Resolving Burnout at SVB
Key Contributions: scripted the interview, conducted five of seven interviews, and synthesis.
Silicon Valley Bank is a commercial bank that implements start-up culture and focuses on innovation. Being a competitive company, it also attracts many talents who are willing to work hard for their roles. Combined with the blurring work-life balance as a result of work-from-home, as well as the potential recession, the risk of employee burnout and drops in retention rate are, more than ever, crucial subjects for companies to address.
Three interviews with employees at SVB:
I ask participants to draw 1) what it is like to work at SVB either at the beginning or near the end of the interview; and 2) instructed them to draw a cup and asked them to write down what fills to the cup that leads to burnout "over-pour", and what empties the cup to help relieve burnout. Below is an example of what our participant created:
Example affinity map from a participant describing their burnout experience. Blue: direct quote; Green: my notes; Orange: key points
Burnout is becoming incapacitated from prolonged helplessness
Hear the Participants' Words Yourself
Dear Manager, from an Employee
Dear Junior Hire, from a Senior Associate
Our Recommended Solution
To answer this problem, we recommend a self-care calendar that can help facilitate ongoing conversations between the participants and their employees. The calendar would:
Block self-care times: Enable participants to be intentional about blocking and scheduling out hours where they'd engage in their basic necessities/do not want to be disturbed
Record each event: that the blocked time has been infringed upon and by whom. Each record can serve as a diary study point where participants can choose reactions, note to themselves how they felt. This is an important aspect as we'd like to offer companies ongoing tools to understand the events and experiences of its employees.
Include a self-care profile that can be shared: it asks employees to fill in what essentials they need to succeed in their work and empowers participants to be intentional about ongoing reflections that their fast-pace work-life pushes out. It also asks both managers and employees to create a care plan that employees would prioritize along with their job. The care plan and profile serve as ongoing conversation template for both parties to help hold themselves accountable.
Allow the data to be sent to HR: Participants can choose to share their self-care profile with HR as another layer of accountability if they so choose.
Example scenario of the calendar's workflow
Block Self Care Times: Jamie blocks out essential times and labels what she plans to do.
However, during her blocked time to exercise, she gets a notification from her manager
"insert quote about resentment"
Jamie records her comments and feelings of this event and saves this interaction as a datapoint in her Self-Care Profile. Data can also be sent to HR (or some appropriate third party that acts as witness).
If sent to HR, HR can forward the report to Jamie's managers accordingly at a level of detail that Jamie is comfortable with, as would be indicated on her "report preferences".
Jamie can send components of her Self-Care Profile to her manager as well. Manager then can use these cues and data to plan and initiate the conversation with Jamie to timely support her needs. Game plans can be recorded in the shared "Jamie Self Care Profile" that both Jamie and her manage have access to to support accountability.
The self-care calendar emphasizes these design constraints:
That the total workload is unlikely to change under a team due to the current multilayered culture of banking/fintech;
That, for our participants who experienced burnout, many were unaware of their limit or have not yet experienced why it might be important for them;
That often times when participants realize they've been burning out, that moment of realization occurs later than ideal, and often occurs in a way that is harmful for their well-being due to long term neglect.
That many were accepting of off-hours, especially with work-from-home policies due to COVID that allows them more flexibility and creativity with their time.
How does peer-to-peer competition play a role in work expectations, performance, and burnout?
How do managers deal with burnout?
Do managers communicate with one and another to share best practices on how to manage the firm's partner expectations?
To what extent is it possible to include self-care review as part of performance review?
For interviewees with senior experiences/expertise, it is sometime helpful to start an interview with a fun activity, such as drawing, to throw a curve ball. This could build rapport and quickly turn the interview more personable/less stiff.
The mentality of "I need to know this subject best" could isolate teammates and negatively affect the researcher's ability to bring people together in the design process. Instead, it might be more strategic to assume, "I need to help my team be curious of this subject".