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The Employee Burnout Crisis

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The rapid growth of companies, combined with the pandemic, and the ever-increasing volume and responsibility of work create failure on a private level. All these external forces have direct effects to our body and our psyche as chronic stress and as such can create burnout syndrome. This syndrome is a consequence of constant exposure to dissatisfaction (workplace and environment, business or family roles) that we do not solve but settle, and then it all accumulates in the feeling that we are losing control over our own lives. It is manifested by drastic changes in mood and behavior that are not characteristic of us, but also by changes in physical parameters, which can be alarming.

Burnout is a progressive loss of idealism, energy, and meaningfulness of one’s own work as a result of frustration and stress at work. Burnout at work is not the same as fatigue. Fatigue does not include changes in attitudes toward work and behavior toward clients. Burnout does.

Whether a person will develop burnout syndrome depends on many factors, but to a large extent also on the structure of their personality. Mentally stable and strong individuals, who have trained themselves for a high level of productivity–balancing obligations and pressures, are in less danger of developing such problems, but can also catch them if they fail to maintain their psychological stability.

Symptoms

Physical symptoms

Physical symptoms – this category most often includes chronic fatigue and exhaustion, which can be a sign of some other problems, so people do not take them seriously enough. Insomnia is a symptom that, coupled with the previous two, gives the green light for taking action to remedy the situation. There are other disorders that can be individual and unequivocally indicate a problem, such as indigestion, sudden changes in body weight, various painful symptoms, reduced immunity, increased need for sedatives, cigarettes, or even alcohol.

Emotional symptoms

These are symptoms which are most difficult to believe and for this reason, we must be extremely careful and deal with them just like any other physical condition because they can be equally dangerous. Symptoms may include depression, emotional emptiness, loss of meaning in life, anxiety, loss of motivation to go to work, loss of enthusiasm, apathy, isolation, boredom, feelings of sadness and helplessness, feelings of worthlessness, loss of self-confidence, low self-esteem, and loss of strength.

Behavioural symptoms

Behavior change is certainly a consequence of some mental states, and if you notice changes that are not characteristic of you, or someone else draws your attention to them – you react. The consequence can be an even greater decline in problems and entering into a “vicious circle of problems” from which it is not easy to get out because one problem creates another (and so on). Frequent changes in behavior can include: loss of concentration, forgetfulness, explosiveness, rudeness, excessive sensitivity to external influences (e.g. noise, light, smells, and others), negative attitudes towards work, people, interpersonal conflicts, insensitivity, rigidity, constant occupation with work, family problems, divorce, the breakup of friendships, suicidal thoughts, and more.

How does the syndrome occur?

The First Phase

Idealistic enthusiasm

When you are just starting to do a job, there is positive energy, high hopes, and sometimes unrealistic expectations. You may expect a “pink reality” at work, a positive atmosphere, acceptance by colleagues, and a boss who has your back. Its maximum is perfectly fine, but it must be in line with your realistic capabilities.

The Second Phase

Stagnation

After a while, there is a collision with reality and you slowly see how things stand. After “landing”, you still love your job, and you do it, but not with the same enthusiasm. You are reminded of the existence of other interesting spheres in life, such as family, friends, advancement, professional development, and others.

The Third Phase

Frustration

This is the stage followed by a re-examination: how productive you are at doing the job? What is the point of the job you are doing? How much you are needed? And what is your purpose there? Of course, if you are already in the burnout process, the answers are positive in rare moments, which means that the degree of frustration is growing day by day.

The Fourth Phase

Apathy

Apathy is the absence of emotions. It is one of the most difficult mental states and is also one of the first very clear signs that something is wrong. It is manifested by withdrawing and avoiding people or work, as a defense against frustration. Apathetic people are completely uninterested in their work and, if that mood takes over, it can spread to other spheres of life. Such people work only to survive and, at the same time, invest very little energy and time in work, while also running away from any responsibility.

What about statistics?

  1. One survey, conducted for STADA by the Kantar Health Market Research Institute among 18,000 respondents in nine countries, shows that more than half of Europeans (55%) have experienced chronic exhaustion at work or something similar, or that they know from personal experience what are the symptoms of this problem.
  2. The employee burnout affects Russians the most (72 percent), Serbs (66 percent) and Poles (62 percent), while less than half of respondents in Spain, Italy, and Germany (49 percent), as well as in France (44 percent), faced chronic exhaustion at work.
  3. The research also showed that the majority of respondents believe that it is the employer’s duty to implement measures to preserve the health of employees in the workplace.
  4. Spring Health made a survey for 1,136 employees in the US, in which 76% said that they have burnout syndrome. 36% said that they have greater burnout when they have more responsibilities, and 23% stated that it’s because they are not paid enough for their time off.
  5. Monster’s survey conducted in July showed that around 69% of remote workers stated they experienced burnout.
  6. A March Gallup report cited that about 76% of workers experienced this syndrome at least sometimes. According to Gallup, the risk of the syndrome is increased when workers exceeded 50 working hours.
  7. 84% of employees have experienced burnout, said Deloitte in its survey. The same survey showed that almost half of respondents cited that this syndrome was the reason why they quit their job. When they were asked for reasons, 31% said that it’s because the support and recognition that they get from the company isn’t enough.
  8. Limeade’s survey showed that, in the pre-pandemic period, 42% of workers experienced burnout. The worst numbers happened, and in August that number jumped to 72%. The most stressful thing in this COVID-19 pandemic is this burnout syndrome, according to more than a third of employees.

Prevention is the best medicine

Treating this syndrome is a very difficult job because it involves a complete change of ourselves and the work environment (usually the job itself). Often, job changes mean the need to improve and sometimes we see overwork as the only solution. In fact, we are not aware of the consequences of such behavior. In essence, the one who realizes that, the best treatment for stress is preventing stress, will have much greater health in the future.

Reduced working hours are what employees need most, according to 30% of surveyed employees, who were surveyed by Spring Health. What is also stated as a good solution is to have a good manager who will be supportive (26%), a better mental health policy (24%), employer-sponsored therapy (23%), and the use of mental health applications (21%).

Since this problem is atypical in relation to some other mental states, the best and most effective medicine is prevention, which is the only one that can guarantee a cure. It, first of all, means that we know the people we work with and that we can react in time in case of need. Sometimes a simple, open conversation is all we need. Employers are also obliged to organize their work, adapting to the individual needs of workers. They could create a good atmosphere at work, make sure that the work is well distributed, be flexible in decision-making, respect other people’s opinions, provide information on the success of the work done, and organize social gatherings outside of work, to name a few.

Ask for help

The first step is to identify the source of the stress and work on resolving it. If you think you are not capable enough to do the job, try to find a way to improve or, if there is a conflict with colleagues, resolve it by talking or in the way you find most useful. Also, combine it with a healthy lifestyle – do sports. Eat healthily and regularly and practice some other activities, within and after work, that make you happy. If you are not someone who takes the initiative and such actions would create an even bigger problem, then you should get away from stress—avoid stressful situations altogether.

If neither of these two solutions is effective, or if there is no adequate solution for your situation, it would be best to turn to your superior, and if necessary – a therapist, for help. You can occasionally work overtime or beyond your means (especially if you have already trained enough for that pace). However, if you work constantly or for too long in stressful conditions, or are dissatisfied with your performance at work, you may be on your way to creating a problem for yourself.

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