How to Prevent Executive Burnout by Leveraging Virtual Assistants

Updated: 17 May, 2022 | Bill Peatman

Your executives are burning out and they are not telling anyone.

A 2021 study by Leadership IQ found that 67 percent of executives felt burnout.

And 75 percent told Capitalise they hide their stress from their companies.

Executives will tell anonymous surveys that they are burning out, but they won’t let their own HR departments or co-workers know.

HR news site TLNT bemoans the situation, calling executive burnout: “a problem no one talks about.

Now is the time to break the silence and get your executives the support they need. To do that, though, first, you need to understand what is causing executive stress and burnout.

What’s Causing Executive Burnout

Why are executives burning out? Here are a couple of clues from our latest Executive Productivity Reports. Trends show that your executives are buried in admin work and losing sleep.

Here is how many executives said they are overwhelmed with administrative tasks.

  • 2020: 49 percent
  • 2021: 63 percent

Executives said they spend four to five hours a day on busywork, like email, scheduling meetings, and file management.

Here is how many executives got the recommended six-nine hours of sleep:

  • 2020: 71 percent
  • 2021: 44 percent

Sleep loss and burnout are intricately linked. "Insufficient sleep predicts clinical burnout," said the Journal Occupational Health Psychology.

How You Can Help Your Executives Prevent Burnout

To help your execs prevent burnout and enhance their wellness, you can start by giving them more administrative support. For generations, executives had assistants that were the gatekeepers of their time and attention.

Today, though, traditional executive support is hard to find. The ranks of administrative assistants are shrinking while the number of executive-level jobs is growing. There are a little more than half of the number of admins in the workforce than in 2000, while the economy generates a quarter-million executive jobs every year.

The constant pings of message alerts that once went to traditional assistants now go directly to their screens and they have no one to delegate to.

Virtual Assistants Fill the Gap

You can use virtual executive assistants to do most of the work of a traditional admin and give your execs more time for deep work and deep sleep. Remote assistants can’t make coffee, but they can help with:

  • Calendar management
  • Email organization
  • Travel planning
  • Expense reports
  • Contact data entry and management
  • Document and file management
  • Personal and family calendar management

If you think the virtual assistant is a fad for freelancers and solopreneurs, you’re partially right. It started that way when Tim Ferris taught the world how to use virtual assistants to run a solo business while working just four hours per week. But the virtual executive assistant market is maturing and growing fast—rising 41 percent in 2020. Companies are turning to managed virtual executive assistant service providers as a staffing model to provide professional administrative support for executive teams.

How Companies Use Virtual Executive Assistants

At Prialto, we see executive stress every day as staffing and HR teams come to us to offload executive administrative tasks. Getting a few hours every day for deep work and personal time can be life-changing for executive teams and HR.

Here is how a virtual assistant helped Clark Morton, partner at insurance company Woodruff Sawyer, take back control of his calendar:

“I spent my days herding cats,” he said. “I might need to coordinate with two, three, four, five people from Woodruff Sawyer and several people from the client-side. It was a huge time commitment and royal pain. Now I just let the Prialto assistants coordinate it all.”

In a managed service, virtual assistant service providers hire, train, and manage offshore executive assistants that take on the four to five hours a day of administrative tasks that overwhelm executives.

The beauty of the managed service model for you is that the service provider does the heavy lifting of training and quality control, as well as the back-office payroll, benefits, and compliance. This means you don’t have to be an expert in training and managing the assistants or add any HR overhead.

The managed service model also means that your executives can get the support they need in a matter of days, as the service provider has trained professional assistants ready to go to work. Seth Cohen, vice president at Castlight Health was worried that it would take too much of his and his team's time to get virtual assistants hired, onboarded, and up to speed.

“I initially expected the service to take substantial upfront time from me to get it working,” he said. “But Prialto’s service culture processes made it impressively turnkey".

The service provider also trains backup assistants to take over when an executive's primary assistant is sick or absent. The service can scale up as your executive suite grows. You never have to start over.

You can also use virtual assistants to augment your internal staff and expand support to more executives. Admins are hard to find, and you want to keep the ones you have from getting overwhelmed. Matt Paulson, Development Chief of Staff at CytomeX Therapeutics, had just that problem.

“Our internal executive assistants were overwhelmed. We had just four executive assistants supporting 20 executives,” he said. “Things were slipping through the cracks. We engaged Prialto to take on scheduling, travel, and expense management.”

Ask the Right Questions

Executives don’t want to talk about stress and burnout. But you can get at the topic of time management and how to make room for strategic work, personal time, and sleep by asking what tasks they would love to delegate if given a chance.

You can bet that they will be eager to have that conversation. Giving executives more time in the form of administrative support is one part of making executives' lives at work and at home more manageable. Check out this page to learn how a managed virtual assistant service can give your team the support it needs.

About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.

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