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ANDY CHAVEZ, from page 1

yet. While this may be true for the most part, we’ve also learned that there are simple ways to train this supercomputer and encourage it to create positive habits via positive reinforcement (aka rewards). The most common and well known, tangible form of positive reinforcement in the workplace is merit-based bonuses. If you notice your employee putting in extra hours and effort to help you execute on your vision and build your company, you reward them at the end of the quarter/ year with additional compensation. From an employee’s perspective, this is always appreciated, but I don’t think it’s effective at combatting burnout. In Atomic Habits , James Clear explains that the more time there is between a reward and an action, the less effective our brains are at associating the two together to create a habit. Long-term rewards require more conscious thought and decision making from the employee to hold on to that motivation and put in the extra time necessary to claim the reward at the end of the period. Long-term rewards require more discipline and willpower. I suggest supplementing your long-term reward with a short-term reward that offers more frequent positive reinforcement of the behavior that the employee is displaying. My suggestion: if your employee is working late into the evening, allow them to order and expense dinner. It costs roughly $20 to have Chipotle delivered to wherever your employee is working, and it acts as an immediate reward and display of your appreciation for the additional effort that they are putting in. To the brain, the thought of working additional hours until the end of your bonus period is a much more daunting endeavor than working until your Chipotle arrives in an hour or two. Our brains are complex but creating and fostering productive habits can be simple. 3. Utilize locational cues if working from home. In Atomic Habits , Clear also explains that our brains use locations as “cues” that are to be followed by an action. In other words, our brains naturally associate certain locations with certain actions and/ or habits. (This is why the urge to use the restroom is amplified as you get closer to the toilet.) Before COVID, the locational cues for work versus relaxation were clear for most. Now those lines have been blurred and many are struggling to find and maintain a balance between work and life that is sustainable. For some, they may have found issues remaining productive at home with all of the distractions. For others, they may have been too successful in bringing their work home and now have issues finding time to unwind, causing them to feel more stressed and burned out than ever. Clear’s suggestion: create more precise locational cues within your home. This requires a bit of discipline, but it’s effective if you’re persistent and intentional. For me, this means that I no longer allow myself to bring my work laptop to my couch, bed, or dinner table. Those locations are used exclusively for leisure and relaxation. This also means that under no circumstances am I allowed to peruse social media or watch YouTube videos while sitting at my desk. That location is used to complete productive tasks and get work done. This method of separating work from relaxation when working from home requires a fair amount of discipline and an almost comically strict implementation of the ground rules (yes, you have to stand up and walk to your couch to scroll through Instagram). However, it becomes more habitual over time and has been an effective way for me to find a healthy work-life balance that promotes longevity and prevents burnout. There’s not a “one-size-fits-all” solution to combat burnout as every person is unique, but hopefully one of these suggestions proves to be useful to you. Andy Chavez, CM&AA is an advisor within Zweig Group’s M&A advisory services team. Contact him at

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