Coping with burnout

Job burnout has been around forever as an issue but with longer hours, increased stress and job insecurity, it’s become worse.

According to the World Economic Forum earlier this year, worker burnout has become more of a problem since the global financial crisis with economic turmoil, job insecurity, constant pressure to succeed and round the clock communication. 

In Germany, for example, insurers have found that one in five workers has fallen ill from stress at work and sales of anti-depression drugs have risen more than 40 per cent. The World Health Organisation estimates the average burnout sufferer takes 30.4 days off work

For a business, burnout results in more sick leave, low morale, lost productivity and staff turnover. Disengaged staff also put off customers. And then there are extra costs of bringing new staff members up to speed. For employees, burnout may leave them in a state of anxiety and depression. It might also produce addictive behaviour, relationship problems and illness.

A new study out of Spain has identified three different kinds of burnout – frenetic, underchallenged and worn out.

The “frenetic” profile applies to those who spend more than 40 hours per week working. The researchers found this group was six times more likely to develop the syndrome than a person working less than 35 hours. These kinds of employees tend to live for their work, are very ambitious and have an enormous workload.

The ones who slot into the “underchallenged” category are the ones holding down monotonous jobs with no real opportunities for development. Administrative and services staff are three times more likely to fall into this category.

People in the “worn-out’’ category are the ones who have a long history of doing the same job. They have been putting in the hours without much recognition.

The study also has implications for the different world of work now evolving. People on contracts or holding down multiple jobs or roles, for example, are more likely to develop the “frenetic” condition.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Kristi Blicharski suggests doing things like resisting the urge to work late unless it’s absolutely necessary, scheduling some evenings out after work with people who are important for you, having a complete break on weekends with email and phone-free days and taking some time-out.

Markus Groth, associate professor in organisation and management at the Australian School of Business says flexible hours, where people start to feel they have some control over their work, and being absolutely clear about roles, go some way to preventing burnout.

Do you suffer from burnout? Or do you work with people who do? What’s the best way of dealing with it?