Dear In-House Diva: How to Avoid with Burnout

In-House DivaDear In-House Diva,

I work at a small university where I’m the only designer supporting the corporate communications department. I’ve been here for almost 5 years and really like my job, but it’s been almost impossible for me to take a personal day — whether I’m sick or not — let alone a vacation, and I’m starting to get burned-out! I’ve spoken with my manager a few times about this, and he understands the situation but doesn’t seem to ever do much about it. Do you have any suggestions?


Burned-out in Buffalo,


Dear Jenna,

I hear ya girl! When you’re a one-woman show, it becomes more of a challenge managing the workflow when you’ve got no backup to cover your back. Not only is there no one to assist, but also no one to be there when you’re not. Who’s going to cover for you when your car breaks down and you can’t make that 9 am marketing meeting? Or when you’re out for a week with the flu? Or you need to leave early for a doctor’s appointment? And how about planning a vacation? How’s that going to happen without a back-up plan?

Well, there a few things you can do to lighten the load and avoid burnout, and working remotely is one of them. Today, more and more companies are offering this option. Check with your boss. This may be a viable solution for those times when health issues, car trouble or bad weather conditions keep you from making it into the office.

Another option is to establish a good working relationship with a creative staffing agency so when life happens, you’re prepared and your clients stay happy. There are a few ways you can approach this. One approach is to develop a partnership with a freelance designer who can cover for you on an as-needed basis. This will take some time to find the right fit because you’ll need someone who has the flexibility and availability to essentially be “on call.”

Maybe you have a friend who is a freelance designer who would appreciate the extra work. A friend of mine has the ability to contract with a designer/production freelancer on an as-needed basis to help balance her workload but has to keep one eye on the budget. For the most part, she simply plans ahead, so projects are either wrapped up or continue moving along without her until she returns. Another approach would be to contract with an agency on retainer so a team of designers would be available at a moment’s notice. Either way, it’s important to have an understudy in the wings.

No budget to cover these expenses? Well, this is where your keen customer service skills come into play. Meet with your stakeholders and see if they’re able to budget for freelance support when needed. I was able to convince a few key clients that it would be to their advantage if they had funds available, in the form of a blanket Purchase Order, for freelance support in the event that no one on my team is available. This preemptive action gave them peace of mind knowing there would be no disruption in business continuity and missed deadlines. It was an easy sell.

Good luck!


In-House Designer’s Resource Pack
This comprehensive collection will help you–and your team–continue to succeed. In this pack, you’ll find inspiration and creativity exercises, two webcast sessions, a case study, 2013 In-House Design Award winners and more to keep you energized.