Why do People Burn Out at Work?

April 4 2018

Jacqueline Rosenhek


In many parts of the world, it is common to see people grow up to work an average 8 hour day, 40 hours a week minimum every day, every week from early adulthood until you retire. For so long we have seen this as the North American standard for what is considered a proper, adult work schedule, we rely on it to cover at least some basic costs for life. We have glorified this lifestyle for so long, we have not focused on the very real and potentially unhealthy downsides. Let’s pick apart a typical work day at an office job to really analyze what possible detriment this could be doing to your mental and physical health.

First thing you do is wake up, early most likely (let’s say around 6 AM and you have to ideally leave close to 7). Your commute is likely between 30-45 minutes (that is the North American average commute time) one way, excluding possible traffic. In a year that could add up to a maximum of 15 days’ worth commuting to and from work alone. That, combined with having to startle yourself awake with an alarm clock five days out of a week on average would make for a very groggy, very exhausted start to your day (until you fuel up a few caffeinated beverages of your choice). This is very questionable for your cardiac health and could put you at risk for panic attacks, intense anxiety and depression, heightened blood pressure as well as a slow building resentment towards your job, poor performance and absenteeism. Another factor to scale in is your work environment. How is your relationship with those you work with? If you are lucky enough to work with people you get along with and have a boss who appreciates you and that you do not mind working for, then it should make the work day a little easier. However, not everyone is that lucky. A person complaining about their boss has almost gotten to joke like status in North America. Bullying is not limited to the playground, they can be found in your office as well. If you are unfortunate enough to have a boss that picks on you for whatever reason, that is not a healthy environment to be in. Mental and emotional abuse can have outstanding horrible effects on your psyche and can be a huge cause for burn out. If your boss is just a bully riding you when you are already exhausted , you could be at risk for panic attacks, depression, anger problems, heightened blood pressure, muscle tension, anxiety related digestive issues and in some very extreme cases, suicidal behaviour. A work space is supposed to function like a community, and since working adults spend most of their days at work (about 60 percent of your day on average) and it is important to promote good mental health and to boost morale.

Another factor that could lead to work related burn out is directed more towards those with office jobs that involve sitting and staring at a computer screen all day. Relaxing comfortably on your couch is one thing, but slouching over in an office chair while glaring at a computer screen all day is completely different. Sitting for such long periods of time in front of a computer screen in a state of near-constant potential stress can have adverse effects, resulting in higher risks of muscular and skeletal disorders, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, sleep issues, headaches, anxiety and more. Ontop of that it can significantly and negatively impact ones posture. Burning out can be seen in employees through a lack of performance, absenteeism, calling in sick often, notable shift in mood and possible hostility in the work place. If you are running a team and you notice this in any of your teammates, you will want to re-evaluate the way your office is run. Stop glorifying working to the point of exhaustion and pay more attention to your teammates, especially if this is a recurring thing. If you feel you are suffering from an impending burn out, step back and take care of yourself. Your overall health needs to come first because you are not going to work any better if you keep expending your personal resources, especially if you do not feel that you are being appreciated. Burn out doesn’t go away on its own; rather, it will only get worse unless you address the underlying issues causing it. Recovery is a slow journey that needs patience and self-love and self-reflection, it is not a race to the finish line so you can go running right back to the job that was stressing you out. You need to identify why you experienced burn out and focus on healing yourself. You were put on this earth to do way more than to just go to work and pay bills.



1 year ago

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