Burning out or perhaps burnt out?

Burning out or perhaps burnt out?

As part of acknowledging and participating in RUOK Day this year, the PrimeAdvisory team recently enjoyed a presentation from Wellness Coach, Dr Leanne Wall.  Dr Wall shared how to recognise when either ourselves or a fellow team member might not be ok.  Burning out is common among high-performers and can lead to anxiety and depression. In addition to presenting to our team, Dr Wall has kindly shared the article below to help us and our clients recognise and prevent burn-out to ensure we take care of our mental wellbeing. 

Today I met with my lovely client who has been juggling two fulltime senior roles for the last twelve months.  When the re-structure occurred, she was promised more resources and a level of team competency that would enable her to delegate.  Fast track 12 months and neither promise has been kept.  The organisation remains on a headcount freeze, and she is exhausted to the extent that I am worried about her physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.  She tells me her hair has been falling out for at least 6 months now and her skin has a chronic rash that flares up from week to week.  The sparkle in her eyes is gone, and her body oozes fatigue.  She was meant to talk to her boss a few weeks ago; however, equally busy, he appears disconnected from his team.  To say that my client is burnt out is an understatement.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has redefined burnout as a syndrome linked to long-term work stress.  Today burnout is a global phenomenon and according to the WHO comprises three elements: an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion, becoming detached from one’s job and a drop-in performance at work.

RUOK coffee cups each filled with $10 so staff members can take a colleague for a coffee and a chat
PrimeAdvisory’s special RUOK morning tea

So how can you tell if you are close to burnt-out?  Not quite there but almost? Because wouldn’t you agree to be waiting until you are already entirely burned out before you do something about it makes no sense at all. Let’s face it for any other illness you wouldn’t wait until it is too late.

“A lot of the signs and symptoms of pre-burnout would be very similar to depression,” says Siobhán Murray, a psychotherapist, based in County Dublin, Ireland, and the author of a book about burnout, The Burnout Solution. Murray suggests taking note of bad habits that are becoming the norm, such as increased alcohol consumption and relying on high sugar, fat and salty foods to get you through the day.  Not to mention feelings of tiredness that won’t go away no matter how much you sleep. “So that even if you do sleep well, by 10 in the morning, you’re already counting down the hours to bed. Or not having the energy to exercise or go for a walk.” As soon as you feel this way, go and see a doctor who can distinguish between the two, because burnout is still best dealt with by making lifestyle changes, while depression requires a different approach.

Wellness Coach, Dr Leanne Wall sharing the signs that might indicate someone is not ok

Overwhelming Exhaustion

So how do you figure out whether you are just having one of those hideously stressful months or are on the cusp of burnout?  Stress in manageable doses can make us perform at our peak; however, it is stress with no recuperation that can turn into burnout.  In his book Why Zebras don’t Get Ulcers, Robert Sapolsky says that our primitive stress response (aka our fight or flight response) was never designed to be switched on 24/7, instead only used in short bursts to get us out of danger.  The problem is that the threat we perceive today versus the danger when we were cavemen is vastly different.

Further, with our well-developed brains, humans don’t need a physical crisis to switch on their stress response but can do so by merely thinking about something that may go wrong, that hasn’t even happened and may never happen.  The impact of this on our body is enormous and can push us towards burnout.  If you find you are continually feeling exhausted and your energy reserves are at an all-time low, you need to take action and get some professional advice.

Cynicism Towards your Work

Feeling like your work has little value, saying no to socialising and becoming more sensitive to disappointments is another classic sign you may be inching towards burnout. “Someone on the brink will probably begin to feel emotionally numbed or mentally distant,” says Jacky Francis Walker, a psychotherapist based in London who specialises in burnout. “Like they can’t engage as much in the ordinary things of life.”

Reduced work performance

Walker also stresses looking for the third sign of burnout, which is the nagging feeling that the quality of your work is starting to slide. “People say ‘but this isn’t me!’, ‘I’m not like this’, ‘I can usually do x,y and z’. But obviously if they are in a state of physical depletion, then they aren’t in their normal range of capabilities,” says Walker.

For those scientists amongst us who find these symptoms a little too vague, have a look at the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), a test which measures burnout.   The MBI-General survey is the most widely used, and measures exhaustion, cynicism, and how well you think you are doing at work.  Although this survey is generally used to diagnose burnout, it can be used to assess if you are getting close.

You’re pre-burnout: What’s next?

If ignored, burnout can wreak havoc on your health, happiness, relationships and job performance. So, catch and combat it early and here are some ways of how.

Serious Relaxation

Whether it be meditation, listening to music, reading a book or magazine, taking a walk or visiting with friends and family, genuinely think about what you need to do to relax, and schedule it in your day to ensure you make time for it.

Cultivate a Life Outside of Work

Find a hobby, sports or fitness activities or volunteering in the community, something that doesn’t involve work and that you are passionate about that’s challenging, engaging and really gets you going.  Where you can unwind and enjoy the moment.

Unplug that Device

While communication technology can promote productivity and ensure that we remain on top of things at work, it can also allow these stressors to permeate into family time, holidays and social activities. Be firm in setting boundaries by allocating certain times to check email at home and by turning your mobile off at dinner or not taking it to bed with you.

Sleep, Sleep, and more Sleep

Research suggests that fewer than six hours of sleep per night is a significant risk factor for burnout.  Poor sleep can negatively affect your job performance and productivity.  It can lead to fatigue, decreased motivation, make you more sensitive to stressful events, impair your mental function, leaves you more prone to making mistakes and makes it harder to juggle competing demands. We have also seen the reverse in that sleep improves memory and helps you better regulate your emotions.  Nothing like a sleepless night to make you cranky the next day.

Organise Your Life

People who are burnt out often spend time worrying that they will forget to action something or that something important will slip their mind. Get organised, clear your head, put together a to-do list (or an electronic task list) and then decide what needs to be tackled first. That way, you don’t have to wake up at 4am in the morning with a long to-do list running through your head.  You know you have systems in place to remind you.

Tune In To Your Body

There are important physical signs that may indicate that you might be under too much stress: an increase in headaches, tight shoulders, a stiff neck or more frequent stomach upset. You must stay tuned into how your body is feeling.  We know from research that when it comes to mental health, burnout can affect depression, and if you’re depressed, it can also affect your level of burnout—it goes both ways.  So, if the challenges you are tackling are severe and getting worse, you may need to seek professional help. Talk to a doctor or psychologist to get help as support from your family and friends may not be enough.

Is it Me or Is it Them? 

Burnout is sometimes a symptom of external factors like work.  In the first instance, make sure it is not because of an internal factor that you need to address.  You should ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” so you can work out what causes your stress, and how to maintain your internal resources to keep yourself motivated, doing your best work and functioning well.

Some burnout really is work-related.  Cutting costs by hiring freezes, layoffs, cutting work hours can cause massive stress in the system.  Owning your own business and having the responsibility of employees on your shoulders can create huge pressure.  There are often two components that contribute to burnout: too many demands and too few resources.  Assess if it is time to move on, figure out whether your role is a mismatch between what you need and what you are getting from working in that particular business.

When is Enough, Really Enough?

If you have tried everything within your power to make changes at work; however, the organisation is not willing to meet you halfway, is it time to move on?  Talk to your manager or HR about access to counselling services, mental health benefits or stress management training. Perhaps it is about improving communication and creating a better work environment. Emphasise how those cultural shifts will enable you to continue to serve the company and become an even better employee.

At the end of the day, life is not a dress rehearsal!  And if we are not living the life we want because we are exhausted, not connecting with the people that we love because we can’t face another conversation at the end of the day and not liking ourselves for the way we show up in our life every day, then do something about it.

I ask my client in a concerned voice ‘How long are you going to do this for?” She says quietly “I am done!” On the one hand, I feel a sense of relief for her but on the other hand I think “What a damn shame, for her career, her team and the organisation.”  She has a meeting with her boss tomorrow, confirmed in the diary.  She plans to lay out the ultimatum of ‘Keep your promises, or I am gone.’  I hope for her sake, she does.

Dr Leanne Wall is a Wellness Coach with over two decades of hands-on leadership experience in the corporate healthcare industry in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia Pacific.

Leanne has first-hand knowledge of the significant work pressures we can sometimes face working in a fast-paced corporate environment and through her personal experience of burnout in her career, understands the critical importance of managing work-related stress in a timely and effective way and knowing when to ask for help.

Leanne is passionate about increasing awareness of the importance of proactively and deliberately focusing on our health (mentally, physically and emotionally) and that this responsibility lies not only with the individual but at all levels of an organisation.

Leanne focuses on empowering managers with the knowledge, skills and resources to be great role models for managing their own stress and creating a psychologically safe work environment where team members feel comfortable to raise their hands if they are struggling.

With authenticity and humour, Leanne uses her medical and counselling background, together with neuroscience and evidence-based research to generate crisp insights into the acute stress response and how this can help and hinder our performance, both in our professional and personal lives.

Leanne can be contacted via email at leanne1wall@gmail.com


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It’s the teamwork that makes the dream work

It’s the teamwork that makes the dream work

June and July are pretty big months for everyone at PrimeAdvisory.  It’s peak season for all of our team, working together using great teamwork to assist our clients with their end of financial year tax, accounting and planning for the next financial year.

Celebrating our milestones and achievements is something we do consistently and that we place great importance on as outlined in our recent blog about Quarterly Themes. One of the biggest celebrations on the Calendar is our End of Financial Year celebration.

Having achieved our targets for the quarter and year, our team recently enjoyed a lunch at the famous Bar Reggio in Surry Hills and then followed it with an afternoon at Cork & Canvas.


PrimeAdvisory does Pizza and Pasta at Bar Reggio in Surry Hills

Each team member had the opportunity to paint an abstract portrait of a colleague, guided by an artist in residence. It’s surprising how creative us financial types can get when we are allowed to drink wine and paint at the same time!


Angus and Michelle prepping for the painting


Sue showing some artistic talent with her portrait of Mark Kelly


Yvette with her work in progress


Who knew Mark Greenwood was so handy with a paint brush!

Following a couple of creative hours, the whole team where surprised by everyone’s creative and artistic interpretations of each other.

Cork and Canvas did a great job of guiding the team and subsequently shipped the artworks backed to our office.  We then ran our own version of The Archibald and voted on the best overall and best likeness.

When you are next at the PrimeAdvisory office you can peruse the artworks on display and be impressed by how creative we are.

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How Quarterly Themes Help PrimeAdvisory Stay ‘On Track’

How Quarterly Themes Help PrimeAdvisory Stay ‘On Track’

For several years now at PrimeAdvisory we’ve been able to achieve consistent year on year growth by implementing ‘Quarterly Themes’. Planning and reporting quarterly and annually has been a key success factor in helping us stay ‘On Track’ with our annual and 5-year business goals.

Once a year we develop our one-page strategic plan that maps out our:

  • Core Values/Beliefs
  • Our Purpose
  • Our Targets
  • Our Goals for the year to help us achieve our 5-year goal

Each quarter we review how we are tracking to our plan and as part of that process put in place a quarterly plan with a ‘Quarterly Theme’.

Quarterly themes are a way for us to be able to communicate what we want to focus on to help our team drive their activities to achieve the results we want.

Overall, they help us achieve our long-term plan by identifying any current issues or obstacles and dealing with them effectively and efficiently throughout the year.  Our ‘Quarterly Themes’ help us know where we are going long term and keep us focused on the little 90-day baby steps towards that.

90 days is short enough to do detailed planning for and it means we can see clearly for 90 days.

Our themes and associated activities for the last three quarters this year showcase how we communicate and keep our team aligned and on track.

October – December 2018 – Quarterly Theme: ‘Ship Shape’

‘Ship Shape’ was about tightening up processes.  Looking at our systems and people.  How do we develop our team to ensure they have the right technical skills, how do we get a good understanding of career and personal goals and what training do we need on the tools we use every day.

January – March 2019 – Quarterly Theme: ‘Help Me Help You’

‘Help Me Help You’ was all around getting feedback from our team on what they needed to deliver awesome client results.  We developed an understanding of our training needs in the business as well as identifying any pain points our staff had in their day to day working and the solutions that they had identified.

April – June 2019 – Quarterly Theme: ‘Renovate and Rejuvenate’

This quarter we are undertaking an office space renovation, so it’s a good opportunity to look at what else we could rejuvenate across the business.  Primarily looking at things in the business that are not fully implemented or perhaps activities that have dropped off and need rejuvenating.  These include formalising a training incentive programme for 2020 and getting a training budget together.

Finally, we will conduct our annual internal ‘Heartbeat Survey’ of all staff members to get important feedback on the happiness and health of our people.

How we close off our ‘Quarterly Themes’

PrimeAdvisory celebrated achieving their last quarterly goals with a team day of barefoot bowling

The team will enjoy a celebration at the end of the quarter when all our goals and targets have been met with an end of financial year lunch.  This quarter we’re hosting a celebration at Cork and Canvas where we will enjoy sipping on a glass of wine whilst painting on a canvas.  Every quarter when we launch a theme, we also clearly communicate the goals aligned with the theme and how we will celebrate when we achieve them.

Assisting with developing annual strategic plans and helping clients stay ‘On Track’ are a key component of our ‘Business OnTrack’ program. If you would like to discuss how a one page strategic plan and quarterly planning could help your business contact us.


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Important Budget 2019-20 Pre-Election Announcements That Are Now Law

Important Budget 2019-20 Pre-Election Announcements That Are Now Law

The Federal Budget announced a series of measures, some of which were legislated before the election was called.

Extension and increase to the instant asset write-off

The popular instant asset write-off for small business has been extended and increased. The new laws:

  • increase the threshold below which small business entities can access an immediate deduction for depreciating assets and certain related expenditure (instant asset write-off) from $25,000 to $30,000; and
  • enables businesses with aggregated turnover of $10 million or more but less than $50 million to access instant asset write-off for depreciating assets and certain related expenditure costing less than $30,000.

Assets will need to be used or installed ready for use from Budget night until by 30 June 2020 to qualify for the higher threshold. Anything previously purchased does not qualify for the higher rate but may qualify for the $20,000 or $25,000 threshold. Similarly, anything purchased but not installed ready for use by 30 June 2020 will not qualify.

The instant asset write-off only applies to certain depreciable assets.  There are some assets, like horticultural plants, capital works (building construction costs etc.), assets leased to another party on a depreciating asset lease, etc., that don’t qualify.

For assets costing $30,000 or more

For small businesses (aggregated turnover under $10m), assets costing $30,000 or more can be allocated to a pool and depreciated at a rate of 15% in the first year and 30% for each year thereafter. If the closing balance of the pool, adjusted for current year depreciation deductions (i.e., these are added back), is less than $30,000 at the end of the income year, then the remaining pool balance can be written off as well.

The ‘lock out’ laws for the simplified depreciation rules (these prevent small businesses from re-entering the simplified depreciation regime for five years if they opt-out) will continue to be suspended until 30 June 2020.

Pooling is not available for medium sized businesses which means that the normal depreciation rules based on the effective life of the asset will apply to assets that don’t qualify for an immediate deduction.

The amendments apply from 7.30 pm legal time in the Australian Capital Territory on 2 April 2019 until 30 June 2020

One-off energy assistance payments

A one-off energy assistance payment of $75 for singles and $62.50 for each eligible member of a couple, will be made to predominantly pension and social welfare recipients who were residing in Australia on 2 April 2019.  The payments are expected to be completed by 30 June 2019.

Medicare levy and surcharge income threshold increase

The Medicare levy low income thresholds for singles, families, and seniors and pensioners will increase from the 2018-19 income year, meaning more people will be excluded from paying the levy.

Please contact us if you have any questions about these changes to legislation and how they may affect you.

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The Major Parties’ Superannuation and Tax Policies

The Major Parties’ Superannuation and Tax Policies

The federal election has been called for May 18 and both major parties have outlined their superannuation and tax policies. With the federal election only weeks away many of our clients have been asking what the major political parties’ policies are that may impact their SMSF, individual taxation circumstances or personal investments.

If you would like more information on a particular policy announcement, please do not hesitate to contact our office to set up a time to discuss any requirements you may have.

Liberal-National Coalition

  • Australians aged 65 and 66 will be able to make voluntary superannuation contributions without needing to work a minimum amount. Previously, this was only available to individuals below 65.
  • Extending access to the bring-forward arrangements (the ability to make three years of post-tax contributions in a single year) to individuals aged 65 and 66.
  • Increasing the age limit for individuals to receive spouse contributions from 69 to 74.
  • Reducing red-tape for how SMSFs claim tax deductions for earnings on assets supporting superannuation pensions.
  • Delaying the implementation of SuperStream (electronic rollovers for SMSFs and superannuation funds) until March 2021 to allow for greater usability.
  • From 2018-19 taxpayers earning between $48,000 and $90,000 will receive $1,080 as a low and middle income tax offset. Individuals earning below $37,000 will receive a base amount of $255 with the offset increasing at a rate of 7.5 cents per dollar for those earning $37,000-$48,000 to a maximum offset of $1,080.
  • Stage 1 tax cuts: From July 1 2018, increasing the top threshold of the 32.5 per cent tax bracket from $87,000 to $90,000.
  • Stage 2 tax cuts: From 1 July 2022, increasing the top threshold of the 19 per cent personal income tax bracket from $41,000, to $45,000.
  • Stage 3 tax cuts: From 1 July 2024, reducing the 32.5 per cent marginal tax rate to 30 per cent which applies from $120,000 to $200,000. The 37 per cent tax bracket will be abolished.

Australian Labor Party

  • Disallowing refunds of excess franking credits from 1 July 2019 – this would mean SMSF members in pension phase no longer receive refunds for the franking credits they receive for their Australian share investments.
  • Banning new limited recourse borrowing arrangements.
  • Reducing the post-tax contributions cap to $75,000 per year down from $100,000.
  • Ending the ability to make catch-up concessional contributions for unused cap amounts in the previous five years.
  • Ending the ability for individuals to make personal superannuation tax deductible contributions unless less than 10 per cent of their income is from salaries.
  • Lowering the higher income 30per cent super contribution tax threshold from $250,000 to $200,000.
  • Labor supports the stage 1 tax cuts and will match the $1,080 low and middle income tax offset. From 1 July 2018, individuals earning below $37,000, will get a $350 a year tax offset, with this amount increasing for those earning between $37,000- $48,000 to the maximum $1,080 offset.
  • Introduce a 30 per cent tax rate for discretionary trust distributions to people over the age of 18.
  • Will limit negative gearing to newly built housing from January 1 2020. (Existing investments are grandfathered under the current law)
  • Reduce the capital gains tax discount for assets that are held longer than 12 months from the current 50 per cent to 25 per cent. (Existing investments are grandfathered under the current law)
  • Limit the deductions for the cost of managing tax affairs to $3,000.

How can we help?

If you have any questions or would like further clarification in regards to how the above policies may affect you and your fund, please contact us.

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