Avoiding burnout at work

Stressed woman at work
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We’ve all either experienced it, witnessed it or been on the receiving end of it. The one too many late nights or weekends working, the pressure to meet never-ending deadlines, the juggling act to keep the plates spinning in the air whilst you swap hats between being boss, leader, work colleague, mother or father, sister or brother, daughter or son.


The silent whisperer that slowly creeps up on you and laughs in your face as you say with confidence ‘I’ve got this’.  And then one day the plates stop spinning and come crashing down.

Burnout at work is real and maybe more common than you think. The UK Government’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related stress, depression or anxiety as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work.

In 2016, 11.7 million working days were lost due to this condition alone, with the main work factors cited by respondents as being workload pressures, tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.

How can we avoid burnout at work?

Employers have a responsibility to ensure health and wellbeing forms part of an overarching people strategy. If employees see this support as an integral focal point for the company then they may be more open and prepared to raise the subject with their manager in the first instance.

Corporate wellness is now more important than ever. Companies who acknowledge their people’s personal emotional wellbeing on an equal footing to their capabilities to perform a role understand it’s the energy source powering their performance. When it’s low, their performance is low impacting both the short- and long-term performance of the business.

Enable people to spot the warning signs

Leaders of any business must be developed in understanding the triggers that could lead to a potential burnout at work and, more importantly, create a safe and secure working environment to avoid it happening. For example, having regular check-ins to understand workloads, awareness of hours working, a watching brief on overtime requests, regular and open performance conversations.

But this shouldn’t be viewed as a one-way street. Yes, enable leaders and managers to spot the warning signs in their people (and selves!) but also enable employees to become their own performance coach, to highlight behaviours that are causing them concern (being unable to switch off, poor sleep patterns, loss of appetite etc.) and raise it with the confidence that something will be done.

Start your day with your warm up, hit your performance zone and close out the day with your recovery zone.

But I am a realist. Having worked with many businesses across a multitude of sectors, enterprises and governments, coaching and mentoring business leaders, managers and owners, I understand there is a disparity on how burnout at work is viewed, managed and mitigated.

As a result, this places more emphasis on the individual to take preventive steps to avoid burnout in the first place.

Athletes, sports people, high achievers amongst many tend to operate in two zones: the performance zone and the recovery zone. Both equally important but serving two purposes. These same principles can be applied to your working day.

The performance zone

The performance zone is when you’re ‘on it’, doing your thing, being the best version of you. But before entering the performance zone a warm up is critical. Take for example running, before you start your 10K run, you complete a 5 mins walk to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping.

Often we put little time into the recovery zone, which means we carry the day into our evening, never quite turning off. And before we know it, it’s morning again!

Before you enter your performance zone for the day – the office, the laptop, the mobile – start your warm up; think what is worthy of your time for that day, stop and reflect the trade-offs you are going to have to make in order to get things done and accept those decisions, then write down your to-do items for that particular day. 

Having set yourself up for success, you can transition into your performance zone being and feeling in control of your day and what you need and want to achieve. Yes, things will fly at you from left field, but before you dive in firefighting take ‘time out’ to apply your warm up techniques so you can re-set your day with these new demands in mind.

The recovery zone

The second zone, the recovery zone, is often the zone we miss. This zone is where you transition from your performance zone – work – into your personal life. This is where you come down from the high or low of the day, reflect on what’s gone well or not gone well, and question what you have learnt new today that will help you be better tomorrow.

The recovery zone is where you decompress and close down the day so you can shut the door and tune into your personal life  – family, hobbies, outside activities  – and be present in the moment. Often we put little time into the recovery zone, which means we carry the day into our evening, never quite turning off. And before we know it, it’s morning again!


Start your day with your warm up, hit your performance zone and close out the day with your recovery zone.

Remember, in life you make your choices and then your choices make you. Are you making good choices today?


About Royston Guest

Royston Guest

Royston Guest is a leading authority on growing businesses and unlocking people potential. Having spent two decades coaching and mentoring business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs Royston knows what it takes to build a great business.

An entrepreneur at heart, Royston sold his first business after 3yrs for £1.4m. Since then he’s built multiple businesses including his global business growth consultancy and people development business which he is currently CEO.

Royston is passionate to make a real tangible difference helping business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs deliver accelerated, sustained and profitable business growth. His energy and enthusiasm is contagious, inspiring others to take action.

  • Author of business growth book, Built to Grow a proven time-tested model to unlock real business potential full of strategies, tools and ideas.
  • CEO of Pti Worldwide, a Global Consultancy and People Development Business spanning over two decades, clients in 27 countries, helping tens of thousands of businesses across a multitude of sectors, enterprises, and governments.
  • Founder of livingyourfuture the ‘go-to’ place for personal transformation & growth.
  • Accomplished Business Strategists, Executive Coach and Facilitator with a proven track record for delivering business growth.
  • Acclaimed world renowned Conference Speaker for more than 10 years, speaking at 110 events last year alone, inspiring over 30,000 people
  • Active Business Growth Blogger regularly featured in print, online and on radio including BBC Radio, The Guardian, Mail Online, realbusiness.co.uk and many more.


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