How to avoid burnout at work for RFP response teams

Organizations are using automation solutions to limit their employees' exposure to stress and implement strategies to avoid burnout at work.
Claire Whelan
7 min read
how to avoid burnout at work

Burnout has become increasingly common in all organizations and its effects can be far-reaching. When professionals feel overwhelmed by ongoing periods of stress and overwork they can become less productive and effective. So how can organizations limit their employees’ exposure to stress and implement strategies on how to avoid burnout at work?

What is burnout?

Stress is a common complaint in a work environment. Typically though, stress comes and goes. It might only occur a couple of times a year, during busy periods. Burnout, however, happens when those stressful periods merge into each other. Professionals facing continuous pressure and stress can burn out. Burnout can present itself in three different ways.

  • Feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically tired.
  • Feeling disconnected. Growing cynicism at work and feeling detached or negative from your colleagues.
  • Loss of efficacy. You question your ability to do your job properly.

How common is burnout at work?

Burnout isn’t new. But it has become more widespread in recent years as businesses face increasing challenges. In this environment, employees are feeling more pressure and stress than ever before. A recent survey of 10,000 professionals revealed that 70% had experienced burnout in the past year.

Burnout is widespread and affects people in all professions. However, workers in high-pressure roles including RFP response teams, medical professionals and those in the finance industry often face higher-than-average levels of burnout. There is a direct link between heavy workloads with intense, unrelenting pressure, and incidents of burnout. 

“There is a direct link between heavy workloads with intense, unrelenting pressure, and incidents of burnout.”

Burnout is becoming common among proposal teams

In the proposal writing function, time-pressured, high-stakes work is par for the course. The proposal process can be complex, especially if it’s for an indefinite duration/indefinite quantity (IDIQ). RFPs like these can run to over 150 pages and be worth tens of billions of dollars. Proposal teams regularly manage large and complex proposals such as these. The stakes are high and time to respond is limited. This puts a significant toll on the entire proposal team, but especially the program and proposal managers. 

Labor-intensive parts of the proposal process

A program manager is responsible for the execution of a program. They are also responsible for delivering the product or service to a customer. In their role, they manage, track, and report program costs and schedules. They are responsible for compiling and maintaining the risk register, and they estimate the necessary resources required. A program manager needs to be detail-oriented and to be familiar with how things work. They are also the contact point for customers and internal stakeholders. This means they must be able to manage people and expectations.

Meanwhile, a proposal manager is responsible for responding to RFPs. As head of the proposal team, they devise the proposal project plan. They build the compliance matrix and responsibility matrix. They perform gap analysis and crucially, they determine if they are to respond to an RFP or not. The role involves manual processes and long hours as deadlines for important RFPs approach. In this role, there are often quick turnaround times. Marcia Watson of Cherokee Federal explains that automation is a big win as it gives the proposal manager back time to spend on valuable tasks. It empowers them to be more strategic. She said: 

“You’re not opening up more time so that you can do more proposals. You’re opening up more time, so you can make that proposal better and increase your Pwin for that individual opportunity.”

And the role of the proposal manager is evolving. They are seen more as a strategic leader.  This has led the proposal manager to take on additional responsibilities. Some may even be doubling up as capture managers. While this is a robust indictment of their role, it has increased the pressure they face day-to-day. They must still continue their core responsibilities, all while delivering new strategic thinking and planning. This compounds the pressure under which they operate.

The toll of burnout on RFP response teams 

A significant eight out of 10 professionals reported incidents of overwork, burnout, or emotional distress. Of the 1,750 survey respondents across 40 countries, over half (57%) were proposal managers. This figure tallies with a survey we conducted among registrants of our VT webinar. There, we noted that 85% said burnout was a serious concern in their function and team.

Proposal managers have to manage people and a complex process, and many lack a clear RFP response process. Their role is a challenging one full of labor-intensive tasks and tight deadlines. Despite this, and despite the technological advances of recent years, many organizations still use manual processes. But there is another way.

We recently spoke to Mairi Morrison, CEO of APMP UK about how to avoid burnout in proposal management. She shared her research and valuable strategies for sustaining productivity and well-being. She discussed the causes of burnout
and its impact on proposal managers and teams. She also shared practical tools and techniques for preventing and managing burnout. This session gave tips and tools on how to avoid burnout and thrive in your role. 

How automation can help avoid burnout at work?

Automation is making an impact in several industries. Financial organizations, for example, are making use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate paper-based, manual tasks. These repetitive, recurring tasks, such as processing invoices, take considerable time. This makes them an ideal candidate for RPA, where software technology takes over the task from a finance professional.  This frees up the employee to work on more value-adding tasks. In fact, 73% of IT leaders say automation has led to a time saving of between 10% and 50%.  

This is not insignificant. Time is in short supply for many workers. And for those suffering from burnout, time is an important commodity. Freeing up the time they need to spend on administrative or repetitive tasks will give them breathing space. This will make a huge difference to proposal or program managers who need to create compelling proposals. Their brains are freed from time-related stress allowing them to think more strategically and critically.

AI-powered Automation

While RPA is effective, automation powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) is smarter and more intuitive. The technology behaves and makes decisions in a similar way to a human worker. The introduction of ChatGPT is a great example of this.

Automation powered by AI can handle more complex, time-intensive tasks that form part of the proposal writing process. Here is an example of some of the tasks that can be automated:

  • Compiling the compliance matrix
  • Building the responsibility matrix
  • Conducting a gap analysis
  • Assisting with risk management
  • Creating and updating the requirements traceability matrix
  • Conducting past performance data calls
  • Communicating with and updating the proposal team
  • Keeping track of scope creep

These tasks are typically performed by a program or proposal manager before the proposal writing even begins. All of these tasks involve sifting through a substantial amount of data. These are laborious, and when working to tight deadlines, they can increase the strain on proposal managers.

How to avoid burnout with VT Docs

VT Docs is proposal software powered by AI. This powerful technology automates manual tasks in the rfp response process. The time spent on those initial tasks is vastly reduced. That means the proposal manager has more time to spend on perfecting the proposal. They can dedicate their time to creating compelling and compliant proposals, and winning more business.

Proposal software can help maintain consistency and accuracy in the proposal writing process. Reducing the need for team members to spend excessive time on revisions and corrections.

Proposal software reduces the workload and improves the efficiency of the proposal creation process. It can help RFP response teams avoid burnout and maintain their productivity and focus.

Here are some of the key tasks that VT Docs automates.

Compliance matrix

With VT Docs proposal managers can quickly compile a compliance matrix by automating the time-heavy shredding process. Instead of copying and pasting into spreadsheets, they can complete a shred with just one click of a button. 

Responsibility matrix

By using VT Docs to build a dictionary of relevant keywords proposal managers can automate the responsibility matrix. The technology scans each RFP for team-specific keywords. It can then generate a responsibility matrix, which highlights instances of the keywords broken down by team.  

Win themes

A win theme is an important part of your proposal. They reinforce your ability to meet specific proposal requirements. New Discovery in VT Docs groups keywords by theme. This means proposal managers can quickly investigate multiple documents and discover misalignments or gaps. Previously, this process was done manually and involved hours of sifting through documents looking for key phrases or words.

Gap analysis

Proposal managers can easily compare an RFP with previous proposals to find experience and reusable content. With this quantitative approach, proposal managers can improve their ability to identify gaps. The analysis flags keyword frequency across multiple proposals, all at once. That means managers can spot misalignment at a glance and rule out entire proposals right away.

Risk management

VT Docs can also identify keywords or phrases that a proposal manager can deem risky. Chickasaw Nations Industries, for example, uses VT Docs for its shred process. The technology flags risky language in the RFP and separates the terms into different categories – tax, legal, accounting, insurance, and compliance for example. This dramatically reduces the time they spend on identifying potential risks, and arguably makes the process more accurate and efficient.


To be effective, a requirements traceability matrix needs to be updated regularly. As a product moves through its phases different requirements arise. By automating notifications, the program manager can alert relevant parties. Everyone is up to date, and it doesn’t require the program manager to send out multiple alerts.

How to avoid burnout with automation

We know burnout is on the rise, but automation is also becoming more common. By using RFP software, organizations can take a simple but effective step toward reducing burnout among their proposal teams. With so much depending on proposals to win new government contracts, investing in automation software is certainly worthy of consideration.

RFP response teams can be susceptible to burnout due to the stress and long hours often involved in preparing a successful bid. However, by utilizing automation solutions such as VT Docs, the team can streamline its process.

Automated tasks provide a huge time-saving benefit for busy teams when it comes to mundane, repetitious work that requires accuracy and high attention to detail. This doesn’t take away from the value of a proposal manager. It enhances the processes and quality of what they need to review and empowers them to be more strategic in how they move through the tasks.

Integrating VT Docs into your existing proposal process supports your team every step of the way so you can focus on growth.


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