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Beware of Covid burnout

Surveys highlight the stress felt by business leaders during lockdowns and pandemic.
Posted on 27 September, 2021
Beware of Covid burnout

Business leaders struggling with heavy workloads due to coronavirus are at serious risk of burnout, surveys show. 

Chris O’Reilly, chief executive of AskYourTeam and business mentor, says leader burnout is becoming a “real crisis” that needs to be addressed by boards.

Data collected by his technology and business productivity company since 2019 shows leaders are under increasing stress since Covid-19 added a new layer of difficulty. 

The surveys are spread across 100,000 employees and executives in more than 250 organisations including local government, health, education and the private sector.

“Leader burnout is becoming totally understandable,” says O’Reilly, pictured above. 

“You’ve got leaders in organisations where the external environment is radically different.”

Leaders are trying to cope with customer demand, helping the company survive and meeting board expectations. Then they are trying to lead and support staff who have their “personal baggage” and challenges.

“Everyone’s got a story and every household has got a challenge,” adds O’Reilly. “So the leaders are stuck in the middle of that.”

Michael Barnett, Auckland Business Chamber’s chief executive, shares those concerns, saying a survey of members he carried out last week was “a huge wake-up call”.

He asked members to rate their health and wellbeing at the end of alert level four with a score from one to 10, with 10 being the best. 

Barnett, pictured below, was shocked to find that out of the 1,200 replies, 86 per cent scored five or less. Twenty-five per cent scored themselves as a four, 28 per cent scored three and 14 per cent scored two.

“It confirmed to me that it’s quite serious because you can’t manage others if you’re not managing you,” he told the NZ Herald.

“It’s a signal that some of the recovery is going to be about human capital and not just the balance sheets.”

How to avoid burnout

• Think about how to achieve work-life balance.
• Find a way to “turn off” when you clock off.
• Turn off electronic notifications and set up a protocol for urgent queries.
• Ensure there is clarity around expectations of what you are expected to deliver.
• If need be, push back if the workload is too great.
• Remember to delegate where appropriate.