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Burnout In The Boardroom: What's The Cost?

burnout coaching leadership Mar 13, 2024
  • In 2023 AXA Reported that Burnout was costing the UK economy £28bn a year.

  • Harvard Business Review reported that in the US, the cost of Burnout was more than $500bn a year.

  • WHOOP Unite reported that the costs to the global economy are more than $1 trillion a year.

  • WHOOP also estimated that the cost of turnover for each person is 1.5 to 2 times their salary in both loss of knowledge and skills, and the cost to hire someone new.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Varying reports and surveys from Gallup, Workhuman, Deloitte and Harvard Business Review over the years have stated that between 62% and 70% of Executives are or have considered leaving their jobs for workplaces that care more about wellbeing, and in the same studies, 50% to 60% of people outside of management roles want to quit for similar reasons.

Yet still, so many Exec teams refuse to admit that Burnout is a thing that’s worth focusing on or talking about.

Studies show that 65% of leaders have experienced burnout symptoms since 2019 and that this has led to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover rates within their teams.

Also, it was observed that organisations with high rates of leadership burnout were more likely to face challenges in employee engagement and overall performance.

But there’s more.

Burnout doesn’t just stop at work, you can’t just switch it off when you get home or leave it on your desk.

Not surprisingly, many leaders feel that the effects of burnout are impacting their lives outside of the office too.

  • 65% report rarely or never taking all their allotted vacation/holiday days due to their workload.

  • 56% aren’t getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night.

  • 47% say burnout has had a negative impact on their personal relationships.

  • 46% frequently skip at least one meal per day because they are too busy or stressed from work.

Despite these impacts, some executives conclude that it’s all part of the job.

And herein lies a HUGE part of the problem.

When I got my seat at the table, I thought all of this was normal too.  Just ‘part of the job’ and to be expected when you’re being paid the big bucks right!


It doesn’t have to be this way.  And it shouldn’t be this way.

Four-day week trials have shown that working less, taking more breaks, and focusing on the work that really matters, is not just great for wellbeing, but that it makes business sense too.

If the top team aren’t setting the standard and role-modelling what a healthy balance looks like, no wonder our people are all experiencing more stress.

Your people are looking to you.  They’re looking at you.  And currently, you’re not giving them what they need.

And often, the answers that I hear when this is talked about, is even more resilience training and the need for everyone to be more resilient at every level.

But let’s take a step back on this for a minute.

In essence, when we talk about resilience we mean how quickly can you get back on the horse and just keep on moving.

You fall off, you get back on.

You fall off, you get back on.

And you just keep going.

But this is exactly the reason that so many people are experiencing Burnout.  You have continued to get back on the horse after every single fall, week after week, month after month, year after year.

And now the horse has bolted.

We can’t keep saying we need more resilience, when what we need is change.

The world of work, for many, is broken. And no amount of resilience training is going to fix the deep-rooted, toxic, and growing issues that are resulting in Burnout.

Burnout is costing you and your people your health, wellbeing, relationships, careers, and that’s all before we start to look at the financial costs to your business and the global economy.

The number one cause of Burnout globally is still, toxic workplaces.

And I think many of you are continuing to confuse high-performance with toxicity.

High performance isn’t about bums on seats, presenteeism, long hours, no breaks, no holidays or vacations, always on, and being in fear of losing your job if you’re not available 24/7.

True high performance is sustainable, not least because it's about prioritising down-time and recovery time.  It’s about doing the right things, not all the things.  It’s about valuing people, recognising and rewarding people, communicating effectively, listening, growing, permission to fail, and learning from errors. It’s about people and wellbeing coming first – because when you do this, performance and productivity improve automatically because your people feel part of the organisation, supported and engaged.

Burnout is filtering through every level of your organisations because you’re refusing to admit that it exists.

You’re refusing to admit that you’re at Burnout, because it feels like failure and you don’t want to admit that you’re at rock bottom because you might just kicked out (hello toxic workplace).

But here’s the thing.

If you can’t talk openly in the Boardroom about how you’re feeling, nothing will change.

And if you can’t create happy, healthy, and high-performing workplaces at your level, so you’re leaving to go elsewhere, Burnout will continue to spread.

Burnout is real.

Burnout is impacting every level of your organisation because you are not listening, you’re not leading, and you’re not leaning into the real problem.

Forcing people back to the office will not fix how you’re currently feeling.

Your current lack of decision-making ability, judgement, and ability to stop, is because you are on the brink of Burnout.

Now is the time for a collective pause, a breath, an honest conversation, and some BIG change.

The cost of Burnout goes far beyond the financials, and like a recession, the impact of Burnout and long-term costs to your life and your health, can take decades to recover from, if at all.

You’re close to Burnout if you’re:

  • Pushing harder and working longer for fear that stopping means failure

  • Unable to make decisions like you used to – in fact you’re scared of making a decision

  • Fearful that every call or email is the one that’s telling you you’re out

  • Refusing to take a break

  • Not listening to your people

  • Looking for new roles, but feeling like you can’t do any of the ones you’re looking at

  • Lacking in confidence, have lost your spark, and you don’t know who you are anymore

  • Spending all weekending recovering from the week that’s been in preparation for the week ahead

  • Saying yes to all of the above

  •  The change must start with you.

And I’m guessing that you can no longer afford to carry on as you are.

The time for change is now. Are you ready?


Kelly is the HR Anti-Burnout Coach Banishing Burnout in a changing world of work at She works with clients to help them to transform the way they do things so that they can create health and high performance for themselves and their organisations.

Kelly is the creator of FRAZZLED The Podcast and author of Mind The Gap: A Story of Burnout, Breakthrough and Beyond. 


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