The Directors Guide to Conquering Burnout

14 May 2024

Working harder, faster and for longer hours might seem like the best way to protect your business from failure in these difficult times, but it could be putting you at risk of burnout – and endangering your company’s prospects.

Company directors are especially at risk because, as psychologist Herbert Freudenberger famously said, burnout is ‘fatigue or frustration bought on by devotion to cause’. It turns out, our intense commitment to our business is our Achilles heel. The harder we work, the less efficient, productive and creative we become.

Mistakes and missed opportunities are a given. Hardly surprising when you consider the harsh effect symptoms like insomnia, fatigue, irritability, cynicism and disillusionment can have on our ability to do our job.

Here at FTS Recovery, we’ve found that the solution isn’t just to take a holiday, lay out the yoga mat, or take up meditation. These can be useful coping mechanisms, but they are only temporary fixes. To tackle burnout head on you need to address the causes, not just treat the symptoms. That means changing the way you work, not the way you think.

Here are some of the simple changes that experience has taught us can make a big difference.

Rediscover your purpose

Having a purpose drives us to excel at what we do and gives us strength to face the challenges along the way. But it is easy to become so bogged down in the day-to-day running of our companies we forget what attracted us to this career in the first place.

Remind yourself what you love about your profession and why you chose to spend your life doing it. Then restructure your workload so you are doing more of the things you find fulfilling and fewer of the things you don’t. Be sure to look at the bigger picture too, the impact your work has on other people, and the contributions you are making.

Conduct a job analysis of your role

Your company relies on your creativity and big picture thinking and you need a clear head to do this effectively. Reducing your workload by prioritising the most important tasks and delegating, or eliminating entirely, anything non-essential could make you more productive, not less.

Critically evaluate the work you do each day. Tasks which are below your skill level or aren’t bringing significant value to your company can be demoralising and leave you overworked and uninspired, so make sure you are using your time productively.

Set achievable goals

Company directors like us tend to demand a lot from ourselves, setting tough standards and personal life goals – but we must be careful not to become trapped by our own high expectations.

The same goes for the targets we set for our business. Setting performance targets is important, as is monitoring year on year growth, but we need to make allowances for factors which are out of our control. The economy has taken a series of knocks recently – the cost-of-living crisis, interest rate hikes, and skyrocketing supplier costs to name but a few. If your expectations for your company don’t make allowances for these changes you could be setting yourself up to feel like a failure.

Acknowledge your achievements

Take some time to think through everything you’ve done well this week and give yourself credit where it’s due. When the buck stops with you there is rarely someone on hand to give you a pat on the back and say well done, as you would for a junior member of the team. You may have to be your own cheerleader.

Cut back on bureaucracy

Bureaucratic practices can stifle creativity and lead to unhealthy levels of boredom and frustration. Take a good look at the processes your company employs and consider whether they can be simplified or trimmed down. You might want to review your signoff procedures for instance, the frequency and duration of team meetings, or the way information is shared between departments. As a rule of thumb, if a process isn’t making life easier for you and your team, scrap it.

Remember, taking care of your mental health not only helps you personally, but your employees as well. With you leading by example, they will all benefit from the workplace and culture changes you put in place. Ultimately, this will create a healthier, more productive, and engaged workforce.

It is trickle-down economics at its best.

If you are finding it hard to cope or are worried about the mental wellness of someone else, visit