Job-Related Burnout

A recently published Deloitte report revealed that working women in India face high burnout, owing to work-related stress, despite the rise in hybrid working. The survey carried out among 5000 women across ten countries, with about 500 participants from India, was held between November 2021 and February 2022 and revealed some hard-hitting facts. 48% of Indian women were more likely than the global average of 46% to claim they felt burnout, and most of these women (63%) fell in the age group of 18-25.

Women and the working category, in general, are facing high levels of burnout. UiPath’s 2022 Office Worker Survey found that 70% of the Indian workforce feels increased pressure, unhappiness and uncertainty, and monotony at the workplace, causing them to look for newer opportunities. The Deloitte study also highlighted that about one-third of participants had taken a sabbatical due to mental health issues, of which only 41% are comfortable discussing these setbacks at work. This raises an important question: despite the growth in hybrid and remote work cultures, what could be the possible cause of work-related burnout?

The Deloitte report pointed out that one of the many reasons could be long working hours, as 69% of women whose work schedules were altered owing to the pandemic were way more burnt out than the rest (18%). Approximately 56% of Indian women shared that their exertion levels had increased in the past year, compared to 53% globally. On the other hand, the UiPath survey recorded that 44% of respondents are frustrated by tasks such as research to improve existing products and services, 43% due to constant email drafting and responses, and 38% due to increased time on new product development, and 37% for scheduling calls and meetings.

Surprisingly, work-related burnout is not a newly-emerged problem facing employees and employers; the issue has been prevalent for several decades. Let’s flashback to 2020, the peak COVID-19 pandemic phase, when the working category experienced a high burnout due to a lack of separation between personal and work life and fear of contracting the virus. During the same period, Microsoft surveyed over 6000 first-line and information workers across eight countries globally (Australia, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Singapore, India, and the UK), and the Work Trend Index recorded that India had the second-highest percentage of workforce facing extreme burnout in Asia at 29%. The same report also highlighted how Germany saw minute changes to work schedules during the same period or feelings of burnout.

The highlighted data and this Work Trend Index report highlight how workplace stress, coupled with the pandemic, has impacted the well-being of the working category globally, especially in India. Fortunately, many companies have started recognizing the outcome of being burnt out and are implementing newer ways to help employees overcome it. Dating app Bumble, for instance, announced that all employees in India and across the globe would get a paid, fully-offline week-long vacation in June. Similarly, L’Oréal India is facilitating a “healing day” for its employees as an extended day for self-care. Realty developer Godrej Properties has started providing employees with a five-day break from the office to help teams recuperate emotionally.

Burnout is a rising threat to the engagement and productivity of today’s workforce. Leaving your job may not necessarily be the best option, as the problem is deep-rooted and needs a systematic approach, mainly organizational-level interventions.

Before we directly delve into the solutions, let’s try to understand the risk factors and causes of job burnout!

What causes job burnout?

Some workplaces, jobs, and situations are known for being stressful – however, not every stressful job leads to burnout. Contrary to this, employees in less demanding roles or, even better, those with a great passion for their jobs can also experience burnout. Usually, burnout is difficult to point to just one cause. Lifestyle stressors or personality traits may intensify a challenging work environment. But if any of the organizational risk factors – as indicated by burnout researcher Dr Christina Maslach – like control, workload, fairness, community, reward, and values are present in the following scenarios, the chances of an individual experiencing burnout are higher:

  • Quest for perfectionism
  • Hyper-competitiveness or constant comparison with others
  • Hesitant to seek help or support
  • Inability to adjust and prioritize work tasks
  • Working multiple jobs
  • Lack of involvement in activities beyond work
  • Sudden illness in oneself or other family members
  • Balancing work with other life changes, like shifting places.

Possible consequences of job burnout

If you come with the school of thought that “hard work is its reward,” – pausing to evaluate and treat your burnout might seem irrational. However, if left unchecked, it can lead to physical, mental, and emotional outcomes that may affect every area of your life.

  • Exhaustion
  • Less satisfaction at work
  • Strained work relationships
  • Chronic illnesses, including mental and physical disorders
  • Quitting your job – or even worst – workforce
  • Death (as pointed out by a 2016 BBC article that talks about karoshi – death by overwork).

To avert one or more of these extreme consequences, it’s ideal for dealing with burnout. Here’s how to go about it.

Ways to treat and manage feeling burnout in the workplace

Though it may seem overwhelming, burnout will not be a permanent state if you take the necessary actions. The truth is that burnout emerges due to multiple factors, so a multi-faceted approach is the best way to treat it. Even if you can’t escape the situation instantaneously, you can build habits that can help you recover from burnout:

  • Pay attention to your emotions and analyze your boundaries
  • Build interests outside of work
  • Build cooperative relationships with colleagues
  • Stick to a strict work schedule
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Look after your physical health
  • Share your concerns with your manager (as the Harvard Business Review recommends workers do)
  • Seek professional help.

Beat burnout at work!

It’s clear that job burnout is a common phenomenon and doesn’t mean an employee lacks dedication. Often, those who are the most dedicated and hard-working are most prone to burnout. But the good news is: that it’s manageable and treatable. First, identify the symptoms of burnout and then, by improving workplace communication, reducing workload, seeking time off, and taking support – you can recover and help other overworked peers overcome burnout, too. Do everything you can to relax, recharge, and strike a good work-life balance. Remember quitting a job while feeling burned out is not the solution; the solution lies in addressing the root cause of burnout.

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