Avoiding burnout: “Executives need balance; 70-hour weeks are not sustainable”

By Tim Poole

As Mental Health Awareness Week recently highlighted in the UK, psychological challenges can present themselves to anyone at any time.

Executives and senior managers are not exempt. Such is the demanding nature of their work, in fact, they are particularly prone to the issues of stress and burnout.

Gambling Insider magazine decided to delve into the issue for its July/August edition, speaking to Elite Performance Expert Dr Michelle Cleere about mental fatigue among executives.

Below, Dr Cleere discusses how simple remedies can have a profound effect for the better. Register for free here to read the full feature when published, which will also include analysis from Business Psychologist Dr Mark Parkinson.

Do you have any specific case studies of burnout?

CEOs put a lot of time and energy into their work, so sometimes they don’t have very good balance. Because of this, their identity really is wrapped up around their job. I’m working with someone right now and that was his problem. His identity was wrapped up in his work. Not only was he getting burned out, the way he was doing his job changed.

He went from being excited about it and intrinsically motivated to the opposite. It was impacting his personal and family life. Any time you get to that place, whether you’re a CEO, entrepreneur, professional athlete or professional gambler, there’s a tendency to think everything we have revolves around one thing. I call this being one-dimensional.

Unfortunately, we can’t live that way. As human beings, we’re made up of multi dimensions and we need to find a balance. If work isn’t going well and that’s the only thing you have, wow, you’re in trouble.

What advice would you give CEOs if they hit a brick wall in that kind of fashion?

One of the things I talk about a lot is finding something else you’re passionate about: even something as simple as exercise. A lot of the CEOs and entrepreneurs I’ve worked with had let go of that, just because they thought the business week takes precedent.

What we found was when they stepped back and did something as simple as working out many days a week, they were able to last longer, think more clearly and handle situations in a more effective way. That includes dealing with stress better.

CEOs have told me they work anywhere between 70 and 100 hours a week. Is this really possible long term without taking its toll?

I don’t think you can work those kinds of weeks without it taking its toll. I am working with a CEO right now who works two hours a day. It might sound crazy but it works for him. It doesn’t mean he’s not putting more work in but he’s figured out how to do more in less time.

How do we get quality things done in a shorter amount of time? Two hours is minimal; right now it’s really working for him. He’s trying to figure out how to scale back and really enjoy life. A 70-80 hour work week – I was an exec for a while – it’s just not something that’s sustainable.

Not only are you getting burned out, with no balance or self-care, there’s no room for anything else. The bottom line is an organisation has other people who work for it for a reason.


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