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Burnout: Leaders recognize symptoms in themselves and employees

Fiona Stevenson
“My team is burnt out – and, to be honest, I think I am too.”
“I’m exhausted; we’re all exhausted.”
“We’re all overwhelmed – and it’s getting worse, not better.”

This is the feedback we’re hearing more and more from leaders across organizations – from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies – as we collectively approach the two-year mark of the mass disruption to the way we formerly worked.

Vacations, warmer weather, and the loosening of lockdown restrictions across many jurisdictions offered some respite over the summer months. But, now as the weather gets colder, and employees either continue to work remotely and/or dispersed from each other, or transition to hybrid working situations that present new challenges for connection and collaboration – they are once again seeing their energy and productivity levels decline – while dealing with increased feelings of cynicism or negativity in themselves and their colleagues.

According to the World Health Organization, Burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.

Sound familiar?

The vast majority of leaders are recognizing symptoms of burnout in their employees as well as in themselves.

But many are at a loss for what to do and where to start when it comes to addressing this syndrome in their workplaces. While they know it’s their responsibility as leaders to notice what’s going on with their people, and to offer support to lessen the impact of burnout and help them restore their energy and optimism – it feels like a massive challenge to tackle, especially when their to-do lists are already daunting.

Energy for Growth recently sponsored The Canadian Social Connection study, a serial cross-sectional survey with 3,800 participants across Canada – administered between April 27th 2021 – June 1st 2021 by Dr. Kiffer Card at the School of Public Health and Social Policy at the University of Victoria. The study explored the factors that most contribute to burnout, as well as the populations at risk.

Interestingly, while there are a number of factors that contribute to burnout, many of them come down to general wellbeing principles. For example, those who get ‘too little’ sleep are 3x more likely to burnout. Those who get ‘too little’ me time are 2x more likely to burnout. And those with 3 or more close friends are half as likely to burn out vs. those with 2 or less friends, reinforcing the importance of social connection to overall health.

So, in fact, tackling workplace burnout as a leader of a team or organization can genuinely be as simple as fostering an environment where everyone at all levels are encouraged to embed positive wellbeing habits into their daily lives.

Research has consistently shown that the most effective way to change behaviour is to adopt daily micro habits that, although small in and of themselves, if practiced consistently will make a massive difference over time. As a leader, helping employees to commit to positive habits and building an environment where colleagues are encouraged to support each other in keeping these habits is a proven way to dramatically increase the energy, connectedness and productivity of your team. And, role modelling this practice yourself will not only motivate and inspire your employees, but also ensure you are managing your own self-care so you can be a better leader to your people – and avoid burnout in yourself.

Are you seeing signs of burnout in your organization? What steps are you taking to address workplace energy levels and foster optimism? Leave us a comment below to share your thoughts. We’d love to continue this conversation!
If you would like to learn more about the key burnout statistics from our recent Social Connection Study, or explore solutions for tackling burnout and energizing your employees (including our signature 12-week “Energy for Growth” behaviour change program), we invite you to book a complimentary call with us. 


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We share our top tips for building a magnetic workplace – generating excitement in your team for the work they do every day and helping them to craft and pursue an inspiring shared vision for the future.  We’ll also be sharing our #1 tip for building energy to increase the engagement, productivity and connectedness of your team.
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