WHEN Jonathan Frostick was suffering a heart attack, his first thought was: “This isn’t convenient.”

He was unable to breathe, his chest felt constrained and pain was shooting down his left arm, but his mind went to an imminent meeting with his manager.

In a LinkedIn post that went viral and was discussed around the world, the 45-year-old Bournemouth University graduate pledged: "I'm not spending all day on Zoom any more."

Mr Frostick, an IT delivery lead at HSBC, vowed from his hospital bed to lose weight, spend more time with his family and make every day at work “count for something”.

Jonny Frosticks post. Picture: LinkedIn

Jonny Frostick's post. Picture: LinkedIn

The experience was familiar for Paul Tansey, managing director of Ferndown-based marketing agency Intergage.

Around 15 years ago, at the age of 41, he was working 16-hour days, with the weight of the business on his shoulders as he combined the roles of managing director and sales director.

More than once, he was still working when the morning birdsong started.

Paul Tansey of Intergage

Paul Tansey of Intergage

A routine medical check for the company’s insurer changed all that. After measuring his blood pressure, the nurse said there must be something wrong with the machine and got out another one.

Then she told him to cancel all his appointments and go to hospital immediately.

“Without that routine insurance policy medical, I wouldn’t be here,” says the father of three.

He remembers a hospital doctor saying : “I’d rather roll the dice every morning than have your chance of a heart attack or stroke.”

Mr Tansey, a former president of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says he had lost all perspective.

“It’s all too easy for anybody and everybody – but particularly midlife males with responsible jobs seem to be the worst culprits for lacking perspective,” he said.

“I look back and think how much perspective I lost. How many weekends did I work?”

Often, he says, people will say they are working so hard for their spouses or children. “We don’t ask them whether they think it’s worth it,” he added.

Renee Clarke, owner of Work Well Hub

Renee Clarke of Work Well Hub

Renee Clarke, owner-director of Work Well Hub, which helps organisations with their workplace health, says: “Working too much or too hard comes at a price.

“The link between continued stress and physical and mental illness is well documented but unfortunately we still seeing workplace stress increase.

"According the Health and Safety Executive, in 2019/2020, 55 per cent of all work-related days off were either stress or mental health related.

“It is important to understand that some pressure in life is good. It is motivating and gives a sense of purpose. Managing pressure at work is key to having a healthy balance.”

Liz Willingham, managing director of Liz Lean PR in Poole and another ex-president of Dorset Chamber, says: “Unfortunately, our minds and bodies have a threshold and when pushed too far they will make decisions for us.

“Burnout was an issue before the pandemic but the stress of the past year will be taking its toll on a much bigger level.”

Work-life balance has become “muddy”, she says, and Jonathan Frostick has rightly decided to draw a clearer line.


What are the signs of approaching burnout?

Nobody wants a dramatic wake-up call like those that Jonathan Frostick or Paul Tansey received.

Liz Willingham says the signs that an individual might be “hitting the wall” can vary.

Liz Willingham of Liz Lean PR

Liz Willingham of Liz Lean PR

“It could range from not enough sleep to too much sleep, eating too much to having no appetite at all. Knowing yourself, the triggers and asking those close to you to acknowledge when they see your behaviour being a little different may make you cross-check what is going on,” she adds.

Marie-Clare Gale, a Bournemouth-based mental health and wellbeing trainer, trading as Move, Change, Grow, says: “Identifying our earliest warning signs that something within us is changing or declining is key.

"When we identify what these are, it makes it so much easier to recognise them when they happen.

Marie-Clare Gale, mental health and wellbeing trainer trading as Move, Change Grow

Marie-Clare Gale of Move, Change, Grow

“For some it may be not sleeping, for others it may be snapping at people – we all have our different warning signs and this is what they are, a warning.”

Renee Clarke adds: “Common signs of stress are increased heartbeat, shallow breathing, headaches, musculoskeletal issues or a change in sleeping patterns or negative behaviours such as increasing alcohol.

"It is important to recognise the changes and seek help early on.”


What can be done to avoid burnout?

It is important for employers to listen to their staff and discuss boundaries between work and the rest of life, says Liz Willingham.

“Video calls back to back all day are mentally draining and our bodies don’t like sitting for extended periods, so ensuring regular breaks, spending time outdoors in nature, being active, eating well, making time away from tech, are all necessary,” she says.

“Self-discipline to work out what is the right mix for you is key. We are all different and there is no uniform prescription for this.

“Keep an eye on how much caffeine you’re drinking. That can exacerbate anxiety and panicking feelings. Sometimes what seems like small things can make a big difference.”

She has been working with Dorset Chamber to help raise awareness and build resilience in workplaces.

A new initiative is aimed at business leaders. Got Your 6 – based on fighter pilots’ slang meaning “I’ve got your back” – sees leaders trained as mental health first aiders and ready to talk to their peers.

“I believe that often the boss is forgotten, carries enormous pressure, but doesn’t feel its appropriate to ask for help if they’re struggling,” she says.

Renee Clarke adds: “Whilst working from home can offer a higher level of flexibility, it is important to set boundaries.

“Having a dedicated space that you can call ‘work’ is really important in ensuring the working day finishes when it is supposed to. If you do choose to work more flexibly, ensure that you work to a timeframe and that work doesn’t flow into family/home time.

“With a hybrid way of working we are seeing more people answer work emails ‘on demand’ but this isn’t good for health and wellbeing as people feel under pressure to respond where is in an office environment they have more control to ‘switch off’.”

Marie-Clare Gale adds: “Doing something at the earliest opportunity to rectify what is causing us distress can help mental ill health to not spiral any further. Whether that’s talking to someone about how you’re feeling or taking regular breaks, please stop and realise that you deserve to prioritise you.”

For Paul Tansey, getting fit was a large part of the solution.

“I changed my diet, became a vegetarian gave up smoking. I barely drink. None of those things, I discovered after I gave them up, mattered,” he says.

“At the time, I thought they were incredibly difficult things to give up.”

His wife supported him in exercising regularly. “Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, instead of getting up early to start work, I would go for a run. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful experiences of my life,” he says.

He also turned to a favourite book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Covey encourages people to schedule their highest priorities – the “big rocks” – each week and to fit the smaller things around that.

The author also urges people to write a personal mission statement.

Among other things, Mr Tansey’s mission statement said he wanted to be a role model to his children.

He urges other people to take the same approach and consider what they are working for.

He says: “Somebody who’s got six estranged children and two broken marriages telling you they’re more successful than you. Does that actually look like success?”


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