Bosses at more risk of burnout than ever before

Steve Tucker has spoken out about his own experience of burnout Photo: RNZ/ Tom Kitchin.

New research has found leaders at organisations across the country are more at risk of burnout than ever before.

With the impacts of the pandemic, there is overwhelming pressure for bosses to care for their staff, but their own health is suffering.

Steve Tucker is in the property valuation business.

A few years ago, he said the pressure became too much.

"I have been in business for 23 years and have run a number of businesses. A number of years ago it all got on top of me and I ended up contemplating suicide."

He has just begun to talk about it publicly, as he is on a mission to help others.

"Things just escalated and mounted and for me as a business owner it was really around I guess an excess of frustration with not being able to find answers. The business wasn't going where I thought it would go or where it should go and that frustration just built."

And although there was mental health assistance, most were not suitable for him.

"For business owners there are a lot of tools but most of those tools are actually targeted at how you can help and support your staff. Now my take is if I'm the business owner and I'm in trouble, man, there's potentially no business left."

Recruiter Rachel Cornwall says businesses are under a lot of pressure to spend money Photo: RNZ/ Tom Kitchin.

Rachel Cornwall runs Populous People in Havelock North, an executive recruitment company.

She says with a growing economy, there is high demand on those with the top jobs.

"We're seeing companies continuing to do well, particularly if they're associated near the primary sector and the producing regions, but also around construction and infrastructure, there's been a lot of pressure and engagement from government to spend money and to build things and it's starting to cascade into some pretty tired workforces and some pretty tired leadership groups."

Havelock North based business Ask Your Team recently led a survey, which 50,000 to 60,000 people from 250 private sector organisations completed.

Its chief executive Chris O'Reilly says it was an online survey, where an organisation gave invitations out to all its staff to provide anonymous feedback.

Business leaders were taking on far too much and becoming stressed, overwhelmed and lacked self-awareness - they were trying to do too much themselves, he says.

"We're asking people how they feel but we've stopped asking them how they think, what they think and we're not involving them in the running of the organisations where things are changing so quickly all the time. Now more than ever, you've got to involve your people and get their ideas on how the company should be changing and adapting."

John Duncan of Forum NZ works with business leaders across the country. He says there are ways people can identify the early stages of burnout.

"Well they can't get away from work for a start. I'm not talking about physically, I'm talking about mentally - they're always thinking about it, they're always engaged with it, they're worried about it.''

The extremities of Covid-19 really made it hit home.

"So I was dealing with people that are sitting at their computers from 7am to 9pm with hardly any time for a break.

"They were just completely overwhelmed with work. One, keeping things moving, but two, trying to work out how to work in that environment, and three, there was a lot of pressure put on them to significantly increase their pastoral care for their staff - you've got to really touch base with them every one to two days at a personal level and have team sessions, which is significantly greater than they would've got pre going down to a lockdown situation."

Duncan says the likes of confidential counselling, resilience training and well-being support can help these companies and executives mitigate the issues.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

-RNZ/Tom Kitchin.

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