According to a recent Fast Company article, job burnout, in general, is reaching an unprecedented level, and as per a January 2017 Mayo Clinic Proceedings report “50% of US physicians are experiencing professional burnout”.
According to the World Health Organization, occupational burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic work-related stress, with symptoms characterized by “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy”.
In 1961, Graham Greene published the novel A Burnt-Out Case, the story of an architect who became greatly fatigued by his work, and who took much time to recover. In 1969, HB Bradley used the term “burnout” in a criminology paper to describe the fatigued staff at a centre for treating young adult offenders. This has been cited as the first known academic work to use the term for this concept.
Interestingly, different individuals’ coping styles associate with different subtypes of burnout. Thus, ‘overload’ burnout, i.e., employees who work toward success until exhaustion, is mainly related to emotional venting; the ‘lack of personal development’ burnout associates with an avoidance coping strategy; and the ‘worn-out’ or ‘neglect’ burnout subtype refers to employees who struggle with stress but ultimately choose to neglect their work because of pressures.
As per the Fast Company article Charlie DeWitt at Kronos, a workforce management software company believes that “employee burnout has reached epidemic proportions”. In this article Lydia Dishman writes that a recent survey by Kronos and Future Workplace identifies that “46% of respondents blame burnout for up to half of their staff quitting each year”.
This survey also indicates that unfair compensation (41%), unreasonable workload (32%) and too much overtime or after-hours work (32%) are the major reasons for job burnout. Interestingly, larger organizations appear to have the highest proportion of exhausted employees, and burnout seems to be the major factor that drives the lack of engagement.
As per another Fast Company reporta survey of nearly 9,000 registered nurses, found more than one-third whom said they wanted to quit their jobs.
Lydia Dishman also discusses that too much work and too little pay are not the only burnout contributing factors. Other issues and problems include poor management, employees seeing no clear connection of their role to corporate strategy, and a negative workplace culture.
Another factor might be the ‘Busy’ Trap– people feeling anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. As we have previously addressed being ‘crazy busy’ not only contributes to burnout but also prevents creativity.
According to Geil Browning, PhD, Founder and CEO, Emergenetics International “Working incessantly is counterproductive.
Our brains can handle only so much. Although corporate America has not gotten the message, there is mountains of evidence that working longer hours does not produce better work”.