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Burnout Epidemic: The hidden cost of workplace stress

Professor Sir Cary Cooper discusses beating burnout and how to keep the fire burning following the shock resignation of New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Burnout is a sneaky little devil that can creep up on you when you least expect it. Just ask New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who recently resigned from her position citing burnout. She announced that she “has nothing left in the tank” and that she can no longer do the job justice, leaving many of us wondering, “Could burnout happen to me too?”

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including a heavy workload, lack of control over work, lack of social support, and an unclear sense of purpose. The shift to hybrid working, which combines remote and in-person work, can also contribute to burnout as it can blur the boundaries between work and home life, leading to prolonged stress.

And let’s face it, the job of a Prime Minister is no walk in the park. It’s a high-stress, high-pressure position that requires endless energy and resilience. But even the most resilient among us can fall victim to burnout if we’re not careful.

So, what can we do to prevent burnout? First, it’s important for organisations to understand the causes of burnout and how to manage it in the workplace. Employers should provide their employees with adequate support, set clear expectations, and promote a positive work-life balance. They should also look to deliver training and resources to help managers keep pressure positive for their teams as well as building awareness around their natural style and the impact this has on their team’s wellbeing experience.

As for employees, it’s important to take responsibility for our own wellbeing. We should set boundaries to protect our time and energy, and learn to recognise the signs of burnout and take steps to address it before it becomes a serious issue.

But let’s be real, it’s not always easy to do this on our own. Robertson Cooper’s Energy Management training programme focuses on helping your employees to pay attention to, and be in control of, their own energy levels whilst our Keeping Pressure Positive and Managing Impact training programmes are designed to help leaders and their teams effectively manage burnout in the workplace. Our manager programmes provide the awareness and capability they need to ensure they are influencing wellbeing in a positive way – and not pushing their teams to burnout or rust-out.

Let’s make sure we keep our tanks full and our engines running smoothly, before burnout takes us down for the count.