Executive burnout refers to the work-related stress corporate executives, industry leaders, and professionals in high-level positions often experience.
Working in a position with a great deal of responsibility and pressure can cause emotional exhaustion. Inadequate support and resources to handle workload are noted as key risk factors for job burnout.
Job burnout has three dimensions:
- Depletion of energy or physical and emotional exhaustion.
- Feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job.
- A sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
These three dimensions can be formally evaluated and followed using the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the most common method for measuring burnout amongst workers.
Occupational health is a significant problem in modern work environments. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health states that one of the most essential disorders to consider is burnout syndrome.
Occupational or job burnout is a state of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and a low sense of personal accomplishment from prolonged exposure to demanding work situations. Anyone working in a high-stress situation can experience burnout, with those in management and executive roles often experiencing higher emotional exhaustion.
Severe burnout symptoms amongst health care workers have increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical burnout has been widely researched; it is estimated that between 40% and 60% of health care professionals experience occupational burnout.
In the UK, work-related stress, anxiety, and depression contributed to more than half of all working days lost due to ill health in 2019. The occupational consequences of burnout can be severe, as it greatly impacts cognitive performance.
Understanding risk factors and symptoms of burnout can increase job satisfaction, work-life balance, job performance, and help many people avoid severe burnout syndrome.
Initial concerns surrounding burnout emerged from caregiving and health occupations. Burnout amongst health care professionals such as practising doctors began to present statistical significance.
In turn, measures suggested by researchers such as decreasing work hours, regular job rotation, and frequent supervision and staff training were most relevant to these occupations. It was recommended that these measures should be implemented to avoid moderate burnout that was causing medical errors and feelings of low personal accomplishment.
Healthcare professionals continue to show higher rates of burnout than those working in other fields. However, health care providers are not the only workforce that experiences burnout.
The measures noted above to combat burnout often reflect the research of burnout amongst healthcare workers. However, burnout prevalence estimates executives are 66% likely to experience burnout. Although there is increasing recognition of the dangers of executive burnout, there is insufficient recognition of the issue in many companies.
Executive Burnout in Arab Countries
A recent study found that most professionals working in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are overworked and reluctant to take time off work. The survey also discovered that 65% of UAE and Saudi Arabia workers feel overworked.
Moreover, almost half of millennials working in the UAE do not take all of their allocated holiday days. Working women in the UAE are particularly reluctant to take time off work, explaining that there is often no replacement or that they have too many responsibilities to be able to do so.
Furthermore, a recent study assessing burnout rates in the Saudi aviation industry found that 41.7% of employees experience occupational burnout. This staggering statistic shows occupational burnout in Arab countries is a significant problem that must be recognised.
Risk Factors for Burnout
Heavy workload is a common risk factor for burnout. A lack of autonomy, job dissatisfaction, and reduced flexibility also contribute. A statistical analysis also shows that marital status can also be a risk factor for executive burnout, especially in Arab nations. In fact, the prevalence of burnout is higher in unmarried individuals.
Other risk factors for burnout include:
- Lack of control – Researcher Robert Karasek recognised that stress is affected by how much control a person feels they have over their workplace demands. For example, increased work flexibility results in an increased sense of control and more self-responsibility.
- Insufficient reward – Continually making efforts beyond the normal job responsibilities without any recognition can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction. Feeling undervalued and unappreciated is an additional cause of stress contributing to burnout.
- Lack of Community – Feeling alone or alienated due to restructuring, high staff turnover, or mergers can lead to employees feeling isolated. Community and teamwork are essential for beating burnout syndrome.
Whilst a high-stress job causes an increased risk of burnout, it does not always lead to burnout. If stress and workload are managed well, there may be no symptoms.
Symptoms of Burnout
It can be challenging to recognise the symptoms of burnout as they are not widely associated with burnout syndrome. For this reason, it is not uncommon for workplace burnout to be overlooked and regarded as everyday stress.
The perceived stress scale is one way to assess burnout. Upon using this scale, people answer a series of questions about their feelings and thoughts during the last month. Whilst the perceived stress scale does not provide a diagnosis, it recognises that a person’s perception of what is happening in their life is the most important.
If an individual experiences exhaustion, begins to dislike their job, or starts feeling less capable at work, they may be showing signs of burnout.
Other common symptoms of burnout include:
- Low energy
- Loss of motivation or satisfaction at work
- Feeling helpless, trapped, or defeated
- Constant feelings of self-doubt
- Reduced concentration and cognitive functioning
- Reduced personal achievement
- Becoming cynical and critical at work or with colleagues
- Irritability and anger issues
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Problems at home with family or loved ones
- Withdrawal and isolation
- Emotional distress and anxiety
- Drug and alcohol misuse
Physical and Mental Health Effects of Burnout
Burnout is associated with a range of long-term adverse health outcomes, including depression, musculoskeletal pain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature mortality. As all of these health consequences put a strain on health care workers and mental health services, burnout is recognised as a public health issue.
Alongside the long-term health issues noted above, many people suffering from burnout may experience headaches, high blood pressure, and digestive problems. Without adequate treatment, these issues can have serious long-term consequences such as heart attacks and stomach ulcers.
It is important to recognise the prevalence and associated factors of burnout to secure the treatment that will support long-term recovery and treat the emotional exhaustion and physical effects.
Mental Health Effects of Burnout
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms have increased amongst healthcare workers in particular over the past two years. PTSD is a complex health problem caused by exposure to traumatic events, such as war and conflict. In conflict-affected areas, rates of PTSD are much higher.
In addition to PTSD, those who experience burnout are also prone to other co-occurring problems such as alcoholism and addiction. Often, this is because people may attempt to self-medicate increasing stress levels using substances or dangerous and compulsive behaviours. This often results in stress, anxiety, and depression in the long term.
The treatment available for burnout syndrome depends on how the problem has manifested and the individual in need of treatment. Some may have developed mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or paranoia due to burnout. In this case, treatment or medication for these issues will be addressed alongside the treatment for burnout.
A residential treatment programme is recommended to provide sufficient rest and recovery to prevent burnout from reemerging. Residential treatment programmes allow those in need of treatment to take a break from the stress of everyday life whilst working with mental health professionals to assess contributing factors.
Usually, mental health professionals will initiate talking therapy with clients and discuss the factors contributing to burnout in their personal and work lives. This can often be an inability to say “no” to work, a need to strive for perfection, or a strong desire for success at any cost.
At Addcounsel, our highly skilled team works with each client individually, helping to create a plan for returning to normal life. Treatment may include different forms of therapy such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectic behavioural therapy (DT). Therapists will additionally help those in treatment create coping mechanisms for stressful situations, implement daily activities such as mindfulness and exercise, and learn how to set and maintain boundaries.
Furthermore, at Addcounsel, we offer those who have developed an addiction or substance dependency due to burnout a tailored one-on-one addiction treatment programme.
Contact Us Today
At Addcounsel, we offer elite treatment for executive burnout, delivering bespoke programmes for each guest. Our one-on-one therapeutic experience increases treatment outcomes, enhances feelings of personal comfort and privacy, and offers much-needed rest.
Call us today to learn more about our treatment programmes and begin your journey to overcoming burnout.