Corporate burnout affecting the mental health of 20 percent of top performers in UK businesses

The mental health of a fifth of the top performing leaders of UK businesses is affected by corporate burnout, according to a five-year in-depth study into the condition.

The organisation behind the research is urging businesses to review how they monitor their workforce for signs of corporate burnout, ahead of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week on the 8th to the 14th May.

“Corporate burnout is as an addictive, overwhelming exhaustion and a complete inability to function,” explains Dr Howard G Awbery, who carried out the research and is MD of Awbery, a company specialising in delivering high-impact leadership and management development programmes and wellbeing strategies.

“Improving knowledge and strategies for mental as well as physical wellbeing is critical as pressure on senior executives builds. We are urging businesses to review how their organisation monitor its workforce for signs of corporate burnout and mental health issues.

“Employers should promote good mental health practices and provide support for employees struggling with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Corporate burnout is a unique condition that results in a complete inability to function and our research found that 20 percent of high performing middle and senior leaders are affected by it. A change in corporate cultures to better understand the importance of employee health and wellbeing, will reduce it.

“The more I research corporate burnout in organisations, the more amazed I am at our headlong race to deplete the rapidly diminishing talent pool,” adds Dr Awbery.

“A significant number of high flyers burn out during the first ten years of their career and I believe organisations need to take hold of this wasteful situation by analysing corporate cultures, better understand the importance of employee health and wellbeing, eradicate the catalysts that create burnout, and support those unable to help themselves.”

Corporate burnout mustn’t be confused with workplace stress, explains Dr Awbery: “We need to stop describing everyday stress as burnout. Burnout is a complete inability to function, to get out of bed, or undertake work in any capacity. It involves an addictive overwhelming exhaustion, resulting in disillusionment and a dysfunctional attitude towards work, colleagues and family. Describing everyday stress as burnout denigrates the seriousness of the condition and mitigates the culpability of the organisations who have stood by and watched it happen.”

Key research findings:
• Burnout predominantly happens to high performers and is sometimes described as ‘overachiever syndrome’;
• The conditions for burnout are created by organisations or circumstances;
• Burnout predominantly happens among 20 to 30 year olds and occurs during the first ten years of a career, following a subtle downward spiral;
• Immune systems slowly shut down resulting in repeated illness when leaders are burning out;
• Lower back or neck pains, increased use of painkillers and caffeine, and disrupted sleep patterns are all early signs of burnout;
• Changes in eating habits and increased alcohol consumption are common;
• Often the only person who doesn’t recognise the downward spiral in performance is the leader themselves.

“Possibly the most important thing organisations can do is look at employees’ workload and ask honestly if this is a realistic expectation,” says Dr Awbery. “Organisations and their people would do well to embrace the mantra ‘work hard, recover very hard, repeat’. Identifying a number of capable ‘recovery buddies’ or ‘mental health first aiders’ within an organisation will help provide invaluable support to leaders who are in the wake of corporate burnout.”

The signs of corporate burnout
• Feelings of futility and alienation
• Deterioration in performance
• Short temper
• Inability to ‘turn off’
• Reduced immune system and memory.

How to tackle corporate burnout
• Review how your organisation monitors its workforce for signs of corporate burnout and mental health issues
• Identify and train individuals to be ‘Recovery Buddies’ or ‘Mental Health First Aiders’
• Enhance appraisal/mentoring training to include identifying early signs of corporate burnout, performance issues and behavioural changes
• Review top 10 achiever workloads
• Provide flexible, annual, work patterns based on operational demands
• Consider if 24/7 communication is necessary
• Promote a well-being culture of healthy eating and exercise

Awbery is one of the UK’s leaders in the creation of leadership and management, HR and coaching solutions. It delivers high-impact leadership and management development programmes, HR and coaching solutions to multi-national organisations.

For more information: www.awberymanagement.co.uk, Tel: 01283 703828, and follow @AwberyTweet

For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week and follow #MHAW17 on Twitter