Roundtable: Beating burnout, a data-driven approach

With Resilience Specialist Rachel Austen, CPsychol. MBPsS

Leathwaite recently hosted an HR Leaders Roundtable with Organisational Psychologist, Rachel Austen, to discuss trends in resilience and burnout from some of the world’s leading companies. Below we have shared some of the key discussion points from the event.

Rachel’s data from the AURA tool shows employee resilience has dropped 10% in the past 6 months, with the majority of employees now in the “languishing” state.

Several leaders shared experiences of working in high-performing organisations with an “up or out” culture in which individuals who got to critical stages of burnout would simply leave, leaving an organisation whose employees were all in a “resilient” state.

We discussed how the price of being an organisation that “burns through” employees in this way is the lack of diversity amongst those who remain.

Key factors detrimental to resilience include:

burnout technology

Telepressure  – the perceived pressure to be available and respond quickly to messages

We discussed the new “right to disconnect” law in Portugal, which makes it unlawful for employers to contact employees outside of working hours.

Creative out of office messages have been encouraged at one company, to protect hours of the day e.g. “I’ll next be checking my emails at 2 pm, if you need to reach me before then, please call me”.

Messaging around telepressure is no use if management doesn’t lead by example. Leaders in the business also need to model not sending/responding to messages out of hours. An example was shared of a firm where senior management made a Charter on this point.

Target perfection

Pressure to be Perfect – a perception that mistakes are not acceptable, leading to a blame and shame culture

The “antidote” to this is a growth mindset. The idea that mistakes are learning opportunities, that trainees and managers embrace and collaborate to analyse.

Rachel observed that many organisations say they support a growth culture rather than a blame culture, but when it comes to behaviours, they often do not “walk the walk”.

It was discussed that pressure to be perfect can be both a cause and a symptom of low organisational resilience.

The idea was shared of companies celebrating work that is “good enough” – to make the point that “good enough” really does mean exactly that!

Rachel Austen shared the practice of having peers sit in appraisals/feedback sessions to ensure employees are protected from being on the receiving end of managers’ own emotional resilience issues.

Case studies of Organisations who’ve used resilience modeling

An example was shared of a company that did a pulse metric to measure resilience in different departments at the beginning of the pandemic. They found their IT team were dangerously low on the resilience scale. They addressed this through forced time off (not annual leave – effectively time in lieu, but put forward as mandatory) and brought on interim support to cope with short-term demands.

External Challenges

Organisations can change their internal policies to mitigate the detrimental effects of telepressure and pressure to be perfect. However, if external clients do not mirror this a disconnect may arise. It then becomes the responsibility of leaders in the business to diplomatically manage client expectations in order to protect the sustainability of their business.

rachel austen

Rachel Austen is a chartered occupational psychologist with over 16 years of experience working for two leading consultancies in the field, SHL and Mercer, providing advice to many large organisations in addressing their people issues.

She is a specialist in psychometric assessment, leadership development and resilience. Having spent 10 years working in Singapore and Hong Kong, she has a wide variety of experience and insight into different cultures.

She now runs her own consultancy with a focus on stress management and resilience, using a proprietary tool entitled AURA.

Event Details

This event was hosted by Jo Mortimer. To see further market insights from our HR Practice and Leathwaite’s other practice areas, click here.