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Preventing Burnout Is About Empathetic Leadership [hbr.org]

 

By Jennifer Moss, Harvard Business Review, September 28, 2020

How many of us are currently living without margins — the space to handle life’s simplest stresses. I know I’ve fallen into this trap myself. It can happen after being mentally stretched and dealing with chronic stress for too long. Basically, we are left with zero margin for error. It also means that we don’t realize we’re at our max until it’s too late. Before we know it, we’ve hit the wall.

As part of the research that I’m doing for my forthcoming book on burnout, I spoke with Dr. Marie Åsberg, MD, psychiatrist, expert in exhaustion disorder, and professor at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. It’s from Dr. Åsberg that I learned about “hitting the wall.” She describes this as the moment “where some additional burden is placed on the employee and they experience a mental break.” She showed me the evolution of this disorder over an 18-month period. An employee tends to experience small ebbs and flows of stress and then suddenly, a cliff. That one stressor isn’t any different from any others, it’s just the final blow — the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The margins eventually give way.

A brand-new survey of 3,900 employees and business leaders across 11 nations, led by The Workforce Institute at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group) and Workplace Intelligence, discovered that burnout and fatigue are equally concerning for employees working remotely (43%) and those in a physical workplace (43%). Overall, three in five (59%) employees and business leaders say their organization has taken at least some measures to guard against burnout, though nearly a third (29%) of employees wish organizations would act with more empathy.

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