In a lunch gathering of 20 business owners this week, I asked, “What has been the best and worst of 2023?” The most common challenge was finding and keeping good people. And, the underlying issue most mentioned with managing people was that so many are tired and feeling burned out.


Why are so many people saying they are burned out right now?


What is burnout?

The World Health Organisation officially classifies ‘Burn-out’ as follows:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

    • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
    • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
    • reduced professional efficacy.

Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

As my wife, health professional and Director at Purple Co, Jo Muirhead, says, Burnout results from your relationship with your work.”

Your work must be connected to purpose. Even then, if there is dysfunction in your team, or unrealistic expectations on yourself, or a range of other issues, then work can begin to grind you down. This usually happens slowly, over a long period of time.

Collective tiredness post-Covid is not burnout

As we close out 2023, I know a lot of people who feel tired. Everyone who is tired is very quickly saying and thinking they are burned out. Some are tired. Some are very tired. There is a collective tiredness that is the lingering effects of the Covid lockdowns, and all the uncertainty related to that period of our lives. I believe this will take a few more years to work its way out of our lives. We have questioned a lot of things about our lives, including our relationship with work. Under the surface, there is a huge readjustment going on. This has resulted in an underlying layer of stress which everyone feels but does not understand.

We are not as willing as we were to push through and work hard. We want our work to serve our lives better. With these underlying changes going on, work feels harder and more tiring. This can be confused with burnout. And, if not understood and effectively addressed, could lead to burnout.

Managers who are responsible for leading people to achieve results are likely to be frustrated right now. People are less willing to commit. They are more likely to prioritise personal issues before work. This can make it challenging to build momentum in a business. People are less focused and feeling tired.


Signs of burnout

As well as those mentioned above in the WHO quote, there are other signs, such as: lack of compassion, and lack of empathy. Feeling quite flat most of the time (not just a day or two – that’s normal). Lack of motivation, wanting to isolate yourself, and pull back from friends within yourself.


What is NOT burnout?

When you don’t like your boss. When your company makes you travel to the office, and you would rather work from home. When work becomes an inconvenience to your life. Burnout is not just feeling tired or unmotivated.

It is not about long hours or travel times or how much you are paid. These things affect your attitude to work but are not indicators of burnout.


Flexible work has changed our relationship with work.

Some people who work from home have blurred the lines between work and personal life so much they no longer have any time in their lives when they totally disengage from work.

At some level they are always working. This is unhealthy, causes tiredness and increased stress, and could eventually lead to burnout.


Things you can do to prevent burnout.

Some need a longer-term holiday. Others need to change some habits and learn to take regular breaks from their work. There needs to be regular time each week when you are involved in something that you enjoy other than work, which totally consumes your mind so much so you lose all track of time.

This discipline will help you disengage from work, free up your mind, and breathe life and health into your soul.


Things you can do to recover from burnout.

Burnout does not happen in a week, and rarely over one year. It happens slowly over time. It is repaired slowly over time. A 3-week holiday will help but not fix burnout. To fix burnout you need to change some of the ways you relate to your work daily.


Burnout Recovery Program

My wife, Jo Muirhead, has developed a Burnout Recovery Program. This program is one of the few resources available that addresses the effects of burnout and helps people recover. To learn more about the program click here.

As Jo says, “For over a decade, I’ve been working with people to recover from burnout, and what sets this program apart is its focus on addressing the relationship individuals have with their work.”


Checking in with you

As we head towards to end of another year, how are you going?

Many business owners I speak to are working very hard and doing way too much. They are quite dissatisfied with their team. And as we hit December, they are tired.

Does that describe you or someone you know?

If so, can I encourage you to reach out and book an obligation-free call to talk about your situation. I am confident I can give you some clues about how you could refresh your business strategy to give you hope that 2024 can be a different kind of year for you.

I firmly believe you can achieve business growth, build an empowered team, and create a great lifestyle for you and your family, without burning yourself out.


Don’t delay

If you do not have clear vision for this season in your business or for your life, do not wait another day. An old proverb wisely says, “Without vision people live carelessly”. Foggy vision is dangerous. Don’t wait any longer. Let me help you refresh your vision and get your focus and your energy restored.



Over the years I’ve written many articles about burnout! Here are a few of my favourites to help you integrate your work into all other parts of your life.

INTEGRATE: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth | John Drury

Integrate: Why Work Life Balance is a Myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle

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