Having a full schedule and high expectations for your work are part of any successful project management office (PMO) role. Sometimes, things can cross the line and begin to cause burnout, so you need to know what to look for in your office.

Everyone responds differently to stress and difficult times at work. Just because some people in your PMO are thriving with a full workload, doesn’t mean all the team are happy and coping well.

It’s important to understand the elements of your working environment that can cause issues for your PMO staff. With that, we’re going to look at:

  • Why you need to know the causes of PMO burnout
  • Some of the common reasons your PMO team can feel burnt out
  • Examples of how a PMO environment can trigger burnout

So you can become more aware of keeping your team motivated and satisfied.

Why is burnout important to understand?

Understanding the factors that go into causing a person to feel burnt out is the first step towards mitigating them and improving your working life.

What can trigger burnout in one person won’t always have the same effects on another. You need to have a dynamic understanding of burnout to make sure no one gets that far.

On a personal level also, being aware of the factors that cause burnout will help you spot issues before they arise. Knowing the causes of burnout will make it easier to adapt and allow you to put the brakes on before your mental and physical health can be affected. 

What are the main causes of burnout?

Burnout is usually a combination of factors that affect a person’s life. Workplace stress is the overall cause of professional burnout, and stresses have become more common with enforced working from home and external issues like the pandemic.

The main causes of burnout in general are:

  • A lack of control over your work, your projects, and how your input is used.
  • Shifting scope and unclear expectations and goals
  • Too much work that needs doing in the time allotted
  • Not enough support or skills to get the job done
  • An imbalance between work and home life

These are rather general and hard to plug into PMO activity, so we’re going to put them into some context.

What causes burnout in a PMO environment?

There are specific stressors that you need to be aware of when you work in or run a PMO. These can lead to one or more of your team getting burnt out, which will decrease your productivity in the long run.

  • Not enough input into projects – PMO and project staff need to have agency over their work, but micromanaging from the PMO leader or sponsor can be stressful and feel like there’s no trust
  • Scope creepwhen expectations and deliverables shift during a project, it can make you feel like previous work isn’t valued and that they’ve wasted time. It can also be tough to see even more work added to the Kanban board or sprint plan.
  • Poorly managed deadlines – letting a timeline get tight or not planning enough time for tasks can become very stressful for the people who have to work to them. It can feel like management doesn’t care about the people behind the process.
  • Badly managed resources – whether it’s asking someone to complete work outside of their training or not providing the right people at the right time to get a piece of work completed, you’re not offering the right support to workers, and this can make them despondent.
  • Ignoring the personal needs of the team – having overly strict absence policies, making it difficult to take annual leave, or expecting work outside of defined hours can all breed resentment for the office.

Each of these issues does have a resolution, as well as broader reforms that can help prevent burnout, which we’ll be looking at in the next post.

What causes PMO burnout?

It’s important to identify the causes of PMO burnout in your office so you can start to mitigate them. Awareness of the problems that your PMO team face in their work is the first step to making your office a pleasant place to work again.