The fast route to burnout
We all know what burnout looks like — the stressed out middle manager who’s had it with his team and his targets and books the next flight to Mauritius, the deputy head teacher who’s had one parent’s evening too many and sets up a yoga practice on Ibiza, the city banker who works 15 hour days in a state of near permanent panic, the working mum…perpetually juggling demands on her time, always running late, always feeling on the back foot. But is this a true depiction of the reality of burnout? Do we really understand the route to burnout and the ways we can take an exit before it becomes too late, both as employers and employees?
In our recently published report “Working out burnout”, Talking Talent offers an in-depth study to get to the heart of what triggers burnout with professionals in UK businesses, identifying trends, attitudes and behaviours across family set-ups, industries and seniority of position, as well as offering key insights for employers on preventative approaches to burnout.
The context for this research is an increased risk of social, emotional, psychological and physical distress as employees wrestle with more complex and stressful lives. How well has society equipped its citizens with skills to respond to these pressures? A reluctance to show weakness, and a reliance on a ‘Be Strong’ attitude, or a form of ‘Blitz Spirit’ may work for brief periods of time. However, burnout is an inevitable risk of our relentless drive for more productivity. The reality of our ‘always on’ cultures makes mental and physical illness more likely and more apparent.
Talking Talent’s research shows three key pressure points for organisations to look at:
1. Wearing down working parents
The research found that over two-thirds (67%) of working parents feel worn out by work and the environment in which they work in. That’s 10% higher than for all employees.
And the gap is wider for men at work with 72% of working dads claiming to be physically and emotionally worn out by their work and working environment, compared to 51% for working men who do not have children.
2. Senior managers are the ‘squeezed middle’ at work
Some 70% of senior managers feel worn out by the type of work they do and the environment in which they work. 57% of all workers feel that way.
60% of senior managers say they drag themselves to work and have trouble getting started once they arrive — 20% higher than for all workers. And 43% of senior managers do not think clearly at work, compared with 31% of all workers.
3. Graduates need permission to speak out
Admitting to feelings of burnout and allowing these feelings to be acceptable are imperative for us all in addressing this issue. Particularly for the next generation of employees entering the workplace. Almost 3 in 5 (57%) graduate workers feel worn out by the type of work and the environment in which they work in. But more worryingly, they are less likely to feel comfortable reaching out to their employer when experiencing burnout (42% said they wouldn’t comfortable with this, compared with 33% for all employees).
We all want to do well at work. But what are the key ingredients to do this without damaging ourselves in the process? The answer from this research points to employees taking responsibility for their own well-being, and for organisations to take a much more proactive stance to support the holistic wellbeing of their employees. Although organisations and leaders cannot fix employees wellbeing, they can facilitate the conditions in which individuals can learn to manage their own wellbeing better. That might be through modelling compassionate leadership, or through a greater understanding of the way in which wellbeing issues show up in the workplace.
Our work coaching women, working parents and management provides a rich base of experience through which issues of wellbeing and the risk of burnout are increasingly apparent. We believe that the stakes here are high. Unless organisations are brave enough to address the holistic picture in relation to wellbeing, then they risk undermining any positive momentum they might have achieved through inclusion, diversity and gender, or through cultural and leadership development.
Read the Talking Talent Report — “Working out burnout”. Download it here.