THE RISE OF BURNOUT CULTURE IN THE OFFICE
WRITTEN BY EMILY HADDINGTON
With over half of British employees answering phone calls and work messages out of hours, and 43 per cent of people prioritising work over their personal lives, we are living in an ‘always on’ culture that has given rise to mental burnout. So what causes burnout culture? And how do we tackle it?
The issue of burnout is a growing concern in many modern workplaces. More and more companies and staff are feeling the pressures associated with longer and more inflexible working hours, balancing work with life and family commitments, financial pressures, rising workloads and limited resources and staff. All of these things combined are contributing to mental and physical exhaustion. In order to have healthy staff who can maintain an equal work/life balance, it is vital that companies create a sustainable working culture and give support wherever needed. It is also up to the employee to maintain realistic expectations and not raise the bar too high.
Signs of work-related burnout
Signs that you could be suffering from mental and physical burnout include intense fatigue, with little energy or enthusiasm, lack of sleep, difficulty concentrating, a hazy mind, virus-like symptoms (such as a raised temperature and a compromised immune system), increased anger and heightened senses. Many people also experience a sense of detachment, with little or no love for things they used to enjoy.
Cases of workplace burnout are on the rise, causing long-term problems for employees’ well-being, and for companies’ costs (due to staff absence). According to Business Insider, the World Health Organisation has predicted that the annual cost of burnout to the global economy is over $323 billion. The organisation has also speculated that burnout will become a global pandemic by 2030. Many companies are not offering employees solutions for rising stress levels, instead attributing blame onto those employees who are struggling to perform. This creates a cycle, as the blame culture leads to resignations, which leads to staff shortages, which leads to fewer resources and more strain being put upon the company.
What causes work-related burnout?
A combination of low staff morale, an increase in job duties without compensation or praise, increased hours, increased workloads and a political office culture are all to blame for work-related burnout. Some people cope in an office environment far better than others. How stress is perceived is also a contributing factor. Many people worry that their employers may find out that they feel overly-stressed working in their jobs, so continue to try and carry on, even when they are suffering with stress-related mental health problems. Burnout also depends on the type of person you are. Those who are more impatient, competitive and who have a desire for power and control are more likely to succumb to the pressures of burnout.
How do we tackle workplace burnout culture?
Firstly, companies need to consider that every employee is different, and handles stress differently. Support systems in place within a company may not suit every employee. Employers need to focus on supporting employees individually, working with them to achieve a more adaptable work-life balance. For instance, introverts may find it more stressful to work in a highly collaborative environment as part of a large team – organisations need to recognise individual staff members’ strengths and personality types, adjusting working conditions to the employee’s needs. Of course, the employee also needs to actively manage their own stress levels. This includes learning to switch off during evenings and weekends, knowing their worth and value within a company, and refraining from setting themselves overambitious or impossible targets that can lead to burnout.