One of the best teams I’ve worked with was really competitive. They wanted to reach their Sprint Goal and felt proud of their ability to do so. However, this frequently led to overtime, especially in the last days of the iteration. This overtime was not evenly distributed. Some people — including myself — tended to push on into the evenings while others (wisely) went home to enjoy family time and relax. This was unhealthy and stressful. Although this team did not burn out, it easily could have.
“How do I prevent my high-performing team from burning out?” is a question that recently came up in a community meetup. It's an intriguing question because it starts from a positive situation. If you’ve ever been part of a high-performing team, you know how exhilarating it can be. But paradoxically, it's also a place where people for people to lose themselves in their work together and collapse under the strain — as I did.
In this post, I want to apply an evidence-based perspective to this question. What we do know from scientific research about high-performing teams and how they can burn people out? What can do to prevent that, or at least diminish the chance of it happening?