Imagining a Workplace Without Burnout: New Findings and a roadmap to prevention
Industrial/Organisational psychologist Dr John Chan (Managing Director at Infinite Potential), and wellbeing and burnout expert, researcher, and speaker Sally Clarke (Co Director at Human Leaders) share the latest findings from the 2022 Global Burnout Study and discuss the misalignment between much hyped burnout prevention strategies and the root causes of burnout.
The discussion offers practical advice on what organisations can do to drive attraction and retention through burnout mitigation.
Download a copy of this film (MP4, 1.66 GB)
Good afternoon everyone. I'm Mark Oostergo, and I'll be your MC for today. Welcome to our Mental Health Week live stream. Today we're tackling the complex and multifaceted issue of burnout, exploring the importance of structure and cultural causes, rather than individual wellness initiatives in addressing workplace burnout. I'd like to begin by respectfully acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we are speaking to you from today and on which you are learning and working from today. I'd also like to pay our respects to elders past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people watching today. Mental Health Week is held nationally every October to raise awareness of the importance of psychologically safe and healthy workplaces, and contributes to driving behavior and attitudinal change in reducing stigma and discrimination of mental ill health. If you need support or something you hear today affects you, please consider employing psychological self care strategies that you typically find helpful.
Connect with a peer or manager, contact your employee assistance provider or your regular health professional support channels and numbers are now on the screen, and we'll drop them in the chat for you as well. And remember, you can call Lifeline at any time on 13 11 14. Whilst there has been heightened focus on wellbeing and mental health, burnout continues to grow across the globe. Our speakers today will share the latest finding from the 2022 Global Burnout Study and discuss the misalignment between much hyped burnout prevention strategies and the root causes of burnout. We will hear some practical advice on what organizations can do to drive the attraction and retention of staff through burnout mitigation. I'm very pleased to welcome our distinguished guests this afternoon with Dr. Chan, who is the managing director at Infinite Potential, a non-for-profit think tank focused on workplace research. John is an industrial and organizational psychologist with 20 plus years of global experience, designing people strategies that transform workplaces to empower individuals to realize their whole potential.
John's career has taken him from Silicon Valley startups to N Y S E and ASX 100 companies. John publishes in academic and media publications and regularly speaks at national and international conferences. We're thrilled to have him here this afternoon, and we're also really keen to introduce and welcome Sally Clark, who is joining us all the way from the Netherlands. Sally is the co-director at Human Leaders and a Wellbeing and burnout expert, researcher and speaker. Sally is a former finance lawyer and author of two books on burnout, and she's lived on four continents. Her mission is to fight for burnout, prevention, and help people live authentic and fulfilling lives. As always, there'll be an opportunity today to ask questions to our panellists and our presenters. I ask that you please drop those questions in the chat box throughout the talk so that we don't miss them. Welcome, Dr. Chan and Sally. I'm gonna hand over now to John. So John, let's kick it off.
Okay. Thanks so much for that great introduction. Hi everybody. Um, I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which I worked and lived the Catholic people of the urination. I pay my respects to elders past, present, and emerging. We acknowledge that this land was never seated, always is, always will be aboriginal land. So I like to for you to kind of imagine for a moment, here are a person waking up in the morning and is already exhausted at the thought of all the work that they have to get through to the day, or maybe a person going through demotions at work and wondering if they made the right career choice in a profession that they once loved.
A person not able to concentrate at work is easily distracted or irritated by their colleagues at work. Maybe a person getting a slight cough or a scratchy throat and their first sense is one of relief. You know that if they get sick, they might actually be able to take some time off. Now, many of us have experience or know someone who has a, have experience burnout. For a person experiencing burnout, the only thing on their to-do list is to get through the day. Now, these symptoms not only have a great impact on the individual, but also for the organization and for our society as a whole. Now, burnout is all around us now. Burnout is on the minds of me, organizations and leaders, and they in turn have poured a whole lot of resources in just trying to solve this issue. Across the globe, four out of five leaders report that mental health and wellbeing is a top priority for the organization.
And nine out of 10 organizations around the world offer some form of wellness program. But even with all of this attention and resources going into addressing this issue, burnout continues to grow year after year. So why is that? In today’s talk, Sally and I will explore the root causes of burnout and what we might be getting wrong about the solution to this problem. We'll also share some of the latest findings from our global burnout study and provide some practical advice on how to tackle this issue. Um, then my name's John, and I'm an organizational psychologist. I’m the head of infinite potential, and our purpose is to help organizations create environments that can bring out the full potential in their employees and their people. And I believe that leaving Burnout is one of the most critical issues that organizations and us as society are facing today. Not only for the health of our people, but also as a key to unlocking productivity and innovation.
My name's Sally Clark. I'm co-director of People Centered Leadership Movement, Human Leaders, and I'm also an authored speaker and a coach and culture consultant. My latest book, Relight Your Spark guides individuals on how to heal and evolve after burnout. And before we delve into, you know, imagining a world without burnout, I wanted to share a photo of me that was taken in late 2009, and it symbolizes how I felt at the time. So I was working as a finance lawyer at a top European firm and to the outside world I'd made it, I was 31. I was in a role that graduates from Oxford and Cambridge. My business card basically said success. And at the same time, I was utterly miserable. I was working 70 to 80 hour weeks. My relationships were failing. I felt really isolated, unsupported by the firm, especially the partners I was working for.
My health was becoming compromised. I was getting stress rashes, I was losing weight, I was barely sleeping, and my self-confidence was at an all-time low. But because of the prestige associated with this role, I persisted several months after this photo was taken. I was flying to visit my brother in France. He was living there at the time. And when I walked into the arrivals hall at the airport and laid eyes on Andrew, I collapsed to the floor. I started crying and I couldn't stop. Looking back, I can see that I was in a deep dark burnout at the time. I was reluctant to use the term as it seemed to signify some kind of failure on my part. My thinking was, everyone else seems to be coping fine. There must be something wrong with me. And this is one of the tricky things about burnout, because we still have the mistaken idea that it results from personal failure.
We keep pushing and trying and desperately wishing things will be okay even when they are most definitely not okay. So burnout impacts us as individuals, but it also impacts us collectively at a team, organizational and even societal level. And burnout is an issue we really cannot afford to ignore. Burnout's demanding action. And even though exact figures are very difficult to establish, estimates of its impact range in the billions of dollars globally. Research shows that experiencing burnout makes people 2.6 times more likely to leave their current employer. And 40% of people who change their jobs in 2021 listed burnout as the reason for leaving. So this means that at a time when retention and turnover, huge issues for organizations around the world, forward thinking, leaders who proactively work to prevent burnout will see potentially huge returns on those efforts. And burnout isn't just affecting organizations, it's affecting industries
Burnout, detrimental for the individual, um, selling story that really will illustrate that. But it really has broader consequences that affects all of us. Now, as Sally just mentioned, burnout has been cited as a primary driver for people changing jobs in the last couple of years. A recent study for McKenzie shows that those who have changed jobs, they're also changing industries or not returning to the workforce at all. Now, we've all seen this in the education, in healthcare, in retail, hospitality sectors. And for those industries, those who have left, they're never going back to that industry. They've lost them for good. And this gap that it creates affects all of us. Anybody who's trying to take a flight, uh, recently, you know, you guys will know that or trying to book at a restaurant, the impact of burnout is broad. And so what is really important is for us to take a holistic and also a societal, view on how do we approach this and how do we tackle this problem together?
There's been a lot of time on burnout recently from the media, different sessions, endless groups offering solutions to alleviate burnout. In order to solve this issue, we need to make sure that we have the same definition and are all talking about the same thing. And in 2019, the World Health Organization did just that. They define burnout as a syndrome, resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. So this means that burnout is caused by organizational structures and cultures that is creating chronic stress in individuals. What this definition also means is that burnout refers to an experience specific to work. And it shouldn't be used to describe when, what a person might be experiencing in their personal life. Now, this doesn't mean that a person can't experience extreme levels of life, stress, negativity, or disengagement outside of work, but that's something different.
And that's not burnout. If you only take away one thing from today’s discussion, please take this away. Burnout is the result of workplace stress, and it's not the fault of the individual that they're going through burnout. And the solution to burnout is not to target individuals trying to address burnout with individually targeted solutions like resilience training or time management training, something like that will do very little if the person is stuck in this toxic work environment. Now, to address burnout, we really need to address the ways of working and these cultures that are creating a manageable stress, uh, in individuals. Now, when it comes to burnout and how we define it, there’s three dimensions that makes up burnout. The first dimension is the feeling of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Now, this is the most notable and probably the one we're most familiar with.
The second dimension is increased feelings of disengagement or mental distance from your work. So this is sometimes described as, you know, this increase in cynicism or feelings of negativity towards a job that you may have once, really loved to do, but now I just kind of dread going to. And finally, the third dimension is reduce professional efficacy, which is a difficulty in concentrating and performing at the level that you know, you are able to. Everything just seems harder to do. You know, everything takes longer, you're just not into it, and you feel as you're just not doing your best work. One thing I'd like to point out is that to be experiencing burnout, a person must be experiencing all three dimensions. So just being really exhausted or being disengaged in your current role doesn't mean you're experiencing burnout. It's a combination of all three of these factors that creates a state of burnout in an individual.
Burnout is a spectrum, and we're all on it, even if we're right on the end where we're not feeling burnt out or experiencing burnout at all, and no alarm automatically goes off. When we shift from experiencing chronic stress and cross that threshold into burnout, it is a subtle and insidious process. It can be invisible to those around us and sometimes even to ourselves. Chronic stress puts us in a heightened state of alert for prolonged periods. And our bodies were not designed for these ongoing states of stress. They take a toll on our physical, physiological, emotional and mental wellbeing. Stress causes our focus to narrow, which means that in being in burnout reduces our objectivity and our ability to make healthy decisions for our own wellbeing. And this is why once we are shifting along that spectrum of burnout, it can be a dangerously slippery slope.
And burnout is not a bad day or a tough week. Burnout, as we've noted, is caused by chronic workplace stress, which by its nature is low level and confessor for months or even years before you realized, or as I was confronted with the fact that there's a problem. So burnout is caused by chronic workplace stress. But what causes chronic workplace stress is based on our research. We've identified 10 factors at organizational and team level. And in terms of the organizational factors I’d like to highlight three. And the first is poor senior leader role modeling. So senior leaders directly influence how an organization operates in its culture. They need to take the lead in creating a culture of wellbeing and transparency by living and breathing healthy behavior, having healthy boundaries and habits, such as not emailing on weekends or out of office hours, talking about the dangers of burnout and providing visible support and frameworks for change. Senior leaders and stakeholders have to make wellbeing a strategic imperative. When employees don't hear from senior leaders, or if they see them saying one thing and doing another, they won't believe wellbeing initiatives are anything more than pr.
Another is a lack of support structures and guidelines to end burnout. Leaders need to create initiatives that investigate and reframe structures. So for example, job design so that we can really embed wellbeing in how we work. So making sure that our workload is manageable, expectations are realistic, and rest guidelines are implemented to prevent chronic stress from arising. Another is structural. Under resourcing, do more with less is a common corporate mantra for efficiency, but it often seeds burnout for many organizations, downsizing and reorganization of the norm, especially during economic crises. But budget cuts can lead to greater long term costs through under resourcing. Say for example, three jobs are consolidated into two and the additional workload causes one of these people to experience chronic stress and start to burn out. As burnout develops, their efficiency is decimated to the point where maybe the team starts multiple targets by ensuring job role design is specific, realistic and sustainable, and allocating resources accordingly. Senior leaders can lower costs and increase productivity and quality of work over the longer term.
There are also team factors that contributes to stress in the workplace. So I'll just highlight a couple here as well. The first one I'll highlight is unreasonable time pressure. Now we don't work within time constraints, but when deadlines are unreasonable and excessive and unending, this creates a pressure co environment that fosters burnout. Now leaders really need to understand what it means for their team when they agree to work and they got, they must be willing to push back when deadlines are unreasonable. Now, I know this is a lot easier to say than done, especially when it comes to deadlines with external clients, but this is the difference in creating a healthy versus a toxic work environment. Another factor I'll talk about is unmanageable workload or having too much to do. I think this is oftentimes the main thing that people bring up as other major stress within the workload.
And when they say workload that it can take a variety of forms. It could be just too much work. Uh, it could be having to go to too many meetings. Uh, it could be an excessive number of administrative tasks or maybe a number of tasks that's just not a good use of a person's time. Research shows that the risk of burnout increases significantly when a person exceeds an average of 50 hours a week. Later in our discussion, I'll provide a few recommendations on how we might address this issue. Another root cause of burnout at the team level is unfair or in inequitable treatment. Now, this can be seen in different ways within the team. It could include bias, favouritism or mistreatment pain inequity or unfairness in the distribution of work, or often experienced by minorities or unrepresented populations, which adds another level of intersectionality that needs to be addressed within the workplace.
And so, as I mentioned before, many organizations are investing a lot into wellness benefits such as training on time management and resilience, lunchtime, yoga sessions, and, you know, meditation apps and all kinds of nice things to fix their burnout problems. They do this because they believe that the person is the root of the burnout problem. Now, as you listen to this list and kind of read through this list of root causes of burnout, you might begin to see where the disconnect is and why current wellbeing initiatives might not be addressing the root causes of burnout.
High rates of burnout is a powerful signal that the organization, not the individuals need to undergo meaningful systematic change. Now we really need to change conversations so that when there is burnout happening within an organization, what the, what leaders within that organization needs is to look at the culture and the ways of working within that organization and not just about how can we fix the individuals that are in there. Now for the last three years, infinite potential has been conducting a global longitudinal research on burnout. We have had over 8,000 participants from over 30 countries participate in the study. We've just concluded this year's study and we're in the midst of analyzing the data. However, we want to take this chance to share some initial findings with you that are just hot off the press. So we ask participants to rate their overall wellbeing from zero to a hundred, a hundred being fully engaged, energized, and for the third year in a row, we continue to see a drop in this number.
For the first couple of years, we had hypothesized that maybe the lower wellbeing score was affected by Covid. And while it may still have an effect on this number, there is something else that's going on that that's driving this continual drop. As you know, Covid has really moved a little bit more into the background and using the W h O definition of burnout, we've created the infinite potential burnout scale that measures the three dimensions of burnout. What we're seeing, once again is that the percentage of people experiencing burnout is continuing to rise. So last year, um, the study showed around 34.7% of the participants was experiencing burnout. So all three of those dimensions, and this year it has jumped to 38.1%. Not surprisingly, there's a high core, a negative correlation between burnout and wellbeing. Other trends that we've seen in this year's study is actually, this is all three years, is that women are still being more affected by burnout than men.
But interestingly, our research have found that having caring responsibilities did not increase the likelihood of burnout. This is a bit counterintuitive to what most of us may think or are experiencing ourselves, but when we talk to individuals about this, it seems that caring responsibility acted as a protective barrier to burnout by giving the individuals something that has a higher priority to focus on than work. What we've also seen from this year's study is that the age group that is experiencing the highest level of burnout has dropped. So in the previous years, in the previous couple of years, it was the 35 to 44 age group that was experiencing the highest level of burnout. This year, it's the 25 to 34 age group that is experiencing the highest level of burnout. This is a trend that we really need to keep an eye out on as this shows that burnout is happening earlier in a person's career.
And if we, you know, and as you guys all understand the effect burnout has on the individual, this could have really long term consequences for our society in general. And finally, this is a really interesting one as well. The insight that we found in this study showed that working from home over 80% of the time, reported the highest level of burnout while those working from the office or the store or you know, your office location outside of your home, over 80% of the time, time reported the lowest levels of burnout. Now, while correlation doesn't equate causation, this is something to keep an eye on as well. And this is a really interesting insight to add onto the hybrid working conversation.
So a few of these findings that we had this year that, um, we wanted to share as well, we'll go into greater depths in the report that we're preparing, which will be published next month, in on all of these points and more. But for me, one of the things that stood out was a very highly negative correlation between psychological safety and all three burnout dimensions. Psychological safety also positively correlates with engagement, levels of organizational support and sense of belonging. So organizational behavioral scientist and the Edmondson first introduced the construct of team psychological safety in the nineties and defined it as a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. So this means that you are able to share and challenge ideas and provide and receive feedback within your team without fear of negative repercussions. So in other words, when we and leaders in particular work to create an atmosphere of trust, reliability, consistency, and respect within teams, this improves engagement, a sense of belonging and being supported, and it also significantly can reduce burnout.
And in 2022, our research has also found that organizational support is highly negatively correlated with all three burnout dimensions. So organizational support is the degree to which employees believe that their organization values their contributions, cares about their wellbeing and fulfills their socioemotional needs to creating an environment of psychological safety is an important way of delivering organizational support. And there are other ways to and will delve into these more deeply in in the report coming out next month. Another standout, as John mentioned, is this decrease in age that which people are experiencing burnout. We are really curious as to the reasons that in 2022 more younger people are experiencing burnout and the implications of this for the workplace and for society. And we will explore this in greater length in the report as well. Once we've had some time to reflect on the data and delve into it more deeply, our data suggests that many people are not feeling recognized or valued by their managers, their colleagues, and even their organization at large. They feel unable to share ideas and feedback and unable to be their authentic selves at work, which creates disengagement, reduces their sense of belonging and makes them more likely to enter into burnout.
So given the enormous impact of burnout on individuals, teams, and organizations, what can we do to prevent burnout from happening before, before we get to this place? So we've seen an explosion of wellness initiatives in recent years, and these might include meditation apps, free yoga classes, gym memberships, and maybe an annual company-wide day off. While wellness, wellness initiatives are an important part of an employee value proposition, a speakers, a certified yoga and meditation teacher, when I say wellness initiatives, do not prevent burnout. And that's because their focus is on the individual. When the causes of burnout, as we've outlined a structural and cultural, there is a temptation, I think, when we're talking about burnout, to push responsibility back onto individuals, manage your time better, meditate more, be more resilient. And it might seem logical because burnout happens to individual people. And it's also often convenient for senior leadership as it absolves them of responsibility to address the deeper issue.
But it doesn't end burnout because it doesn't get to the root cause. These structural and cultural issues, which we identified earlier. So 2019 Harvard study found that wellness programs had no impact on overall employee health. And this kind of window dressing can actually be counterproductive to say, for example, a company gives everyone a day off, but then they return to the same environment of overwork and overload. Another company installs a volleyball court on the roof of the office, which goes unused and becomes symbolic. And the hypocrisy of senior management when it comes to employee mental health. Now we are not suggesting organizations ditch wellness and wellness initiatives. They can be an important component of your value proposition and they can contribute to factors such as psychological safety and belonging. And I remain a huge proponent of meditation and yoga and wellness initiatives can form a helpful bonus on top of a healthy culture and systems that embed wellbeing and eradicate chronic stress in the workplace.
Wellness initiatives will not solve burnout nor turnover issues. We need to have healthy culture and systems in place first and foremost. So what is the answer? In 2021, we asked respondents what would most reduce their exposure, alleviate their work related stress. We were curious whether they were after free lunches, maybe more meditation apps, or a volleyball court on the roof. And it turns out they're not their responses, evidence and ongoing disconnect, as John mentioned, this disconnect between what people want and need and the superficial and ultimately ineffective responses. We are, many organizations offer as long as leaders ignore these messages from people, burnout will prevail. So the top three responses we had for what organizations can do, were embed wellness as part of the business strategy and culture review role responsibilities to ensure workload is manageable, increase, manage your capability to understand burnout and identify stresses, manage your actions, have a better understanding of team's workload, push back on unrealistic expectations from clients and stakeholders.
Champion and role model wellbeing behaviors, protect weekends and days off, no work or contact over the weekends and days off. And the actions generally that we're most alleviate levels of stress where ability to take in mental health day without question, receive more recognition from leaders and allocate time to learn new skills and capabilities. So given the causes that we've identified and the solutions that people say they want, what's a practical example of making meaningful change at this structural level that leaders can actually action right now. So as John mentioned earlier, we've decided to take the root cause of unmanageable workload and unpack it a little bit as to what we can do right now. And while exact solutions will depend heavily on the kind of work you do, where you do it, and your existing organizational culture, work through a few examples of steps you can take to shift culture and starting with meetings.
So making change in meetings is a really great place to start. It frees up time for what Cal Newport describes as deep work. In other words, periods of focused work between March, 2020 and March 20th, 2022 meetings have increased by 288%. Let's just think for a minute what that practically means for our schedule. So a shift in remote and hybrid ways of working may have required some more structure for collaboration. Cause we can't just run into each other in the offices we may have done before. So we've definitely seen an uptick in zoom and team requests, but this is resulting in people being left with little to no room in their schedule to do their actual work. So some ideas, maybe establishing some guidelines for meetings. Said expectations in advance. Be clear about the purpose of the meeting. Start on time and end on time. Fight the urge on fomo. If you are a hundred percent sure you don’t need to be at the meeting, say no, resist the temptation for making one hour meeting standard. So we're going with 20, 30 or 45 minutes experiment with blocking poll afternoons or introducing no meeting Fridays that some companies have done to allow for deep work at these times. Can also look into walking or standing meetings and really encouraging people in your team to say no when there's really no good reason for them to be in a meeting.
When I work with organizations, this usually comes up as one of the key things that they want to try to discuss because it's such a complicated issue of for organizations. You know, at the same time they want to be able to manage people's workload, but there's a lot of work, uh, that needs to be done. And one of the examples, one of the practical strategies, um, that I want to share with you is a simple exercise that you can do with yourself and your manager or maybe, uh, if you're a manager, do with your team for a week. So at the beginning of each day, write down the priorities for that day. Then at the end of the day, write down what or who interrupted your work that day. Write down anything that might have helped you get your work done more efficiently.
So perhaps you were missing some information from someone, or maybe there's some training on a particular topic that would've made your work a lot easier and a lot more efficient to do. Or maybe there was some red tape, um, that needed to be removed so you can actually get the work that you wanted to get, uh, done. And after the week is up, review and discuss this with your manager or your team. So kind of discuss, are you and you, your manager or your team on the same page in terms of what are the priorities that was important for each of, uh, for that week? Do you agree with how your team responded to those interruptions? You know, be very clear with them about when is it okay for them to say no and push back when they're being interrupted? We all want to say yes and, you know, make people happy in general, that that's sort of our nature. But it is imperative for leaders to really be able to kind of protect their team by, um, giving them the support and letting them, giving them the knowing that it's okay for them to say no. You know, if this is not a priority for them, that they can say no and that their manager will back them up. On that this conversation can be really useful for you and your team. Both understand, you know, what is going on, what is the workload, and to help everyone better able to manage the workload.
The other recommendation I have is to allow for rest during the day. So a lot of, you know, don't wait until you or your team is suffering from stress or burnout symptoms before allowing yourself to rest. Now I think I was guilty of this for quite a, a while, you know, I will on the weekend or maybe, you know, I'll just work really hard and I'll take a holiday in a couple months and I'll rest then. Or, you know, one thing I've heard, funny enough talking to somebody on the plane is I'm working really hard now, but I'm about to retire so I'll rest then when I retire. It's always an excuse on not resting right now, but I really would implore that this is a very, a good strategy for, you know, an habit to take up for both yourself and your teams.
a couple of recommendations on allowing for rest. The first is to ban multiple back and back meetings. Now that's not useful. It doesn't allow, it actually doesn't provide anyone with the best outcome as Sally just mentioned. You know, fight this urge to have to be in these meetings and really experiment with meeting times. It doesn't have to be 60 minutes. There's no rhyme or reason that they are 60 minutes other than it's, it's kind of easy to do. Try 45, give everyone 15 minutes in between to be able to rest. And another thing with that is don't eat lunch at your desk. And I use that time to have a break, you know, and stop all these lunch and learns. This is a, if it's something that's really important for someone and that they really need to learn it, do it during, um, the rest of the day.
Don't do it during lunch. Allow lunch to be a time or lunchtime to be a time when people can have for themselves and to recharge. Another recommendation is to block out, to have your team or yourself block out the last 30 minutes before the end of their day. So this time should be used to finish up whatever needs to get done for the day. So don't start anything new for that last 30 minutes. It's purely to finish up any of those emails you've started but haven't hit send yet or finished the last piece of work so that when the time, when it's time to go you've got that transition, you've got the wind down and you're ready to go. You know, that creates both a timely on a physical and also that mental class day. Yep, I'm warming down, and I'm ready to go at the time.
And finally, creating policies to protect times for rest. Now these policies doesn't have to be company wide or it doesn't have to be a mask thing. It can be just between you and your team. So for example, you know, your team can agree on not answering emails during the weekend or when somebody's on holiday. Make it clear that you value this time for resting and for leaders, it's especially important to role model of these behaviors. Now, don't send emails over the weekend or late at night for some understanding of that is the time when they, it's good for them to work. And that's when they do have the time to do these things. If that is the case, you know, you can use rules on Outlook or Google so that the email doesn't go out until Monday. There's a lot of research that that goes out on when leaders email. When do these emails, and both the stress and also the time that a team member picks up the email and actually starts thinking about it. And the detrimental effect that that causes if it doesn't have to be done in the middle of the night, actually it shouldn't be done in the middle of the night, but try not to email during that time as well.
So we understand that when you're getting this information and hearing this pretty strong data around the extent of burnout and also hearing that the causes are cultural and structural. It's easy to natural, I think, to respond with a sense of overwhelm. How do we get started? It can almost cause some paralysis. I think we sort of get stuck in, in action. And for John, it's really important to empower you with some practical starting points and maybe even some inspiration to open a conversation with your colleagues or leaders today. So get together and look at why your team, or why you and your colleagues might be experiencing chronic stress. Which team and organizational root causes are affecting you and your team most? And what can you do to change these to prevent chronic stress in the workplace from occurring? So here is some questions as a suggestion to start a robust discussion.
How do we treat employee mental health and wellbeing is a strategic priority. Find some concrete examples and if you can't find them, develop them. What are we doing to address outdated rituals, routines, practices, or processes that are causing stress in our people? And what habits maybe could we better do without? Are we holding leaders accountable for taking action on burnout and being healthy role models? If so, how? If not, what can we do to create accountability? How are we ensuring there's a stigma associated with people asking for help or taking rest? How can we make our environment more psychologically safe and help people feel more supported? What are the metrics we'll use to help guide our thinking and measure the effectiveness of our wellbeing initiatives? And I'd ask you to reflect on this question with me right now. What do we see when we imagine a workplace without burnout? What would the advantages of a workplace without burnout be for us as humans, including his parents, his partners, his friends, and other non-work roles, but also as teams, as organization, and as a society? And what will it take to get us there?
So thank you everybody for spending the time with Sally and I today. The last thing we want to leave you with, is this. So no quick fixes or silver bullets to extinguishing burnout. Now, there's not going to be a mandate or a directive or a legislation that is going to instantly solve a burnout. What we need is a movement to change the way that we work and think about the way the how we work as well. So a movement starts with an emotion, you know, just general dissatisfaction with a status quo in a broad sense that no one is going to address the problem. This brewing discontent begins to turn into a movement when there's a voice that provides a positive vision and a path forward, that voice is heard. And with the first person echoing and amplifying that voice, we now have the beginning of a movement.
And know movements typically start small. They begin with a group of passionate, enthusiastic people who deliver a few modest wins. These small wins demonstrate to others that there is a better way, that a better way is possible. And these small wins creates ripples that just get bigger and bigger until it can't be ignored. So I like to challenge everyone here today to be the person that provides that voice in your organization or within your team to be able to improve the work environment for yourselves and your colleagues. Now, be the leader that creates an environment where people can grow and thrive in not simply survive so small and let those winds grow into a movement. Thank you
John and Sally, thank you so much for that presentation. Sally, thank you for sharing your personal experience, which kind of drove you to this field of work. And John, thank you so much for your insights. I think for me, absolutely a couple of key reflections that came from the presentation and, and the first one is that, you know, burnout is absolutely a workplace issue. And that we need to look at the, I guess the work environment as opposed to the individual. And I often think about this as a fish in a fishbowl. And, and so if we have a fish in a dirty fishbowl and we take out the fish and clean it and put it in, we're not creating that opportunity for the fish to thrive. And so really to address that kind of situation, we need to look at how do we clean the fish bowl so that the fish can thrive as opposed to focusing on the individual.
I think one thing that struck out for me as well from some of those practical tips was the, the reflections on meetings and that significant increase. And I know that in my work when I'm engaging with organizations, I often hear that I've been in back to back back meetings as a, a bit of a badge of honor almost in terms of being busy and translating that to being productive. And so really thinking, well, what is the impact of that on, on me as an individual and, and the researcher on, you know, just the, the process of being in those meetings and, and the impact that has on our wellbeing. And I think, you know, one of my tips that I often think, you know, as a senior leader is what's the decision I need to make in this meeting? Or what's the input that you need from me in this meeting?
And, you know, if you can't answer that, then why do you need me and, and why am I there? And so I think absolutely a few key reflections and strategies that has come from that, that presentation today. We do have a few questions from the audience, and I'll go to those first before I ask a couple. Um, but the, the first one is from Alice for Sally. And, and Alice is trying to ask Sally and, and understand a little bit more about the difference between burnout and depression. And I was wondering if you could please provide us some insights into maybe what some of those distinguishing factors are?
Certainly Alice, thank you for the question. And I'm not a medical professional, so I can't go sort of deep into the difference. However, the world health organization has designated burnout as a syndrome, which is a different definition to that use for depression, which is a mental illness. And I think the delineation is, is important. There are some similar symptoms that can arise between burnout and depression, and there is some discussion among researchers as to whether there is a correlation or whether burnout, you know, is a form of depression. But, you know, our feeling really reflects that of the World Health Organization, that there is a delineation and it's an important one, and that the cause of burnout really is the workplace. And so putting it in that organizational context, whereas depression can be an experience that we have, uh, long before we enter the workplace and, and in entirely different sort of context with different physiological implications to.
Great. Thanks so much for that explanation, Sally. The next question is for either of you, and it's coming from Warwick, and it's a question in regards to the statistic that 65% of people are not returning to the same industry. And are there any kind of certain industries that’s kind of coming from, and are there any expectations that, that come with them or, you know, more around that kind of statistic and, and where the problem sits?
I think I'll take that. I'll have a first stab at that one. I don't think there is some research on where I guess people are moving to in those those stats. So for example, financial services that, they were, during this period where people were being retrenched and people were losing their role within certain industries, they did a lot of consciou effort. They put a lot of hunter's effort in be during recruitment for those within those industry. So for example, you know, they might need people with really good customer service, capabilities or, you know, really good with people. Well, you know, you've got an entire hospitality airline industry with a lot of people with a lot of those, the same type of skills. And they were kind of, they had the foresight to be able to say, Oh, actually these are the same skills that, uh, we're looking for, so let's see if we can attract a lot of them into our industry. And I think certain industries weren't quite good about doing that, I mean, at the detriment of certain other industries. But, um, they did have the foresight on, hey let's think about not what they've been doing or what jobs they have, but what are the skills that we need for our organization moving forward? And then we're able to kind of mash that up and yeah, and really move the people from one side to another.
Awesome. Thanks so much, John. So really coming back to that, that skill and the potential and what we're looking for there. The next question is from Nicole and, and Sally, this is a more of a personal question and asking about your initial experience. Nicole's wondering, what could your organization have done differently when you're experiencing such high levels of workplace stress? Are there a couple of key things that kind of stick out for you there?
Yeah, thanks. That's a really great question, Nicole. I think one of the things that I found at the firm I worked for, but I think this goes probably more broadly within the legal industry, is that there's very little scope to pushback at all. So I would be juggling multiple deadlines and multiple deals. I was, we would represent a lot of banks, so big financial transactions and I would remember an incident of a partner coming to my office at about, you know, nine o'clock on a weeknight and saying, Do you have capacity? And I said, No. And he said, I'll send it through anyway. So this kind of environment of really just not literally listening to people trying to set boundaries. so that that's one thing really, they could have done a much better job of sort of managing workload and listening to the, the attempts to, for boundaries to be set.
and I think also rest was a really big part of it. I worked in a fairly, you know, young and energetic team and I think through my twenties I was probably to some extent quite capable of getting away with that kind of behavior. but we would work, you know, 70 or 80 hour weeks for months at a time and then maybe get a day off or a spa voucher and that would be the extent of the rest allowed. So building in, you know, a lot of those things that we were speaking about in terms of, you know, really having some really solid policies around rest and really enabling us to, I think even within the space of our workplace, being able, uh, for our physiological system to take some rest as well. So we are not just draining ourselves at work and recovering on the weekend, but we're actually given the time within the framework of our work to, uh, to recuperate and to have our parasympathetic nervous system engage so that we can find that balance. So we're actually able to go into our weekend fully energized or into our holiday, you know, energized and ready rather than literally exhausted and sort of crawling to the airport.
Yeah. Wow. So it sounds like absolutely some practical strategies in there that the workplace could have implemented. And you know, what really resonated for me, there was just, you know, actually listening and taking that feedback on board when you have kind of stuck your hand up and said, no I don't have any more capacity. and then really looking at how, you know, that that workload is managed and, and the opportunity for rest and, and recovery. The next question, again, is for you Sally, and it's from Kerry and you mentioned the report through the presentation that you are working on and that will be released soon. There's just a question around, you know, where will the report be published and, and how can people access that?
Sure. So John and I are busy at the moment preparing the report. So the data that we've shared today is very fresh, and we’re putting together a report along the lines of the one we did last year, and that'll be published in November. It'll be available on the infinite potential website as a free download. And we can share that information with you after the session. I would love to have you to have access and use the report and there sort of more explicit recommendations and our deeper analysis of the data so we can share that with you for Sean.
Awesome. Thank you so much, Alli. We'll make sure that we get that out to our listeners today. There's a question from Tara and she's asking around what your suggestion would be for leaders who do not follow up on these conversations. She's indicating that she thinks most people do not give up immediately, but when they, but then, uh, potentially quit when they get no support. So is there any practical things that you can maybe advise for our leaders out there around how they, they follow up and demonstrate that they have listened and, and that there's action?
One thing we talked about during last year's report was that there is, there is a lot of hesitancy for our leaders to take the charge on this. Know there is not on any leader's responsibility, to “hey we want you to kind of fix the burnout problem”. You know, that is not something that's on any, but any leader's KPIs or objectives. And we all understand how complex it is to be able to solve burnout. You know, if we want to change a policy that's going to involve the business, it's going to involve HR, maybe take like just a whole bunch of people that… And so there's a lot of hesitancy on doing that. Um, both because they're not being asked for it, they're not rewarded to do this, and they're, frankly, it's just too hard for any one individual leader to kind of take on. Now, our recommendation really for leaders is starts small within your own team or what can you do within your own team. And they will certainly be other leaders out there who will see the great work that you've been doing and, you know, want to kind of copy that. And once you get a couple of leaders doing similar things, you can really, you know, what we kind of talked about in terms of a movement, that's when you really can, can start kind of growing that into something a lot bigger.
Fantastic. Thank you so much, John. So really looking at those kind of key drivers and movement and tackling it from a systemic perspective. And interestingly you said there that not many leaders have, you know, been tackling burnout as a KPI, but I've actually been fortunate to, to work with an organization recently where the CEO actually had that on their scorecard. Um, so hopefully we can start to see a shift in this movement. There’s a great question from Julian and one that kind of flag for me listening as well. You indicated in some of the findings that for those people working from home, 80% or more of the time that they were likely to experience higher rates of burnout. Um, just wondering, are there any kind of insights into what some of the key drivers might be for this?
Yeah, there's one piece I'm really keen to kind of really dive into a little bit more. I like to mention earlier there is what we're seeing is a causation, but we, or I mean correlation, but we don't know what's causing it. Is it because people who are burned out tend to work at home or is working at home burning them? Hell, those type of questions, I will need a little bit more time to kind of digest, the data to kind of figure out where that's, going. But I kind of have a, you know, if I were to kind of hypothesize now, I think this really goes into the hybrid work environment kind of conversation there, you know, is there a balance between coming together, working in the same place and also being able to work from home that is going to be optimal for our people. Um, and what does that look like? You know, I think there's a lot of discussion on that now and hopefully, you know, things like insights like this will kind of add to that conversation.
Fantastic. Thanks John. So, you know, maybe not any kind of robust analysis at this point in time to point to a couple of single things, but absolutely. You know, a whole host of work being done there to try and understand that finding in more depth and detail. Um, we, we've got a, a great question from Dominika around psychological job demands. And she's asked the question, are there any strategies for a workplace that requires high emotional demand from its workers?
Yeah, I think there are a few things, and I think this is one certainly through the pandemic where we're, there's been quite a lot of research, done into the psychological impact of working in very high emotionally stressful environments such as healthcare, particularly in the United States. There's been quite a lot of research coming out on that. Um, and, uh, while our research doesn't focus specifically on that, the recommendations I have would be basically, you know, along the lines of what we've discussed, but almost with a greater focus on two things. One is rest really ensuring that your body, give your body the time to physiologically recover from your work. So you, and by race, I don't just mean sleep, but I've been doing other things that are non-work that, uh, engage your parasympathetic nervous system and allow you, your body to come back to a state of ease.
Another aspect is to talk about what's going on. So I think particularly in these psychologically stressful environments, we can grapple with a lot of these issues in ourselves. And one of the things that's also come out through, through my research around a burnout prevention and recovery on individual level is also the importance of talking about what we're going through with others. Now, whether that's with a trained professional, whether that's with a coach, a trusted friend,that's, you know, up to the individual. But I think it's a really key component of being able to retain a sense of objectivity and help us to make healthy decisions for our own health, including our mental health. Because when we're under that chronic stress, as I mentioned, our vision becomes more narrowed and we can actually become less capable of making healthy objective decisions. So I think those two key things, particularly rest and, and, and talking with with someone you trust.
Absolutely. Thanks Sally. And you know, that the criticality of recovery after highly emotionally demanding work is key and, you know, that peer support and being able to, to engage with that trusted advisor. And, and I might throw in there based on our experiences yesterday with the live stream to, to maybe look out for the, the soon to be released code of practice and, and how organizations and workplaces can manage those psychosocial risks and, and hazards. I think, you know, whilst I was listening to you, you spoke about the importance of, of leaders modeling the, the right behavior. Um, and, and I know that as a leader within my organization on as guilty as most in terms of not modeling some of that, behavior at times and maybe engaging in some unhealthy work habits. And absolutely I've been known to in the past, to email out of hours.
And I think, you know, you mentioned in there, John through the talk that there are things like, you know, rules that you can put in place in, in your email software to, to delay send. And some of the feedback that I've heard in the past is, well then I open up my inbox on them Monday morning and suddenly at 8.45am I get six emails and, and my work pressure has just gone up exponentially. So I'm, I'm just wondering, are there any other kind of tips or strategies that you have out there for leaders around modeling the right behavior and how, how can we go about doing that?
Yeah, that's such a great point. Um, one thing I wanted, I work with leadership teams. One of the things that I kind of talked to them about is about being a lot more planful and, you know, and not, and not being as so reactive to certain things. I think there's a lot of times, especially when you get to a certain level, everything seems like it's a, a big thing that has to get undone now, and we will kind of want to react to that, um, by being a lot more planful and having a lot more kind of either policies or just the ways that we work that can really help, uh, tone down sort of the urgency of all this. Is this actually urgent? Uh, that's something needs to be done, and how does this fit into our overall kind of plan on doing this?
If it's not something that needs to be done right now, maybe, you know, we we'll fit that in when we're able to. I guess, a more tactical, tip that I've given some leaders, it’s actually within the subject line. You know, this sounds simple, but it's actually, has been quite useful. Just, you know, have a vocabulary that you and your team uses. For example, the ones I use would be, this is for review by, you know, the action that you want this person to take and the time bomb and the, you know, when is it due for that? By knowing, okay, so this is just FYI, I can read that whenever I have time. Or maybe this is something for me to review and have and get done by the end of the week, or something like that. By knowing when things are, I can put that into, or the people that you're sending email to can plan around that. And that just that clarity of communication is, is really important and it's really helpful for leaders to do it.
Yeah, Great. What a simple hack in terms of just that kind of assistance with prioritization so that we can reduce those, those stress levels and, and reactions to the multiple tasks that we have have to tackle. Sally, you mentioned throughout the presentation the criticality of psychological safety in the workplace in terms of having a, you know, a psychologically safe workplace and it being a mitigation strategy for burnout as a leader or as an organization, what can I start to do to build psychological safety within my team or within the organization?
Yeah, I think it's a great question. Psychological safety is not something that we flick a switch and suddenly everyone's psychologically safe. Um, and the term itself is sort of used as a, as a kind of a team. You know, it's something that occurs within the team. so it's a bit like a vibe. But I think one of the key strategies that we see as sort of being able to build psychological safety is to create connection with your different team members. So creating a sense of, you know, taking the time, for example, through one-on-one meetings to understand what they're going through in their lives, what their, how their workload is, and really touching base with people. It's also as simple as, for example, opening a meeting, maybe a weekly meeting, having a quick chat about how everyone's weekend has been or how we're doing.
That was something we particularly saw through the pandemic in remote work, that it was even more important to be asking people, you know, how they're doing and also being vulnerable yourself in sharing if you're not doing well, if you're struggling. So creating that sense of vulnerability and, and, and safety to share. Another aspect is around, mistake making, and this is one certainly in the legal industry that was a big one because there's not a lot of room for mistakes and where we don't have space to talk about errors that we've made or things that we've screwed up, that can really limit our creativity and innovation as well. So by talking about, for example, our own screw ups, which we all have with our team, but doing so in a way that sort of allows there to be an environment of people being willing to come forward and share if they have questions and co-creating solutions so that, you know, this is something that a lot of the research shows really big disasters, could have been prevented if the organization had a psychologically safe environment or the team itself.
So, um, there are different strategies. We'll also go into, I think, some recommendations for psychological safety in the report. But it's about connecting with people as humans, I think as a starting point. And like I said, it's not something that suddenly in one meeting, everyone's going to feel it. It really is an investment over a long term, and it means consistent behavior from a leader in terms of building a relationship of trust, of respect, and of being someone that the team can count on.
Yeah. Awesome. Thanks so much for that, Sally. Such valuable insights. I like that idea that you can't just walk in and, and flick on the switch and, and suddenly you have psychological safety and you know, the importance of checking in with people, you know, demonstrating that vulnerability and, you know, as you mentioned, we're all human and, and we all make mistakes and being able to kind of stick your hand up and say, you know, I've done this and, and this is what happened, and kind of modeling that behavior, some really great practical tips that, that people can take away. We've got a final question here from MK and MK’s indicated that, you know, she or he is a worker and thinks that I have burnout symptoms. What would you suggest I do next? I know a week off on, on holiday isn't going to fix the issue, so what can I do?
I'll go first and then really keen to hear Sally, what you say as well. I think the first thing I would do is talk to your manager. A lot of times a lot of leaders, while they have really good intentions, actually can't and don't pick up a lot of the signs that their people are really stressed and are burning out at the moment. So I really would recommend that you talk to your direct manager and if there's some issues there, maybe somebody else instead of the manager to really discuss how you're feeling, what's going on, and see if you can work out something to help some of that stress. Yeah, as we kind of talked about, a lot of the burnout has to do with the organization and what it's doing to that person.
So if you're able to kind of pinpoint I've got too much work on at the moment, or I'm going to too many meetings or whatever it is, work could be your manager as the first step to see what you can do to, alleviate some of that stress at a more extreme kind of level. You know, if you've gone through your manager and other leaders and it just doesn't seem like there is any other way I would kind of recommend that, see if you can look for something else, with first, you know, within the organization, but if it's something within the organization, you know, be open about going somewhere else, because you know, taking care of yourself is the most important thing.
Yeah, I'd fully agree. If I can just jump in and really underscore what, John has said about, you know, talking as a first step. And in the Netherlands, there is a increasing number of jurisdictions actually, we are seeing legislation that allows people to take leave for burnout and other issues. And I think that's something that while still imperfect here, it does really create that freedom to be able to say, I'm not okay and I need time. And really building in that opportunity to rest. For MK, like my research and my book on burnout recovery, there's four steps that I would say are important. So if you take the vowels out of burnout, b r n t. So breathe, taking care of your physiological system, trying to start getting that parasympathetic nervous system activated rest, however that is possible. nourish.
So really taking care of yourself, your body in whatever way that that needs to happen. And tears talk. And as John mentioned that as a first step, that for me is also the key step because we can't,you know, we can't deal with burnout. We can't really deal with anything until we acknowledge the reality of the situation. So by talking to someone, whether it is a manager or again at trained professionals, starting that conversation also starts your journey to healing. And I think also at a broader level by talking about it and creating that conversation, you're also maybe giving that manager or your team, you know, people, some feedback, there's some chronic stress going on here, and you're probably not the only one who's exposed to it. So it's really in your own interest, but I think also for your team members and the organization you're in more broadly, a really powerful step to take. I hope that helps.
Awesome. Thank you so much Sally and John for joining us this afternoon for your insights, for sharing your personal story and also the insights into your research and the practical tips and strategies that you've shared with our audience. Thank you to everyone for joining us today. The presentation and the recording will be available on our website shortly. Keep an eye out for it in the coming weeks. As we wrap up the event today, you'll spot a QR code on screen. You're invited to confidentially share insights into the preferences, barriers, and drivers for your organization in developing and implementing health and safety management systems that consider mental health and how you engage in mental health initiatives and programs. You can also go into the draw to win a prize, which is the delivery of mental health training for managers and supervisors in your workplace, which is valued at almost $1,000. Check out the website for other events happening during this month. There's plenty of resources on there, including the mentally healthy workplaces toolkit. Have a great afternoon everyone, and remember, work safe, home safe.