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Recovering from burnout

| By Hannah Gannage-Stewart | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Codeta co-founder Edward Ihre shares his experience of burnout

Codeta co-founder Edward Ihre describes his personal experience of burnout and offers some insights into how operators can protect their employees from exhaustion.

If you’d asked me 12 months ago what I thought about someone suffering from exhaustion, I would have probably said they were just lazy or couldn’t handle the fast-paced nature of the industry.

But skip forward to today and I have a very different opinion on the matter. Exhaustion, stress, burnout, whatever you want to call it, is a very real thing that blindsides you and changes your work and personal life forever.

I am writing this after several months away from the office having succumbed to exhaustion. I crumbled under the weight of launching a new online casino brand, Codeta, and all the pressure that brings, as well as changes to my personal life including going through a divorce.

The online casino industry is awash with success stories; we constantly hear about start-ups becoming multimillion-pound behemoths overnight and of operators acquiring their rivals in record-breaking deals.

It gives the impression that success is all but guaranteed, immediate and easy to achieve. What I discovered in launching Codeta is that is simply not the case. This is a tough industry to crack.

Personally, I had very high expectations of myself and the success Codeta should have, as well as the speed at which it should have come.

I looked to my peers and wanted to achieve what they had. But back in December 2016 it became apparent that my projections for success would be much slower than planned, and that additional funding would be required to keep the business moving forwards.

This pressure was compounded by the global nature of the business. As operators, we make our products available to consumers in markets around the world, many of whom wager after office hours.

That makes running an online casino a 24/7, 365 days a year task. Given the competitive nature of the market, you also feel like you must react and respond instantly – if you don’t, your players will go elsewhere.

I made the mistake of associating my self-worth with the success of Codeta; if I failed to deliver on the latter, I also failed as a human being.

That’s not to say Codeta wasn’t doing well because for a new brand in a fiercely competitive market, it was. But what I was seeing on paper didn’t align with the expectations I had imprinted firmly in my mind.

From that moment on, my descent into darkness began. We decided to launch a funding round, but again this took more time and effort than planned – four months instead of three weeks.

It required a lot of proposals and meetings, and we incurred a lot of rejections and setbacks – each of which was a blow to my self-confidence and a major drain on my energy levels.

I was also acutely aware that those who had invested – we raised €2.3m in the end – were investing in me and my track record as much as they were in the long-term success of Codeta.

Combined with the pressure of running the business and making the right decisions for its success and the happiness and security of Codeta employees, was really taking its toll.

I started to feel very different. After a day in the office, I would forget where I parked the car. I was losing patience with people, and became more reclusive – I didn’t want to speak to people in person, or even on the phone for that matter.

I was also having difficulties sleeping; I struggled to fall asleep and would wake regularly during the night, but then couldn’t drag myself out of bed in the morning.

In the end I simply hit rock bottom, called my ex-wife and broke down while on the phone to her. I felt terrified and very much alone.

She contacted my brother, who co-founded Codeta with me, and between them they put together a plan of action that saw me step completely away from Codeta and Ihre Consulting.

I was removed from all emails, reports, and back-end access, and given time to focus on myself.

My recovery began by identifying what had caused my exhaustion in the first place; by understanding the triggers you can avoid putting yourself in that situation.

It’s also important to acknowledge that in all likelihood, you will never be as good at dealing with stress as you once were.

From what I understand, people that fall victim to exhaustion loose a substance in their brain that helps them deal with stress.

Other things that really helped me were setting a daily routine, and allowing time for moderate exercise, reading and meditation.

I also never set a deadline for my return, and I think this was key. The immediacy of my removal from the work environment once I’d hit rock bottom also prevented any terminal damage. Sure, I will never be the same again, but I am very much back on my feet now.

I wanted to share my story as I believe there are a lot of people in the industry in a similar situation but who perhaps don’t feel like they can step away in the same way that I did.

Businesses need to change their approach to exhaustion and stress, and take it seriously. It is about understanding your workforce, and that people are individuals that react and deal with pressure differently.

It helps to have clear guidance from the top, and for employees to know what is expected of them.

It is also important that they know they can be open and honest about their feelings and mental health, and that there are procedures and practices in place to ensure they are happy in the workplace. This can include access to gyms, and counsellors.

For me, my burnout has been a blessing in disguise and I have used the experience to realign my approach to work and life.

That said, I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through it. While there is nothing wrong with the industry wanting to celebrate its success, I think more needs to be done to talk about the pressures and strains this brings on those expected to deliver.

I hope my story will kick-start conversations and discussions about how we can all help to look after each other a little bit more.

Edward Ihre has been running Ihre Consulting in Sweden since March 2010 and co-founded Codeta, the global online table games casino, in 2015. He has been in the gaming industry since 2002.

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