Many of us are no stranger to burnout. We have in the past felt it creep up on us, or seen it impact our colleagues, spouses, and friends. With rising costs, the impact of inflation, the aftermath of the pandemic, navigating hybrid work forces, compliance requirements, resource challenges, additional demands from industry, etc., the question of burnout isn’t if for C-Suite professionals, but sadly, if not mitigated, when.
CEOs and top management tend to let burnout grow due to the nature of their position, until it unfortunately becomes a major issue.
Forbes claims that “seven in 10 employees reported feelings of burnout in 2022”. The online portal cites a Deloitte survey of over 2,100 employees and C-level executives in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia, which found that “nearly 70 per cent of the C-suite are seriously considering quitting for a job that better supports their well-being.”
The lack of work-life balance, an inability to disconnect from the office and blurred boundaries are all major contributors. According to a study by Indeed, those who work from home are more likely to say burnout worsened over the course of the pandemic, particularly as there is no clear distinction between work and personal life.
Pressure and burn-out sometimes trigger what is known as the imposter syndrome, the feeling of anxiety and the inability to experience internal satisfaction, despite being high-performing in external, objective ways. This unfortunately causes some to lose heart and feel demotivated, leading to burnout.
Unfortunately, burnout affects more than those who experience it, but also those around them, mainly their direct reports and family members, causing a ripple effect where every aspect of one’s life is affected.
An article published by Reclaim.ai cites that “63.4 per cent of people are burnt out because they just don’t have enough time to get their actual work done. This is 3.5 per cent higher than the second highest burnout contributor of notification and distraction fatigue at 59.9 per cent, which is probably contributing to the lack of time for focused work, alongside too many meetings which came in at 48.2 per cent” .
Not surprisingly, the competence of the individual is seldom the cause of burnout. On the contrary, those who share a great passion and interest for what they do, being by nature a sensitive individual, a perfectionist, and the hunger to excel, can all cause you to fall victim of burnout.
Unfortunately, it happens to the best of us, particularly those who find themselves absorbing everyone’s energy, constantly firefighting operational matters as well as serving as ‘agony aunts’ for their direct reports or bosses.
Short-termism is also another major culprit. Whether self-imposed or from the board of directors, there seems to be an immediate need to see results at the detrimental of long-term planning. We tend to lose focus of what we’d like to achieve, getting lost in achieving quick wins, causing anxiety and a constant sense of being rushed. Whilst growth is important, this needs to be sustainable and organic rather than rushed.
CEOs and those in the C-Suite have been placed in that role for competency rather than simple execution, given their invaluable insights. Try to delegate the mundane, daily task that provide little joy to your everyday, and focus on discussions and processes that inspire you and provide personal satisfaction. Sometimes when we fail to surround ourselves with people we trust, delegation is tough, and this very much happens when we find ourselves occupying a role with individuals who have come before us, yet it is important that we step out of the operational day-to-day running. Continued innovation is one of the most important growth factors for business, so if you can get out of the weeds of daily tasks to make space for more creativity, it can not only provide benefits to the company but also help prevent your own burnout.
A mentor or coach can help you dissect your personal and work-related reasons for feeling burned out. Business coaches and mentors are usually trained in the art of questioning, enabling you to dig deep and understand the how and why.
As the age old saying goes, it gets lonely at the top, particularly when you are tied with a degree of confidentiality or your spouse/partner refuses that you speak about work at home, and rightly so, if you need to switch. You may find that your own way of thinking can be revitalized—and your strategy more innovative if your thoughts are shared with trusted members of senior management.
Switching off completely and not just by simply putting an ‘out-of-office’ can help you gain well needed rest and the motivational freshness to get back to it.
In such cases, leading by example is key. How can we expect others to allow us to disconnect, if we constantly contact them when they are supposedly out of office?
Block off time in your diary for reflection and planning. This is the right time to close off loose strings, but also to take stock of your current mental state, your priorities, tasks that need to be followed up, as well as those that can be delegated to enable you to focus on your true remit.
Whilst some may think that further education or following a course may tire them further, it may actually be the revitalizing lift you may need to see things from a different angle as well as get the much-needed inspiration. This does not necessarily mean following a formal course at university but simply listening to a podcast or reading a booking that inspires you in business and life.
Remember that you are only as strong as your mental state, so do your best to nurture, not only for the benefit of your business, but also for those that surround you, and ultimately yourself. A happy individual can climb a mountain, only if he or she feels, she is mentally able to do it. Good luck!
This does not entail slowing down your productivity, but it concerns setting boundaries between personal life and work.
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