Burnout can be deadly. One moment you’re passionately climbing the corporate ladder and going full steam ahead, and the next, seemingly out of nowhere, you feel depleted, apathetic and far from motivated. It’s a story heard on repeat in B2B marketing and one that has touched the lives of many across the globe.
Being prone to burnout also hits certain industries harder than others. According to a survey that polled nearly 7,000 professionals, more than 83% of marketing and communications professionals said they were burnt out. The number one reason was the lack of separation between work and life. An ‘unmanageable workload’ came in at a close second.
Recently, Azadeh Williams, Founder and Managing Partner at AZK Media, sat down with marketing technology leader Billy Loizou on his hit podcast ‘Created for Marketers by Marketers’, to dissect the issue of burnout and its prevalence among marketers. From why stress is addictive to how to protect yourself from burnout and become a great leader in the process, nothing is left uncovered.
Wired to work
Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when people feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands.
With the pandemic, uncertainty loomed. People were forced to isolate, shoulder long lockdowns, homeschool their children while continuing to work full-time and hop on meetings early in the morning and late at night to keep up with global demands — the perfect recipe for burnout.
“The traditional nine-to-five workdays that were once the norm no longer exist," Azadeh says. “With digital marketing, globalisation, sophisticated enablement tools, slack channels and unrealistic expectations that everything should be delivered in real-time; things start to pile up. And everyone’s brains become wired to remain constantly switched on.”
“I started seeing burnout across the board, not just in marketers but also managing directors, entrepreneurs and business owners."
Billy says he’s all too familiar with that scenario, watching it play out several times in his career.
“I have worked in major corporations and enterprise software businesses that expand into APAC. And the expectation is that you join meetings at 7 a.m. to dial-in when the U.S. is online and again at 7 p.m. at night when Europe’s online,” he adds.
“You do that for the first four weeks on the job and, all of a sudden, you’re just wired to work ridiculous hours across the board. And the sound of a Slack message almost gives you a sense of pride, feeling like you’re so important because someone wants to talk to you. You just have this sense of urgency all the time; it spirals out of control before you know it.”
Do more with less
AZK Media’s passion lies in driving growth for clients in new and emerging markets. With large, global clients looking to expand in APAC and the UK, Azadeh witnessed a lot of their operational and logistical struggles, which in turn, lead to local marketers and sales representatives quickly feeling the pinch.
“Some of these enterprises don't have the right framework. They hire very talented people on the ground, but they don't give them adequate resources to grow appropriately,” she explains. “They end up being stretched thin; needing to do more with less.”
Add to this a very passionate employee base that finds it hard to separate themselves from work, and it became the perfect breeding ground for burnout.
“There are perfectionists who absolutely love the high they get from work. They actually get addicted to the stress at a biological level. It can be extremely destructive,” Azadeh says.
Deadly even. Researchers looked into how workplace stress impacts mortality and health costs in the U.S. and found that it led to nearly 120,000 deaths and nearly $190 billion in spending each year. Ironically, burnout also extinguishes productivity: 625 million people suffer from depression and anxiety, and the WHO estimates that $1 trillion is lost in productivity each year as a result.
Billy points out that burnout has become a by-product of well-meaning modern professional working habits.
“Over time, you train yourself to engage in work that way without even realising it,” he says. “It’s just like when I speak to people about implementing a loyalty program.
“It’s the concept of nudge theory – if you want someone to do something, get them to do it for 30-plus days because eventually, that behaviour will normalise. Working all hours on hyper-alert regularly is will get you to the point of running on empty. Then your mental and physical health suffers, your performance dips, and everyone’s left questioning what’s happened.”
Marketing success with 'atomic' habits
As an award-winning marketing and public relations leader, Azadeh suggests every marketers reads “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. Packed with evidence-based strategies, “Atomic Habits” teaches readers how to make small changes that can transform habits and deliver amazing results in the process. It was the turning point that freed her from the grip of her ‘always on’ mentality.
“The book has been life-changing,” Azadeh says. “It taught me that you don’t have to make massive changes to notice a difference. Micro-habits implemented in your personal and professional life can get you where you want to go and beyond.”
“If you think about it, 10 minutes a day turns into almost an hour a week. Imagine what you can do with an extra 52 hours in a year. It really adds up.
"And in this modern landscape riddled with economic uncertainty, we can only do our best and remain mindful of the things that suck our energy, removing them accordingly.”
Marketers: It's time to put the “you” back into everything you do
Marketers are often told to put the customer at the heart of everything they do. While that’s true to an extent, Azadeh says it’s important they remember to put their oxygen masks on first. “It’s important to put yourself at the heart of everything you do.
“Take time to revisit why you’re passionate about your profession. What really motivates you? How can you be your best self, both professionally and personally, regardless of all the rapid digital changes happening around you?”
While that motivation factor will be unique to each individual, everyone can benefit by taking time to reflect, Billy says.
“Reflect on the journey, and celebrate the small wins of each day,” Billy concludes. “Otherwise, you’re left chasing the carrot and never feeling truly satisfied. Never stop celebrating those micro-moments.”
1. Atomic Habits by James Clear
2. The Art of Resilience by Ross Edgley
3. Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz
4. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
5. Life and Work Principles by Ray Dalio
Tune into the full podcast episode here.
This article was authored by Julie Cooper, Senior Content and Communications Specialist at AZK Media.
This article was published on Little Black Book Online