Burnout – The Executive Burnover (Part II)

5th December 2022

In the second part of this two-article series on burnout, special Boardroom contributor Ole Petter Anfinsen, Vice President of EDBAC and DBA Research Associate at Henley Business School, UK, explains how to avoid overwhelming stress and pressure in these unprecedented times.

Association leaders and senior executives are sometimes taking major risks. They are making daily choices which influence their own health and wellbeing – some of which may bring them to the edge. Hence, there are reasons for why people get ill, depending on circumstances. 

At a senior executive level, one can see stress and pressure rapidly increasing as we manoeuvre through the aftermath of the pandemic. Therefore, it is more important than ever to have a well-equipped “tool kit” to handle the pressure that comes with this new challenging climate, where one must be able to adapt and evolve along the changing environment.  

Preventive measures, routines and activities

Here are five preventive measures to burnout which may help you to stay on top of things: 1) focus on health and wellbeing; 2) practice mindfulness and make time for yourself; 3) stay organized and keep to-do lists; 4) celebrate wins and make sure to reward yourself;  and 5) protect your private life and ensure you get time to switch off (Paliwal , 2016).

In addition to the previous list several CEOs have also recommended the following: pace yourself while maintaining focus, get organized and structure yourself, do not procrastinate, stay positive, seek support, remember the basics, take brakes and breathe, and have fun (Fleming, 2000)

Alongside these different measures I would also recommend that you have a keen focus on getting enough sleep. However, remember it’s not about making big changes, it’s about the small changes that one will be able to stick to as a part of a daily routine. 

The importance of sleep

I would now like to elaborate on sleep, which is crucial to our physiological and psychological wellbeing. As previously discussed, experiencing burnout has several severe implications to one’s health – and amongst many other health-related issues it may lead to sleep deprivation. Sleep is underestimated by many and a lot of us are sleeping less than what is recommended, which may decrease work performance. Subsequently, sleep deprivation may lead tohostility and decreasing self-control (Christian & Ellis, 2011). 

Losing sleep and suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation does not only affect the individual, but also the team and the people we surround ourselves with (Barnes & Hollenbeck, 2009). It also has a negative impact on problem solving and decision-making (Barnes & Hollenbeck, 2009), and has even been linked to suicidal thoughts and behaviour (Littlewood, et al., 2016). Considering all this, it comes as no surprise that losing sleep is a severe health risk (Perlis, et al., 2016). 

ROI of health
Maintaining a good health and balance is utterly important, also for our respective organizations as people create and add value – meaning they have a direct impact on business and shareholder value. So, looking after employee health is always considered a good strategic move (Quick, et al., 2000). People often ask if health provides a return on investment. As part of my job is to translate health into a financial language, the answer is yes. Focusing on health might create the competitive advantage needed in this increasingly pressured market. 

But you might still be wondering: what exactly is the ROI of health? This is very well explained by Michael Critelli, former CEO of Pitney Bowesan American technology company most known for its postage meters and other mailing equipment and service:

“There are multiple reasons why a healthy employee produces an ROI. If you’re a self-insured employer, you get the benefit of reduced health care costs. You get the benefit of reduced worker’s compensation costs, reduced disability costs, both short and long term, reduced absenteeism, reduced presenteeism, which is the lack of productivity of an employee whose health is impaired, better work quality from employees that are alert on the job, better loyalty. If you treat people with respect and dignity, they will stay longer and work harder for a company that attends to their health. And better ability to recruit and retain people.” (Harvard Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Business School, 2018)

Rule of thumb

Ole Petter Anfinsen is a new, special contributor to Boardroom. He is the Vice President of the Executive DBA Council (EDBAC) and a doctoral (DBA) research associate at Henley Business School. He is also the founder of Anfinsen Executive Health and Performance (AEHP) and co-author of the book Quality of Life.

To make it simple and implement one easy routine for yourself I would give you the 8-hour rule, to stay on top of work, private life, and sleep. Work for 8 hours, do something for yourself for 8 hours, and sleep for 8 hours. There you go, your 24 hours are done (Grønn, 2018).

On a final note – don’t forget to get enough sleep and pursue your passion.

Ole’s first article can be found here.


Barnes, C. M. & Hollenbeck, J. R. (2009). Sleep deprivation and decision-making teams: burning the midnight oil or playing with fire?. The Academy of Management Review, 34(1), 56-66.

Christian, M. S. & Ellis, A. P. (2011). Examinining the effects of sleep deprivation on workplace, Deviance: a self-regulatory perspective, Arizona: Academy of Management Journal.

Fleming, C. (2000). How do you beat stress & prevent burnout?. Credit Union Magazine, 66(4), 21, 2.

Grønn, H. (2018). TV 2. [Online] 
Available at: https://www.tv2.no/video/underholdning/god-morgen-norge/aa-vaere-toppleder-krever-at-du-er-i-toppform/1285340/

Harvard Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Business School (2018). Improving Your Business Through a Culture of Health, Boston: HarvardX and edX.

Littlewood, D. et al. (2016). Understanding the role of sleep in suicide risk: qualitative interview study. BMJ Open.

Paliwal , D. (2016). Harman CEO: 5 Ways to Avoid Burnout.. Fortune, 759-759.

Perlis, M. L. et al. (2016). Theoretical review: Suicide and sleep: Is it a bad thing to be awake when reason sleeps?. Sleep Medicine Reviews , Volume 29, 101-107.

Quick, J., Gavin, J. H., Cooper, C. L. & Quick, J. D. (2000). Executive health: Building strength, managing risks.. Academy of Management Executive., 14(2), 34-44.

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