March 15, 2021

How executives and team leaders can use OKRs to help reduce burnout

Jenny Bowes
Jenny Bowes

Burnout is a huge problem for companies right now, especially as large parts of the global workforce continue to work remotely. Research cited in Forbes from a FlexJobs and Mental Health America survey of 1,500 people found that 75% of people have experienced burnout at work, with 40% stating that they have experienced burnout during the pandemic specifically. Thirty-seven percent also said that they are currently working longer hours than they did before the pandemic started.

While this research was carried out in America, it’s clear to see these trends being replicated across other countries and their workforces as well.

Burnout should be taken seriously. It’s more than just being busy at work, and has serious implications when it comes to productivity and employee wellbeing. So, as a leader what can you do to help reduce burnout? OKRs can help, and in today’s blog we talk to you about how OKRs can help you provide laser focus for your teams and help you to define what’s really important. 

Providing a spotlight 

The essence of OKRs is to provide laser focus on projects and goals that will provide growth, change or innovation. This laser focus allows teams to spotlight in on the priorities that can drive the organization forward. In contrast to this, floodlighting can cause real burnout. This is when little or no focus is given to priorities or you give OKRs to every function within the organization, and therefore team members have no clarity on the priorities they should be aligning behind.

By using OKRs you are asking your team to focus on a set number of priorities, rather than asking them to spread themselves too thinly across absolutely everything that needs to be worked on. Ultimately, you’re allowing team members to prioritize their work and say no to work that won’t make a difference. 

OKR tracking & confidence ratings 

An important part of the OKR tracking process is the monitoring of progress and confidence ratings within the cycle. Confidence ratings allow OKR owners to express their confidence in whether a key result will be met by the end of the cycle. This is not only important in terms of OKR planning, but also allows team members to express if they need additional support, which might be resources in terms of team members or financial support. Or, whether an external factor, such as a pandemic, is affecting the confidence rating of that OKR.

Regularly checking in with confidence ratings allows team leaders to assess whether their team members need additional support or whether they are potentially suffering from burnout because they simply have too much on their plate. 

The right environment for honest reflection 

The OKR framework provides the structure for focus, feedback and check-ins. However, if your team members don’t feel psychologically safe enough to share their feelings and potential concerns when it comes to OKR tracking, then you will ultimately never have a clear picture when it comes to staff morale, burnout levels and OKR progress.

Feedback check-ins provide a really powerful platform for sharing what’s gone well and what’s not gone so well. Effective feedback sessions really allow you to work through any concerns as a team and work on projects collaboratively to achieve OKR success.

It’s important to create an environment where concerns and opinions can be shared. If a team member is struggling to fit in OKR work, or they are being pulled in different directions, it’s important they feel safe enough to air these concerns, rather than hiding them and potentially becoming more and more stressed, which could eventually lead to burnout. You can read more about this subject in our blog, ‘Why a healthy workplace culture and behavior is essential for growth.’ 

What if I’m not working on OKRs?

Tracking the work of team members and providing a purpose for those team members not working on OKRs is also imperative to ensure you’re looking after the whole workforce. This is where KPIs can work really nicely alongside OKRs. 

KPIs allow you to track run rate activity, keeping track of regular performance measures. Whereas OKRs should be focused on growth, change or innovation projects. So while the feedback and check-in process is important for successful OKR implementation, it is also important to carry this feedback process across to your KPIs and the teams working on KPI performance. For example, you could check in on OKR progress one week and the next week check in on KPI progress, running on a bi-weekly schedule for both. This ensures you’re monitoring all team members and giving them open lines of communication should they have concerns.

In conclusion, OKRs can help leaders to reduce burnout by:

  • Providing a spotlight on what’s important and what’s not.
  • Encourage ongoing confidence ratings so you can keep track of how your teams are progressing.
  • Consider the workplace culture and environment your teams are working in – ensure they feel safe enough to speak their truth.
  • Offer purpose and feedback opportunities to team members who are and are not working on OKRs with a regular cadence of check-ins.


If you’re looking for guidance when it comes to OKR implementation or training, then look no further than team There Be Giants. We’re OKR geeks and have worked on numerous OKR implementations with organizations of different sizes from across the globe.


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