Are you at risk of burnout? Why everyone needs a break from work

More and more CEOs risk burnout by overworking. We look at the causes, symptoms and how you can relax more...

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Symptoms of working too hard include gastric upsets, difficulty sleeping and forgetting information easily

Are you risking burnout through your job? Research has indicated that CEOs frequently stay at the office beyond the working day and constantly access business emails and messages at home or when out and about. Taking a laptop on holiday is not unusual, simply because people plan to stay connected to the office so that emails can be dealt with. Many CEOs feel obliged to check business messages even when ill or in hospital.

Email overload is reaching unhealthy levels for many people. The younger you are, the more likely you are to suffer problems due to the fact that the internet and electronic gadgets form such a major part of your lifestyle. Many feel that they would be regarded as lacking commitment to their job if they did not respond to emails immediately even outside working hours.

Email overload is reaching unhealthy levels for many people

It’s a situation that’s doing you no favours. In fact, it can lead to burnout, rendering you unable to do your job properly and damaging your health, relationships and general wellbeing. Pablo Vandenabeele, Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa Uk says “Down time from work is crucial to maintaining mental health – as it gives both the mind and body the opportunity to reset and recover. The long-term pressure to respond to work emails at all times can lead to irritability, anxiety, depression and even more physical symptoms like aches, chest pains and stomach issues. Well being should be a cornerstone of any workplace health policy and promoting the importance of switching off from work is a key part of that.”

And it is not just your own health and well being at risk. Employees seeing their CEO behaving like this, tend to follow suit because they believe they will be seen as lacking commitment thus damaging their career prospects.

The scope of the problem is becoming much more recognised. In France the ‘right to disconnect’ has become part of the country’s labour law in a bid to help employees resist the trend for being available 24/7 to answer emails and messages. US company Johnson & Johnson, has even set up a $100,000 anti-burnout programme for CEOs which involves spending time at a clinic and independent assessments made as to your work life/balance.

So how can you begin to recognise that you are at risk of burnout? Take a look at your health. Finding that you need to visit a doctor more frequently, suffering gastric upsets, difficulty in sleeping, or simply feeling depressed and insecure are signs that your body is suffering from overwork. Another common sign is forgetfulness leading to missed appointments and experiencing difficulty retaining information. Friends and family start commenting that they hardly see you.

In such circumstances, you need to develop strategies to take control. One of the simplest methods is always the hardest – turn your phone off, don’t take work home and don’t answer emails/messages when on holiday! Make diary appointments to do some form of exercise even if it is just going for a short walk or spending half an hour swimming – and keep it. Ask yourself if a particular meeting (especially if it is many miles away or in a different country) is absolutely necessary. Reducing travel time will give you more time in your workplace, and thus less need to take work home. And of course – delegate. Trust your colleagues to do some of the work for you.

Creating a good work/life balance makes a tremendous difference to your own health and well being – and setting an example to rest of your business.