Prior to April 2021, Jonathan Frostick’s life was a normal one -which, in hindsight, might be a somewhat alarming statement-, in the sense that he put up with enormous amounts of work-related stress every day, and told no one about it.
The term “normal,” here, is key as, according to a 2021 report by Gallup, around 57% of workers from the US and Canada reported feeling stress daily, a figure that rose 8% from the previous year.
In April 2021, however, a burnout episode turned into a heart attack that almost ended Jonathan’s life (if this sounds excessive, bear in mind that, according to the American Institute of Stress, 120,000 people die as a direct result of work-related stress every year).
Happily for Jonathan, though, his visit to the emergency room didn’t bring his life to an untimely end, but it did bring about a series of changes, both in outlook and in the way he approaches his work.
In a LinkedIn post that has since gone viral, and been featured in publications such as the Financial Times, he made a list of resolutions that included not spending all day on zoom anymore, losing weight, and spending more time with his family. In addition, he now works as a Strategic Advisor for Leanmote, where he seeks to explore how tracking stress metrics and statistics can help other people avoid what he went through.
What happens during a burnout episode and how does it impact employees’ output and wellbeing?
The WHO defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” and it’s characterized by the co-occurrence of three conditions:
- Exhaustion – persistent physical, cognitive, and/or emotional fatigue
- Detachment – feelings of isolation and cynicism
- Inefficacy – feeling that one is accomplishing little that is of value
Burnout is associated with a decline in employee performance, levels of engagement, and job satisfaction. Moreover, there’s a significant correlation between chronic work-related stress and an increase in physical and mental illness.
At the same time, people that have suffered burnouts typically experience long periods of recovery before they can go back to their habitual levels of productivity and wellbeing, and many of them might never go back to their pre-burnout levels.
How much time does it take to recover from burnout?
If we take a look at the scientific literature surrounding the subject, it’s estimated that employees can report sensations of burnout after one year with a natural recovery, although that number can go up to even ten years with some individuals (Cherniss, 1990) -and it’s important to note that most burnout cases don’t actually end up in a heart attack, which is obviously a much more detrimental situation.
As you can see, there’s no fixed period of recovery, as there are multiple variables that go into it, once the storm has passed -such as, what changes you bring forward after the event, both at work and in life in general, your overall physical condition, the support you receive from the people that surrounds you, and even your access to modern medical equipment and institutions, as well as a whole array of uniquely personal physiological characteristics that go into the mix.
For Jonathan, it’s now been almost eight months after his heart attack and he’s been through two medical interventions, but he still feels he’s at the beginning of his recovery, even though his body is responding well to the treatment. As he mentions in a video published on his LinkedIn account, there are two sides to his recovery, one’s physical and the other’s mental and the latter can be the real challenge.
Preventing burnout through the use of technology and analytics
When considering cases like Jonathan’s, we mustn’t forget that the real tragedy about these kinds of situations is that they’re completely avoidable. Stress is brought about by a series of triggers -or stressors- which employees, as well as senior staff and leaders, can -and should- be on the lookout for.
What’s more, stress can be measured through a set of metrics, and brought down (each time there’s a risk of burnout) by a series of methods, such as increasing social support within the company, reducing conflict, improving physical health, engaging in relaxing activities, and taking a day off.
Now, organizations can have a hard time measuring and following up on their employees’ wellbeing, and this is where companies like Leanmote come in. Leanmote tracks employee wellbeing and stress statistics and provides analytics and insights that help both employees and their leaders know when it’s time to do something to prevent burnout.
Becoming a better leader
Good leadership doesn’t come easy in organizations. Oftentimes, Managers lack the visibility to know exactly what’s going on with each member of their team, and this can lead to critical issues such as low job satisfaction and engagement, drops in productivity, and, of course, stress and burnout.
According to a recent study, one of the main factors that drive the prevention of employee burnout at work is “increasing/maintaining supervisor social support” (Otto et al., 2020). This gives us a glimpse into how important it is that Managers act at the right time and in the right way.
And, with Leanmote’s platform, they can perform better in their positions as leaders, by gaining powerful insights into the overall wellbeing and engagement trends of their teams and receiving expert advice on how to best manage a situation surrounding high levels of stress or job dissatisfaction in employees.
Wellbeing Analytics and Burnout Prevention
Even though Jonathan wasn’t monitoring his stress levels or overall health data prior to his heart attack, once he thought about it, he could easily notice how the pattern began to emerge.
He did, however, begin to check on these metrics after the event of April 2021, and the results were clear. With real-time insights into his health trends, he could see when it was time to push back and work on himself and, in this way, avoid a potential problem with his recovery. In other words, he was able to take back control over his life and work.
Now, he’s trying to organize his new life, while he works actively to help businesses take care of their employees, and employees take care of themselves, by collaborating with health and wellbeing startups like Leanmote as an Advisor. And only eight months after his heart attack, he’s been featured in a Financial Times podcast, in which he reflects on his experience as a life-changing event.
As he states in the video we mentioned earlier, “…the way that we work now (in a post-pandemic world) provides lots of opportunities for organizations to understand how they can better manage hybrid/remote teams.” And with a bit of luck, his experience and subsequent efforts can help drive that change in the following years.
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Natural Recovery From Burnout: Results From A 10-Year Follow-Up Study; Cary Cherniss; 1990
The Development of a Proactive Burnout Prevention Inventory: How Employees Can Contribute to Reduce Burnout Risks; Madelon C. B. Otto, Joris Van Ruysseveldt, Nicole Hoefsmit y Karen Van Dam; 2020.