4 Ways to Combat Executive Burnout

We recently read in the Future Forum Pulse Fall 2022 quarterly report that executives around the world report 20% worse work life balance and 40% more work-related stress and anxiety that led to burnout. The findings resonated deeply with our team. Intuitively, we have felt the truth of these conclusions from our own leadership experience and from working with our clients. There is no denying that today’s circumstances are extremely challenging for reasons out of our control. However, we’ve learned a lot about how to help create a path forward for CEOs who are ready to take ownership of the things they can control-like burnout.

Does this sound familiar?

Your day-to-day life feels totally unmanageable. Team members aren’t producing results, or you can’t seem to find good talent. Your calendar is chock full of meetings, and you have no time to do deep, creative work. You are disconnected from the energy you used to feel in your leadership role, and further than ever from a work life balance. And you are now completely overwhelmed and frozen. Que in burnout.

These are some of the most common pains our clients bring to the table when we begin to work together. And here are some of the top ways we’ve helped leaders shift their approach, combat executive burnout, and begin to enjoy their job again:

  1. Lean into the hybrid model

A hybrid model is here to stay. A McKinsey survey from early 2021 found that “in the post pandemic future of work, nine out of ten organizations will be combining remote and on-site working.” This Future Forum report further confirms those findings, stating that 65% of all workers would prefer working some of the time from the office and some of the time remotely.Instead of staying in uncertainty, which fuels executive burnout, focus on how to best implement this for your business. In this most recent data, “nearly twice as many executives say they would prefer to work from the office three to four days a week” as compared with non-executives. As a leader, it’s your role to find the balance that works best for you and your team. Here are some questions to ask when exploring this:

  1. Why do you personally enjoy working in the office?
  2. When do you decide NOT to work in the office, and why?
  3. Which kinds of work activities are most important to complete in person, in the office?
  4. What kinds of team norms might you introduce to make it easier for people to come into the office? (i.e. flexibility on hours in office, set days for in-person meetings, etc.)

Finally, you may be experiencing real grief over losing the way things were. That is ok. Allow yourself to go through the process. Acknowledge the anger, sadness, or other emotions attached to this. The only way out is through.

  1. Don’t go it alone

Have you ever spent a lot of time creating a policy, plan, or process you thought would be well-received, only to have it backfire? Not only are you annoyed that all your hard work is apparently not appreciated, you then have to deal with the backlash. This definitely does not make for an enjoyable leadership experience.In this report, 60% of the executives surveyed say they’re designing their companies’ policies with little to no direct input from employees. We’ve seen a lot of organizational time and energy wasted when this is the primary approach. Instead, try this:

  1. Invite input from those who will be affected by the decision.
  2. Make a decision.
  3. Communicate the decision, connecting it back to team input, company strategy, and your perspective as a leader.

As CEO, you are the ultimate decision maker in the company. That can feel exciting, but also introduce a lot of pressure. You don’t have to figure out everything on your own - you’ve got a great team you can lean on to create a company where everyone can do their best work.

  1. Help your team learn how to best meet with you

Now that most of us are spending less time together at work, whether in a physical office or digital space, it’s important to use that time wisely. Both executives and non-executives cite ‘collaboration’ as the top motivator for working synchronously. A close second for non-executives is to build camaraderie; for executives, though, this motive lands in last place, meaning “non-executives value building camaraderie at more than twice the rate of executives.”You probably experience a lot of frustration when your team shows up to meetings hoping to build camaraderie, while you show up hoping to quickly learn information, solve problems, and make decisions. While we believe you should absolutely have a plan for nurturing relationships with your team, we can appreciate that daily meetings may not be the place that makes most sense.How do you reduce the frustration? Communicate what you expect out of meeting, how you prefer information to be communicated, and how long you expect to spend in the meeting. Some of our clients feel bad introducing constraints, but we know that teams value clarity so much that they really appreciate this level of communication. When meetings are run effectively, it can actually result in more time for unstructured camaraderie in your day. It’s a win-win.

  1. Lead transparently, and communicate often.

According to this report, “people who believe their leaders are transparent feel nearly four times as high a sense of belonging with their teams and report more than six times as high satisfaction with their work environment.” Wouldn’t it be more fun to be at the helm of a team who feels this way about work?A lot of your stress comes from the fact that you see strategy, roles, expectations, and norms very clearly in your head, but haven’t yet communicated all of this to the organization (or at minimum to the leaders you rely on most to carry out your strategy). We have an entire article on this topic, but here are the cliff’s notes:

  • People love clarity. They may not see eye to eye with you, but they would still rather have clarity than ambiguity.
  • People want to do good work. It frustrates them (and you, by extension) when they have to spend their time chasing down answers instead of doing what they love to do, that moves the needle for your company.

We are all human, and we need to feel this sense of connection to our workplace in order to truly thrive.

Thriving humans create thriving companies

Glowe was founded upon the idea that the challenges we face today will only be solved by people who are supported to do their best work, in workplace environments of trust, alignment, and clarity. While we don’t love seeing such record-high numbers of dissatisfaction and burnout among our business leaders and their teams, we’re encouraged by the clarity of the conclusions in the report. Change is hard, but I think we can all agree that there’s no returning to a pre-pandemic “normal.” The good news is that there is always a way forward. You always have a choice that can put you back in a good place. We know what to do now. For the leaders who are ready, we’re here to accompany you on the journey toward a more fulfilling and balanced workplace – for you and your team.

Resource: https://futureforum.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Future-Forum-Pulse-Report-Fall-2022.pdf

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