rest, relaxation, and replenishment can ease the experience of burnout but don’t address the root cause.

Much of the discussion was focused on overcoming burnout and the ways work environments need to adjust to avoid employee burnout. Managing reasonable workloads, holding frequent check-ins, and identifying where or whom to go to when overwhelmed with work are critical to creating sustainable practices. Project schedules should build in breaks after deadlines and establish reasonable timelines for deliverables. There needs to be more communication with clients to manage expectations and some even brought up the potential of adding a clause in contracts to respect and take into consideration the well-being of the team in order to do their best work. To fully recognize the value of our work as architects, Partners need to advocate for employees and help establish just boundaries.

We’re glad to have held this forum as a followup to earlier AIANY WIA sessions on burnout and look forward to seeing more discussion and analysis on wellbeing and the workplace.