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So, you know there is a problem but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You know that you are not ‘burnt-out’. That is pretty bad and usually fairly spectacular.

You come to work, you do pretty good too – but not great. You generally feel tired and lethargic. Overwhelmingly, you feel unhappy… Does this sound familiar? You are not alone in this. In fact, this reaction to work has started to become so common that it has been given a name – BROWNOUT.  Brownout, is a term which is used to describe part of the life stage of an electrical power outage and is the stage before a black out.

Put into simple terms, if you consider burnout like the flu, then brownout is like the common cold – they both have similar symptoms but brownout is the less vicious. You still go to work, but your heart just isn’t in it. You still talk to friends and family but you start to retreat and would rather hideaway on the sofa with Netflix!

US coaching firm Corporate Balance Concepts recently surveyed 1,000 executives and found that whilst they estimated about 5 per cent of them suffered from burnout, a massive 40 per cent suffered from what they coined “Executive Brownout”.

“Brownout is different from burnout because workers afflicted by it are not in obvious crisis,” says Michael E Kibler, CEO of Corporate Balance Concepts. “They seem to be performing fine: putting in massive hours in meetings and calls across time zones, grinding out work while leading or contributing to global teams, and saying all the right things in meetings (though not in side-bar conversations). However, these executives are often operating in a silent state of continual overwhelm, and the predictable consequence is disengagement.”

An example that he gave was the resignation of Mohamed El-Erian, the former CEO of PIMCO, who shocked the tech world by suddenly stepping down in 2014 after his 10-year old daughter wrote him a letter that listed all of the key milestones that he had missed in her life. This including everything from Halloween parades to her first soccer matches.

Now it is important to note that Mohamed has not said that he was diagnosed with brownout – and it isn’t an official condition at this point. What it has done however is started a debate that is gaining momentum when it comes to the new working world where big roles and high salaries often have high prices. This more than likely isn’t the first time that you have read about an executive becoming disillusioned and has turned to a passion that may not have a salubrious salary, however the fulfillment levels far outweigh any monetary value. 


1. You are tired. Incredibly tired. Emotionally and physically. You feel exhausted and this is the first thing you find yourself saying when someone asks you how you are.

2. You have lost your purpose. You work long hours, you do ok but you find that you have no real interest in your job and it lacks intellectual challenge or stimulation. Generally you find that you don’t give feedback or thoughts during meetings but you often tear down others.

3. You find that your sense of work life balance is non-existent. You have neglected your own well-being. You don’t exercise. You don’t sleep well. You eat junk. Drink more than you should. You feel the psychical neglect of your body.

4. You find that you use any excuse you can not to turn up to things. Whether it be work or social events. A headache becomes a migraine. A sniffle and sneeze becomes the flu!


1. Chew gum: A study published in the Journal of Prostho-dontic Research found ‘prolonged gum chewing’ (10 minutes or more) reduced stress levels and made participants less anxious.

2. Tap it out: Tapping or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is when you tap with your fingertips on a series of pressure points on your body, face or hands and it works in a similar way to acupuncture (check YouTube for how-to’s). If tapping feels a little odd (especially as you are sat at your desk surrounded by colleagues – then give the app PAUSE a go.

3. Get more ZZZ’s: It’s easier said than done when your mind is whirring, but sleep plays a critical role in thinking, learning and coping. Make sure that you are also shutting down your technology a good hour before bed. This will help to calm your mind.

 4. Detox your environment: Clear out all of the ‘things’ around you. Whether that be stuff, outstanding bills, car maintenance. Whatever you have been putting off and procrastinating, stop!

5. Get walking: Get outside into fresh air and get your feet moving. Walk in nature, by water or around the block. Play your favourite music or listen to a podcast or audio-book. Moving those feet will not only clear the head but get those endorphin’s going!

IMPORTANT: if you feel that you are suffering more than any of the above do seek the advice of a professional – mental health is one of the most important things in your life, so make sure you are not ignoring any warning signs.

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