Rugby legend's School for CEOs highlights burnout fears for leaders

Almost half of senior leaders were at high risk of burnout during lockdown, according to a study that warns of the impact on their mental health if further measures are imposed in the months ahead.

Friday, 25th September 2020, 4:51 pm
School for CEOs was co-founded by Scottish rugby legend David Sole. Picture: contributed.
School for CEOs was co-founded by Scottish rugby legend David Sole. Picture: contributed.

The research by academics at Heriot-Watt University and Edinburgh-based education firm School for CEOs – co-founded by Scottish rugby legend David Sole – also found that younger leaders were at higher risk than their older counterparts. Women were also at greater risk and took on more responsibility for home schooling.

Gemma Sole, director at the School for CEOs, said many of the leaders surveyed for the study had commented about the impact of lockdown on their mental health. “Given that we may well be heading for another period of lockdown, having an awareness of the risks associated with this is critical,” she said.

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The findings showed that 42 per cent of senior leaders were at high risk of burnout during lockdown, despite being “psychologically resilient individuals”. Some 61 per cent of younger leaders aged 24-39 were at higher risk of burnout compared to those over 50. The study found 47 per cent of women were at risk of burnout compared to 40 per cent of men.

More than 700 CEOs and senior executives from 50-plus organisations were surveyed as part of the study. Respondents were invited to answer a short survey that explored their emotions, psychological resilience, risk of burnout and leadership style during lockdown.

The study also explored their living and employment situations during the period along with strategies they used to deal with the challenges they encountered.

Mioara Cristea of Heriot-Watt’s Department of Psychology and School of Social Sciences, said: “While working from home during the lockdown may have had its advantages, our results pinpoint the numerous challenges that come with having to balance caring responsibilities.

“If working from home is to become an efficient option in the near future, organisations will need to create safe environments where employees can freely communicate their difficulties, as well as support them in developing their personal resilience,” she added.

The School for CEOs was co-founded by experienced business leader Patrick Macdonald and Sole in 2011 to support leaders as they transitioned into the role of CEO and other senior posts.

A recent survey by recruitment firm Robert Walters ranked the UK in the top five countries for having the “poorest” mental health during lockdown. The research found that almost a third of workers said their mental health has been negatively affected due to working from home.

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