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The True Cost Of Burnout

The True Cost of Burnout

Burnout, as we know, is chronic workplace stress, and it sucks! It takes a long time to take hold of you and a long time to recover from it. And still, the number of people reaching burnout continues to rise. And it’s probably no surprise that after the last few years, with global events our need to keep pushing, the increase in stress levels, and the need to prove ourselves worthy and good enough, have contributed to these growing numbers.

As we continue to move from one stressful event to another in our outside world, there doesn’t appear to be a time anytime soon that we’ll see burnout numbers decrease.

And I hate to be doom and gloom in your inbox, but if we’re going to reduce, or ideally prevent burnout, then something needs to change.

I keep seeing posts and articles about who is to ‘blame’ for burnout. Is it the employer or the employee? Surely if chronic workplace stress is what’s causing burnout then it should all be the employer's fault, right? If we believe that to be true then why isn’t every person in every organisation at the point of burnout?

What we know, is that Toxic Workplaces are still the number one cause of Burnout, and yet, in every toxic workplace not everyone is at the point of Burnout. Why?

Because we also know that high-performers, over-achievers, and perfectionists are more at risk of Burnout. And, we know that those in leadership roles are more at risk of Burnout than those on the front line.

We know that certain professions such as HR, Executives, Education, and Healthcare are seeing rising numbers in Burnout cases, and given the pressure on these roles over recent years, again, probably no real surprise.

Yet despite growing numbers of people reaching burnout, very little seems to be being actioned to prevent Burnout.

And the outrage over the last week about whether MHFA’s should or shouldn’t be a legal requirement, to my mind, shows just how little is actually being done to protect the mental and emotional health of people in the workplace. It's ironic then that these debates should be taking place during Time To Talk week.

Until we all face the reality that we are responsible for preventing burnout, we won’t create the change.

If as employers you believe it’s solely down to your people to prevent burnout, nothing will change. And if as employees you think it’s solely down to your employer to prevent burnout, nothing will change.

And probably what’s worse, is that the closer we get to burnout as individuals, the more we push in our roles, the more we get done, the more we take on, and the more we achieve until we crash. And so whilst we’re doing all of this additional work and taking on additional duties, why would our employers want to stop that? 

Surely, it’s in their best interests to keep pushing us harder and harder, because after all, any sense of needing to set boundaries is classed as ‘quiet quitting’ and we’re seen as disengaged, lazy, and not caring about our roles or our jobs.

So what’s the solution?

I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, let’s talk about the true cost of burnout. Let’s start with the money.

Forbes reported last year that 77% of Execs were leaving their roles because of Burnout to work with organisations that prioritised wellbeing. 77%! For the sake of people not being percentages, let’s round that figure up to 80%.

You’ve got five, maybe ten people on your Exec? What would happen if you lost 80% of them due to Burnout?

Exec recruitment costs vary but let’s say on average, that to replace one Exec team member, you’re looking at £30,000 in recruitment costs alone, this doesn’t even take into account the time you need to invest in this process.

Then there’s the impact of losing one or more people at Exec level, what could that cost your company? Well CBS news recently reported that losing one Exec member, could cost your company 213% of their annual salary. 

And then what about the knowledge, skills, and expertise they take with them? And, there are always the potential added costs of a comp agreement and legal fees if there is a case to answer relating to the stress and burnout created!

The numbers soon stack up, don’t they? And that’s just the money at Exec level. What about every other person on the brink of Burnout in your business?

What about the cost to the individual? Well, that one’s a little harder to quantify, but I can tell you that the cost to the person, can be a serious illness, time off work – perhaps even unpaid, and the loss of their confidence and self-esteem. And if they do find a new role they can quickly fall back into Burnout if they are so worried about making a mistake that they don’t feel able to fully perform. 

Burnout can end careers, create long terms health issues, and, research tells us that Burnout can have the same impact on the brain as trauma, which can impact the pre-frontal cortex in our brains, the part we associate with ‘being us’ and this can impact our decision making ability and ability to interact with others.

If you’re still thinking being a bit tired and needing a week off is Burnout, you’re wrong!

Burnout can take years to recover from. From my own personal experience Burnout caused me to go into early menopause aged just 32, caused issues with my digestive tract, and created Bipolar. Let me tell you, none of those things are easy to live with.

And many of my clients have developed thyroid issues, auto-immune conditions, heart conditions, and more as a result of Burnout, because, burnout is CHRONIC STRESS.

Go to your doctor to talk about chronic stress and they’ll be talking to you about potential diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, and worse.

I receive messages from people who have had strokes, collapsed on the road, had heart attacks, can’t move, have been in bed for 6 weeks or more, and have been off work for six months or more with severe breakdowns as a result of Burnout.

The cost of Burnout, the true cost, cannot be quantified, but I'm telling you, that it can cost you money, time, health, and more.

And I promised you a solution, didn’t I? Here it is.

Every single one of us needs to stop saying we’ll make the changes in our lives when things ‘calm down’ a little, and we need to make them now.

You need to get really clear on who you are, who you really are, at your core, and you need to do it now. In doing this, you’ll create the boundaries you need to create and make the changes you need to make to regain control of your busy life and create the time, space, and energy for the things that matter. The change HAS to start with you.

And then as leaders, you need to make the changes in your organisations. You need to create workplaces that are mentally, emotionally, and physically safe. Where it’s normal for your people to be able to create boundaries and leave and switch off at the end of a working day. Where it’s acceptable for everyone to have a life outside of work, and to prioritise this. Where communication is open, help and support readily available, and where you have enough people, tools, and resources to do a good job without always feeling like you’re one meeting away from a panic attack.

We are all responsible for preventing Burnout, and it all starts with each one of you.

If you don’t where to start, get in touch.

The change needs to start now. Can you afford not to?


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Kelly is the Burnout Prevention Strategist for leaders who are done with being exhausted, overwhelmed, and on the brink of burnout. Clients hire her to help them regain control of their busy lives and create the time, space, and energy for the things that matter. 

Find out more about Kelly and her work at


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