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‘Some never recover’: councillor to top execs says cost of overwork too high

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“I don’t think our workplaces should make us sick or break us down.” Anna Pinkerton, psychotherapist and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder specialist should know. She has seen the results.


In her work with her agency Kindness Incorporated, she has calculated that she’s spent 29,000 hours in trauma sessions, helping clients to focus on the moment they broke down in order to begin the slow journey to repairing themselves.

Anna’s clients include entrepreneurs and senior executives who are suffering the debilitating effects of accumulated long term-stress.

“The cost of burnout is massive. There’s not one single part of your life that’s not effected,” she told audiences at the Wellbeing in Construction summit held at Radisson Blu in Stansted yesterday.

“Families break down, marriages. It’s too high a cost.”

Anna recalled how one client, a millionaire businessman, slept in the back of his car in between meetings doing deals. He missed out on seeing his kids, had a breakdown and never went back to work.

She has seen people suffer brain hemorrhages, strokes, heart attacks from excessive workloads, the ‘drip drip’ effect of constant adrenaline entering the system.

Another client, who existed on a diet of 20 cigarettes a day and a stream of espressos had to have half his bowel removed.

“It takes six months to two years to recover, but some don’t recover or go back to business. That’s great if work was a chore but if not, it’s going to be a bereavement that lasts for life.”

“The rupture can happen in an instant,” she warned.

Pinkerton, with her kindly manner, making somehow each person in the room feel it was they she was addressing, wants to pass on advice to stop others suffering what she calls “neurological overload”.

“Take breaks, it reduces cortisol. Also, be kind in thoughts and actions to yourself, find a way to play in each day, carry on with due regard not regardless.”

“We have this stiff upper lip culture. That’s what kills people.”

She said she feared workplaces were not doing enough to look after those most vulnerable to burnout. “The 9 to 5 person is the one that survives. It’s the person who cares who is forgotten.”

But not one of her clients has said the breakdown was ‘worth it’. We have to prevent it occurring and leaders have a duty to set the example, by having healthy work life balances.  

“Change has got to come from the top.”

Safety Management is media partner of the Wellbeing in Construction summit, which was chaired by Mates in Mind

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