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A Minute with Marschall

You Have Permission to Pause in June

May 22nd, 2022

June – the month when the lazy days of summer are just beginning – is far from lazy for us here at Michigan Medicine. To add to our already heavy workloads, June is traditionally the month we complete our professional evaluations, and also hear our Vital Voices engagement survey results, followed by action planning.

These important annual events are designed to support our employees’ professional growth and build strong teams. Yet they require a time commitment and extra work in a single month, which can add more pressure in these days of stress and burnout. 

After some thoughtful discussion with our Time & Stress Management Task Force Team, as well as my direct reports (the MLT -Michigan Medicine Leadership Team), we came up with suggestions that we hope will alleviate some stressors, allowing us the extra bandwidth to dedicate to performance evaluations.

Extended Timeline for Vital Voices    

With the support of Dee Hunt and her HR team, we decided to give the entire organization permission to pause on sharing and reviewing the Vital Voices survey results so we can take one task off everyone’s plate in June and give more focus to our evaluations.

Initially we planned for senior leaders to review and share this information in May, with a request for all managers to take time to share with their teams and begin action planning in June. Instead, the MLT will spend additional time to analyze the results from a big picture perspective and develop an action plan around one key organization-wide area of focus, based on what you shared with us in the survey. We will announce this organizational action plan in July and then ask team leaders to share results and begin action planning. More details will be shared after we finalize the adjusted timeline. 

This will free up your time to devote to evaluations. We support this pause because we want to be sure that everyone has the capacity to do this well. We expect every leader who manages a team to spend at least 30 minutes developing each team member’s evaluation and at least 30 minutes discussing that valuation with each team member. Individual contributors should spend a similar amount of time considering and discussing their contributions to the organization, as well as their goals and professional development.

Keep in mind that evaluations now include wellbeing goals within the department-specific objectives section. While not mandatory, they are good suggestions for reducing team and individual burnout.

Permission to Declare “No Meeting Day”   

Even with the survey timeline extension, I understand that many of you are overwhelmed with everyday work. I can relate! Therefore, we give you permission to pause standing meetings and observe a “No Meeting Day” each week during June.  

Leaders, bring your teams together to decide:

  • which day could be devoted to a “No Meeting Day” each week.
  • What standing meetings or team projects can be put on hold during this month.

Individually, review your “to do” lists. Consider what provides the most value and what won’t be missed. Could you take something off the list, for now or indefinitely? Leaders should support team members in prioritizing this work.

Focus on Priorities

How you carve out time will look and feel different for each individual and each team. For some of you on the frontline, it may be most important to prioritize five minutes to pause and reflect between tasks. Others, like me, find it useful to block off some time on their calendar each week for tasks that take more focus, such as evaluations. When I designate that time, it comes with a promise to not distract myself with emails, calls or new meeting requests. When I let myself become distracted, that focus time is lost, with little to show for it.

Prioritizing can be hard. If you need help freeing up time ask these 12-15 prompting questions.

Evaluations can also challenge us. For tools and courses for self and team evaluations, click here.

This is a pause, not a stop. That means it is flexible. Your decision doesn’t need to last forever – just one month. That said, if you take the time to prioritize your work for the month and discover a more efficient way to spend your, or your team’s time, for the long term, you have permission to postpone!  

I also ask that, if you find barriers to pausing or prioritizing this month, please share what you are experiencing. We may not be able to solve that immediate issue, but it may help inform how we can work together to break down these barriers. Equally, please share any successes you have with your permission to pause in June.

June will never be a “lazy” time for any of us, but I hope we all feel a little less stressed and more grounded during our “permission to pause” month.

Do you have suggestions for pausing or prioritizing in June? Are you experiencing barriers or challenges in freeing up time to focus on yourself or your team? Share your thoughts in the discussion box below.

10 Comments

  • My leadership team is planning on an August meeting free month. We hope the organization leadership will support this again this year.

    • Marschall Runge

      I’m glad your team has decided to make “no meeting August” a tradition! While it doesn’t work for all groups, we had very good feedback from many about this last year. We (the well-being task force team) will be considering supporting it for the entire organization again this year. In the meantime, I hope you and your team will benefit from the adjustments we have made for June. If you have any best practices for pausing, please share here.

    • Marschall Runge

      You’re welcome. I hope you get the opportunity to pause and recharge in June. If you have suggestions for how to find time for wellness, or on prioritizing your work to save time, please let us know in the discussion box below.

  • I think the intentions here are good – but it is missing the mark. SO many of us don’t have the ability to pause (short staffed, no shortage of work, etc) – and, frankly, not being able to see our departments engagement survey results makes the ‘valuation’ process more difficult – since the burnout and stress is impacting performance as well as professional development and thus conversations about wellness, retainment, etc.

    • Marschall Runge

      I am glad you are recognizing positive intent in these adjustments to our usual timing. We know that the delay won’t resolve everyone’s concerns but, in some cases, especially for those with many front-line employees, this adjustment reduces workload and stress. Secondly, we wanted to extend the survey time to analyze the results more thoroughly and identify one or two key organization-wide areas of focus. I appreciate that you are eager to review your team’s results and begin working on action plans, but we believe this more thoughtful approach should result in more meaningful action planning across the organization. In addition, this gives leaders more time to train on a new action planning tool provided by Press Ganey. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  • Thank you for recognizing burnout and stress as one of the main issues facing both staff and managers, and greatly appreciate the consideration given for that.

    Since most staff have been working and continue to work remotely and spend much less time in the office, there is reduced to minimal time spent on interpersonal interaction or other non-work related activities which usually is known to help relieve some stress. All of the staff time is primarily and only spent on work, meeting deadlines, getting deliverables, etc.

    Pre-COVID, some of the work time was spent on travel to meetings, team lunches, a social water cooler break, etc., giving staff small breaks and social connectivity which acted as a stress reducer. The jumping from zoom-to-zoom meetings has lead to increased time spent only on just stressors — meetings/completing work/getting deliverables ready/tasks checkoffs; although the cost for the resulting increase in productivity is burnout, isolation, stress, and more.

    Appreciate your recognition of that and the pausing and prioritizing.

    • Marschall Runge

      Thank you for these additional thoughts about burnout and stress in remote/hybrid environments. The task team has spent a lot of time discussing these concerns as well. There have been some good suggestions from teams on how to support wellness remotely. A few are shared in this article. We have also provided some excellent tips for reducing Zoom fatigue here. If you have any additional suggestions, please share them in the comment box. Thank you for your input.

  • Allowing two hours to each team member to dedicate to their valuations, for quiet, contemplative time.

    • Marschall Runge

      Thank you, Dana, for this information. It’s wonderful that you are making this “pause for reflection” time available to your team members. Keep us updated on how the month goes for your team.

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