Last week, the CEO of Bumble offered all 700 of her employees a fully paid week off from 21 June. This is a welcomed surprise, yet a measure expected with a young company facing burnout due to its fast-paced environment.
According to the Boston Globe, Millennials are workaholics. A few reasons coming up from the article include the different work environment, student debt, but also the fact that millennials were born and raised busy. Summer camp, football practise, dance class.
It might not come as a surprise that 67% of workers, according to an Indeed study, are not only feeling burned out but are convinced that the pandemic has exacerbated this issue for them.
In the New York Times article Is Burnout Real?, Weill-Cornell psychiatrist Richard Friedman argues that “unrealistic and misleading” expectations resulting from “a shift in cultural attitudes” may be causing many workers to take stress or dissatisfaction as something much bigger than what it is.
Something is preventing more and more people to enjoy the results of their work, being happy and overall be able to switch off their brains. The truth is, burnout can have effects on our mental health, yet it’s still hard to pinpoint it as a condition, and this is where researchers are getting stuck. Currently, there is no established cutoff for diagnosing burnout, and there has been no clinical research that has been done to establish a diagnosis for dysfunctional levels of burnout. Yet, the mainstream recognition that burnout is real is proving to be a catalyst for change.
Burnout VS exhaustion
“Exhaustion is the central quality of burnout and the most obvious manifestation of this complex syndrome,” Maslach and her co-authors wrote in a 2001 paper in the Annual Review of Psychology.
But by itself, exhaustion does not mean burnout: “Although exhaustion reflects the stress dimension of burnout, it fails to capture the critical aspects of the relationship people have with their work,” Maslach and her colleagues wrote. “Exhaustion is not something that is simply experienced — rather, it prompts actions to distance oneself emotionally and cognitively from one’s work, presumably as a way to cope with the work overload.”
If a person is questioning the impact or the sheer amount of their workload then this, coupled with exhaustion, will result in burnout. On the other hand, if a person is feeling uninspired toward just about everything, that could be a sign of depression or some other issue unrelated (or at least, not directly related) to work.
In the book Gradual Awakening, Miles Neale, a clinical instructor of psychology in integrative medicine and psychiatry, explores the components of life that give it meaning and purpose. Burnout, he argues, is a byproduct of cultural and paradigmatic problems with the way many people live.
“People get in earlier and work later, and many don’t take advantage of leave even when they’re entitled to it” he says. “We do this because, in our secular society, money and power and prestige are the commodities to which we assign value, and we think if we work hard enough and climb the corporate ladder quickly enough, we’ll get these and they’ll validate all the work.”
The role of awareness
Awareness is a great tool when it comes to understanding the root causes of burnout. To bring better awareness, take notes about everything that causes stress in your life — in every area that is important for you. Lack of self-awareness is, indeed, okay since stress, over time, takes a toll on both body and mind, and the signs are there.
Being able to spot the signs and feelings I associate with overwhelm has been key for me, being able to experiment with joy, creativity and boredom truly tapped something magical that changed the way I approach my day-to-day life, something I talk about in my book Reclaim your Time Off.
With managers and companies showing a renewed awareness around the needs of their employees, work-life balance may be attainable after all.
In April 2021, LinkedIn similarly granted 15,900 of its full-time staff a fully paid week off, creating a ripple effect that potentially an increasing number of businesses will take up in the future.
“We wanted to make sure we could give them something really valuable, and what we think is most valuable right now is time for all of us to collectively walk away,” - Teuila Hanson, LinkedIn’s Chief People Officer.