The Real Risk of Executive Burnout in the Public Service of Canada

From http://psacunion.ca/we-are-all-affected


You are loyal, your work ethic is high and so are job expectations. You are in the zone! You’re learning, challenged, feel connected and the profile is awesome. You come in early, stay late and even work weekends.


Then the workmares start. You know those nightmares about work where you find yourself dreaming up what went wrong, what you missed, what they missed, blaming you, blaming them. Yeah, those. Work-life balance is a foreign concept. Your smile and positivity become a distant memory. Your energy is draining and you are not performing at your best. Have you have gone from bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to burnt out?


The Association for Professional Executives (APEX) of the Public Service of Canada regularly surveys the health of its executives. This survey, taken every five years since 1997, paints a worrisome picture of Canada’s federal executives. The work habits adopted by a significant portion of our public service are actually putting their health at risk.


When our clients first come to us, they want to perform at their best and that cocktail of job pressures, drive to succeed and mounting expectations can lead to job fatigue and mental and physical exhaustion.


We have summarized some of the results of the APEX survey that people speak about the most:


1. Excessive work hours

On average, executives are working 51 hours per week. A full 25% of them are working more than 55 hours per week. Studies have shown that working more than 55 hours per week significantly increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases and depression. Other studies have shown that working more than 40 hours per week decreases mental capacity and performance which results in higher error rates.


2. Mental health issues

The percentage of federal executives showing signs of depression or anxiety has almost doubled, from 6% in 2007 to 11% in 2012. One in five executives uses medication to treat depression, anxiety or insomnia. This is of concern because depression can have long-term effects on the ability to perform complex tasks from memory to the planning of future actions.


3. Lack of sleep

A full 33% of executives are sleep-deprived and 10% are under a physician’s care for insomnia. Sleep deprivation has been linked to lowered stress thresholds, impaired memory, difficulties with concentration, decreased optimism, and reduced creativity. A lack of sleep can have enormous implications for those in leadership positions.


4. Lack of exercise

At 43%, the rate of obesity among executives has reached an all‐time high. Half of all executives are now considered sedentary, compared with 32% in 2007. Once again, this is significant, because exercise programs have been shown to improve memory, attention, and decision-making.


5. Burnout

While fewer executives are reporting mild levels of burnout, 25% report symptoms of severe burnout. The incidence of executives reaching out to professional counselling services to deal with stress has doubled in the past 15 years, from 10% in 1997 to 21% in 2012. This is a troubling trend no matter how you look at it, and one has to wonder just how much higher these numbers might go.


These results come from a survey of federal executives, but our experience is that these issues exist for executives and driven employees across all sectors. We have worked with executives and leaders in healthcare, technology, manufacturing, the financial sector and education, and the pattern is always the same.


Are you an executive or leader who works over 50 hours a week, has trouble sleeping, does not exercise regularly or feels burnt out? Do you know such a person? If so, it might be time for that person to reach out to take care of their health.   Coaching might be a good place to start. Our executive coaches are very familiar with these issues, and they have helped hundreds of executives successfully work through them. We can help you adopt new behaviours that allow you to work effectively while caring for your health.


If you have any questions about how coaching can help you, please contact us. We always start with a free coaching conversation to see where we can go from there.




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