Community Manager Burnout and How to Prevent it

Earlier this year, we briefly touched on the subject of community manager burnout and the consequences that it might have on a workspace.

As we recently observed in an article, human beings are social creatures, which is why many individuals continue to choose going into a workplace instead of working from home. Flexible workspaces have increased in popularity because of this, they’ve made it their goal to nurture and foster communities that are inclusive, collaborative, and supportive of all members.

Part of the success of any flexible workspace is measured by how much time members want to spend in it — whether doing work or simply interacting with one another. Community managers are the ones responsible for leading this effort and encouraging individuals to keep coming back to the space. They’re the ones in charge of setting and maintaining a healthy workspace environment, the ones that make sure all members feel at home, productive, and inspired.

It’s no light responsibility, and when mismanaged or overdone it can quickly lead to burnout.

Tony Bacigalupo, from New Work Cities, explains that “community manager burnout happens when people try to take on too much. It’s extremely common because people are being put into roles where they’re expected to be providers of community. The problem is that no one can really provide community like it’s a service; true community is cultivated among peers.”

Iris Kavanagh, community expert, agrees with Tony that burnout occurs when people try to do too much. “The main reason I have seen for burnout is a staffer who is trying to be too much for too many people, and trying to do too much at once.” However, unlike Tony, she believes that burnout is “a common risk, but not a common occurrence.”

The problem is that “community managers are constantly trying really hard to get people to participate in things, putting a lot of work into developing and promoting programs, and feeling like they’re constantly struggling to maintain everything together,” observes Tony.

Burnout doesn’t come without its warning signs, however. According to Tony, who experienced burnout first hand, some of the red flags to look for are:

  • If you notice or feel like you’re the only one doing all the planning
  • If you’re constantly trying to get people to do things and struggling in getting them to do so
  • If you repeatedly miss breaks during the day
  • If you feel anxious and stressed over a long period of time, especially if people comment on it

As flexible workspace owners and operators, it’s your responsibility to vouch for your employees’ wellbeing and success. Community managers are a part of the nucleus of any workspace, so their physical and mental wellbeing is fundamental for a workspace to succeed; the consequences of them feeling burnt out and that they’re hitting a wall could be ‘catastrophic,’ to put it in Tony’s words.

“When one person makes themselves the singular lynchpin of a community, their inevitable burnout carries a strong chance of a cultural vacuum in its wake. All of a sudden, a community goes from having lots going on to having little or nothing. The whole thing collapses because it was built on an unsustainable foundation: the willpower of one individual.”

Thankfully, burnout can be prevented.

Tony and Iris’ tips to preventing burnout:

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  • Operators can help prevent community manager burnout by encouraging them to take regular breaks, to take their vacation time, and to be active in something that feeds them outside of work.
  • Make sure there is enough staff per square footage and number of members.
  • Have an open door management policy so that staff feel comfortable in reaching out to you or your center manager.
  • Operators must employ a mindset of being facilitators of a leaderful community amongst the members themselves. When members are leading their own programs and recruiting their friends and neighbors to join, the task of community buildings gets easier and is more effective.
  • Remember that members have tremendous passions, interests, and skills — if you allocate just a fraction of the countless hours they spend enhancing your community into simply talking and really listening to what they have to say, you might be surprised at how quickly you’re able to see the results.

In the end it narrows down to the fact that it’s not about building community, it’s about cultivating it.  “If you’re doing it right, you’re not actually responsible for much of anything in terms of day-to-day activities; you’re busy encouraging, ,facilitating, and educating others.

“Get out of the mindset that you have to provide for people. You’ll garner a lot more respect and longevity in your members if you challenge them to bring their best selves and help you to realize your mutual vision of a better workplace.” – Tony Bacigalupo