The impact of corporate burnout


Mental health and well-being has rocketed into the mainstream corporate agenda: What's the impact of always being on?


In the last few years, the issue of mental health and well-being has rocketed into the mainstream corporate agenda. Corporate burnout, executive stress and chronic fatigue are often mentioned in the press and by many City workers as an ongoing concern.

With the changing nature of how we work – we literally carry our work in our pockets – being “always on” is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, we now have the freedom to continue our work without being chained to our desks. But switching off and getting away from it all is increasingly difficult and to many an impossibility.

Right now, I’m a living example of this, I’m writing this blog having not slept properly for 17 days on the bounce, from my home at 5am. As a result, my mood has been low, and I’ve felt like I’ve had impaired decision making and clarity of thought. Fair to say, I’m looking forward to an early night tonight!

In our line of work, one of the key drivers for candidates looking to make a move is often work/life balance. Can that exist when your peers and competition seem to be driven to ever higher standards, longer hours and the quest for greater productivity? Myriad interviews with leading CEOs mention that their day often starts ridiculously early – a 4.30am or 5am start, often with a run, or a workout.

Despite often being held out as a badge of honour, I find this both depressing and worrying. Researchers and physicians have characterized burnout as a state of exhaustion, ineffectiveness, cynicism, and reduced personal fulfilment; these superhuman examples of leadership can often lead to very public meltdowns. We often hear of both the joys of leadership but also a sense of isolation and loneliness amongst Partners and CEOs, and some say it goes with the territory.

Unfortunately, it’s not only those at the top that suffer from this. Research suggests that a significant number of high fliers burn out in the first ten years of their career, with burnout predominantly happening among 20-30 year olds. What a waste of talent.

The drive and determination that enables high fliers to succeed is also what can push them over the edge. Fortunately, many organisations recognise this as a problem and are taking steps to tackle it. Whilst I’m not a fan of the label, the concept of ‘mindfulness’ seems to have entered the workplace with programmes to enable people to have some quiet time away from their engagements during the day.

Its aim is to help workers put things back into perspective and to focus on the now, rather than an endless to-do list. In writing this, I came across a concept called Mindapples – the concept of 5 a day for your mind.  Mindapples helps people talk and learn more about their minds, and encourages people to talk positively about their minds and to promote good habits of self-care. We go to the gym to exercise our bodies; surely we should be nurturing and exercising our minds in a similar way?

So as we head into the weekend, I’m looking forward to getting my 7 hours of sleep and trying to switch off. What will you be doing to ensure you get your (mind)apples?

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