In the Trenches: Fighting Employee Burnout
This winter has been a brutally nasty one for much of the United States. For an air travel-assistance service like ours, inclement weather is actually a good thing — because it brings us business — but it also creates some real challenges. I’m currently wondering, for example, how best to combat employee fatigue.
We’re used to working long hours whenever there’s a big storm. We get a lot more calls for urgent assistance, and it’s pretty exhausting. Our concierges find flight after flight experiencing problems, which forces them to do a lot of extra work than on a normal day. Our travel architects end up supporting them and fielding urgent calls as they come in. It is a challenge for everyone, but our concierges get hit the hardest.
The good news is that weather events usually come and go, so we ramp up to a fever pitch for a couple of days and then everyone takes a breather afterward. But this year the weather has been relentless: We’ve had storm after storm hit in rapid succession. We aren’t getting a break, which is really tough on everyone. I realized the extent of it last week when, for the first time I can remember, nobody wanted to pick up a trip.
You see, our concierges are independent contractors. When a client signs up for our service within a week of the scheduled departure, we send the itinerary to our concierges and ask who wants the job (to monitor and assist if anything goes wrong). Someone usually accepts within minutes. But last week we had a trip that involved travel during a storm — and nobody wanted it. The thought of helping one more person was just too draining!
So, I handled the job myself. That’s not a problem, per se. What is a problem is having our people get so overworked that they burn out. I sent a note to the team and encouraged them to take some time off if they’re feeling beat. We could always reassign trips to someone else while they recharge.
Nobody has taken me up on my offer yet, so all I can do now is hope that the storms subside for a little while. Is that too much to ask? (Yeah, I know.)
Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.