How to deal with burnout in the face of great resignation

Overwhelmed. Drained. You feel exhausted from the post-pandemic return to work and IRL socializing? Are you worried about where the next creative spark of genius will come from?

It is not an exaggeration to say that the past two years of blurred boundaries between home and work have had a negative impact on our mental health. This, combined with the Great Resignation, which is seeing many people leave the creative industries in masse, is putting more pressure on those who are still in their roles.

Even though there are many global efforts to address mental illness, the topic is often discussed in a predictable manner in mainstream media conversations. Apart from the personal reasons for focusing on mental health, there is also a business imperative.

The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), which surveyed high-ranking HR executives in large organisations, found that 60% of them mentioned burnout as the biggest barrier to their ability to achieve strategic objectives. Nearly half of respondents to the Deloitte 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey said they felt burnt out by their work. However, 65% of respondents felt that although their organization has been more open about mental health, this has not had any significant impact on employees. This area has the potential to have a greater positive impact.

Studies have shown that people in lower levels of leadership were more likely to feel overwhelmed and to experience burnout. It seems to be universally felt, with prominent CEOs of large organizations like Lloyds Bank Antonio Horta Osorio talking about their personal experiences with work stress and Imax CEO Richard Gelford speaking openly about feeling overwhelmed. They also discuss how they have learned to address the issue within their workplaces as well as their personal lives.

In the early 2000s I was close to burning out. I believe my experience is not unique as many people in creative industries have similar traits. I am committed to my work, my clients, and my team mates. I want to do an incredible job in an industry that has high standards and sets high standards. It is very difficult to turn off when there is work to do (and there is always more to be done).

You have the perfect recipe to trouble if you add clients who work in vastly different time zones and live in an environment that encourages responsibility. I was sparked by short-term health issues that forced me to make lifestyle changes that have helped me move forward on a sustainable path.

It is important to move beyond the stigma associated with talking about burnout, and instead take action. Employees need to be encouraged to talk openly about any issues and trained to recognize signs that may indicate someone is in distress. IBM’s “mental health ally” programme teaches employees how to recognize signs of stress and trauma in colleagues and how to approach them with empathy and compassion.

There is no one-size fits all solution for mental health problems in society and at work. A greater understanding of and empathy for mental issues and a feeling of empowerment to prioritize our mental health will undoubtedly lead to better, more open conversations that can make a real difference.

A close friend of mine was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 20 years ago. They manage their condition through diet, medication, and lifestyle. This is a full-time focus, in addition to all the other things we do every day. It’s important that they are seen as people and not just as a condition. You can help them be the creative, intelligent and funny person that they are by making some considerations about how to better interact with the world.

This seems to be the key. It is taking the time to learn what makes us perform at our best, and working with leaders and employers who are compassionate enough to try out more individualised ways to work and support, that helps to unlock our potential.

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