We demand a lot out of our officers. Officer duties range from monthly reports, and responding to daily emails, to thinking up the next great plotline while refereeing conflicts between angry players. It is emotionally and intellectually exhausting work, and if storytellers and coordinators aren’t wary of the toll it takes on their everyday life, it can quickly lead to officer burnout.
What officers can do for themselves to avoid burnout
Separate your game time, work time, and home time
Often we hear about the Work-Life Balance, the notion that we need to make sure to segregate our work time and our home time, and keep work stresses from infiltrating our happiness at home. This applies to MES activities and officer duties as well. Set aside officer hours and a few hours during the week when you’re going to work on MES stuff, such as answering emails, going over approvals, thinking about plotlines, talking with players, writing reports, etc. Restrict the time you spend on these activities to just this assigned time.
Let the players know that you are only available to talk about stuff concerning your officer duties during these times. If they call outside of these times and want to talk to you about the latest movie out, great. If they call outside of these times and want to talk about their appeal, politely ask them to call you when you have office hours, or send you an email that you will read and reply to during those officer hours. No matter how flustered, angry, or impatient they may be to have an answer immediately, it’s ok to tell a player they need to wait another day or so until your schedule allows for you to address their concerns. This is how you prevent yourself from being dragged around every time a player calls with impatient demands of your time.
Separating your work, home and MES time doesn’t have to just be about the time on the clock you take towards MES activities, it also means not thinking about it when you’re spending time on other things as well. If you’re at work, don’t sit there stressing about how last night’s game went or how you’re going to resolve a conflict. And when you’re at home, spending time with family, don’t let worries or thoughts about game intrude on your family time. Many of the tips and tricks used to prevent burnout from your real-world job can be applied to your volunteer job too.
Learn to delegate. Not every aspect of your position needs to be handled personally, especially when it comes to positions higher up in the club. Make sure to delegate where you can, and let your assistants take on some of the burden of the job. This will go a long way towards retaining your sanity, and getting other folks involved. Those assistants are not just helping you they are also learning how to do that job as someone who could potentially take over when you step down, or in an emergency when you can’t be there or there’s a conflict of interest.
Take time for you
A little relaxation goes a long way. For me personally, I don’t answer emails over the weekend. I will attend game, and do the fun game stuff, but I will avoid answering emails or tending to officer duties during the weekend. The weekend is my time to relax, spend time with family, and get things done for my home life. That is time I take for me and my family every week away from any obligations outside my home. Never be afraid to take time for you, especially if you feel yourself starting to dread your MES activities, schedule in time for you. This can be as simple as a 30 minute walk after work, giving you time to wind down before going on to address your officer tasks, or taking a night out of the week for date night with your honey.
Remember, we’re all human, we all have lives away from the MES. Sometimes life or work sneaks up on us and sabotages our pretendy fun-time making it impossible for us to work on anything that week. That’s ok. It’s ok to need a little extra time to review someone’s application, or get back to a player about their prestige log, but it’s also really important that you communicate that to the player. If they don’t hear from you for two weeks, likely they’re going to assume you forgot about them and get pissed. Make sure you shoot out a quick email to a list or individuals and let them know what’s going on and what the delay is. People are generally much more forgiving when you make them aware of the issues. And, it will go a long way towards easing your mind too.
Know your limits
Know when it’s time for you to take a break from your officer duties, know when it’s time for you to step down, and be reasonable about how much time you have to dedicate to the position. If you find yourself struggling every week to find the time to answer even the simplest emails from your players, then maybe you need to step away from the position and let someone else fill those shoes. Even if we have the best of intentions we don’t always have the time to dedicate to our favorite pastimes. We all wish we have more hours in the day to get things done, and there are many, many articles giving tips on effective time management because we all struggle with finding enough time to do all the things we want. Be smart about the amount of time you put into the club, and know when the position is asking too much of you.
What players can do for their officers to avoid burnout
Ok, time to fess up. There’s more than a little bit of a contribution we as players make towards officer burnout. A domain that is constantly arguing through endless arbitrations, or running appeals through the storyteller chain like they were on sale, can really burn through officers. Here are a few things we as players can do to help preserve the drive and sanity of our precious, precious officers.
Only involve an officer when it is necessary
Not every dispute in the MES needs to go through the coordinator, just like not every combat needs to go through 5 hours of throwing chops. If you have a conflict with another player, try resolving it on your own first, before asking an officer to become involved. Or perhaps you need assistance with your prestige log, or with an application on the database, try asking if there’s an assistant or another player who is willing to help you. There’s lots of way to find answers and help in the club without camping out on an officer’s front steps.
Don’t be a jerk.
Really everyone in the club should treat their fellow members with courtesy and respect.
Most especially the people who are volunteering their time and energy to help the game. If you have criticism of how an officer is doing, be constructive, be professional. Don’t yell at them, or call them names, or be hurtful about it. You are free to dislike that officer or how they do their job, but you are not free to be crappy about it. Officers are people too, and sometimes they mess up. When that happens, and it affects you, it sucks. Being an ass to the officer doesn’t help, and over time officers who are harassed by players no longer want to be officers. We lose our most valuable resource, which are volunteers who work way harder than the pretend money (prestige) is worth.
The officers of the MES are not your parents, or your guidance counselor, or your therapist. If you have a complaint or problem about the club, that you have tried solving on your own but honestly need the officer to address (approving your PC, reviewing your prestige log, etc.) then talk with them and let them know about your issue.
Don’t hound them
It is acceptable to request a status update when you are waiting on something from an officer if you have not heard back from them after couple of days. It is not acceptable to text 30 times a day asking if they approved your whatzit, or answered your email, or whatever. Use your best judgement when requesting updates. If you feel that you’re getting ignored or the officer in question is not replying to you in a timely manner, let them know how you are feeling (politely). Communication about how you are feeling will inform the officer in a constructive way and let that officer respond without the aggression of constant harassment.
What can officers do to help their staff avoid burnout
Work with them to balance their workload
Think about how much work is assigned to a volunteer before asking them to take on a new project. When that project comes up in discussion, ask them if they are able to take it and listen to their response. If needed find them more help or assign a project to someone else.
Make Volunteering Fun
Take an extra minute to share a joke during a discussion or organize an outing just for the volunteers if you are meeting face to face. Schedule time at conventions to get together for a drink or a sandwich. Take a few minutes to know them for who they are, not just what they can do for the organization.
Say Thank You to Your Volunteers
Nothing means more than letting someone know their work is appreciated by those it helps. Take the time to let them know you recognize the effort they have put in. Take a few minutes to say thank you. This is a volunteer organization. People put in time to have fun when volunteering stops being fun, they stop volunteering. Take the time to let your volunteers know they are appreciated.