The Blog

  • May 30, 2018
  • Burnout

    Is your job burning you out?

    Just in time for spring, there’s new information about job burnout and what to do about it. Seems that roughly six months of northern hemisphere winter can induce feelings of ennui and burnout in many people deprived of adequate sunlight and outdoor activity. But we typically tough it out—the job isn’t really thatbad and any personal life has its ups and downs that you learn to roll with. Right? To be clear there’s a different between job burnout and the sub-clinically depressed feelings many people get during winter but there might be enough overlap to seek a common solution.

    Two pieces of information came out this month that illustrate my point. A survey of workers in major tech organizations by Blind gives an interesting picture of job burnout and it’s not pretty. Blind, the app, is for forming anonymous communities in workplaces. The tool and communities make it easy to research important questions without a lot of technology and researchers getting in the way. So the app is a place to interact with likeminded people that’s easy and enlightening. There are more than 50,000 active companies on Blind, enough to support statistically relevant samples and Blind slices and dices the dataset like a sushi chef.

    The survey in question shows that at any point in time as many as half or more of a tech company’s workers feel burnt out.

    Kredit Karma leads the ranking with more than 70 percent of its employees answering yes to the following question:

    Are you currently suffering from burnout?

    The only allowed answers were yes or no.

    Bringing up the rear is Netflix with 38.89 responding affirmatively. In between are famous names lie Cisco, Oracle, Salesforce, Intuit, Amazon and many more.

    What does it mean?

    Perhaps we need to just chalk this up to modern living. In the long-ago rickets (vitamin D deficiency) and scurvy (vitamin C) were hazards of living in areas where the sun didn’t always shine and the diet was less than one Michelin star. Maybe burnout is just a modern analog who knows?

    But it’s worth recalling that modern living became modern because enterprising people among us decided to do something about the status quo. Today we have better food and vitamins are in hyper-abundance. Case closed.

    By the same token there ought to be something we can do about job burnout and similar diseases of modern life and it turns out there might be. The New York Times publishes a newsletter, “Smarter Living,” that just published an article on, wait for it, Burnout. “Your Best Tips for Beating Burnout” by Tim Herrera is a collection of tips from readers about what they do to deal with occasional fits of burned out-ishness.

    Deadlines, co-workers, bosses, impossible deadlines all contribute to the pressure cooker feeling that precedes full burnout and Herrera notes that

    According to a recent study, one in five highly engaged employees is at risk of burnout. “Quite honestly in America we glorify stress,” one professor told us.

    Herrera might be surprised by the Blind study. This looks like a real problem.

    The reader suggestions Herrera published all seem to center on taking a break from work, not taking it home, making friends, and developing hobbies and developing a real outside-of-work existence. None of this is new but the attention it’s getting might be symptomatic of having already passed a breaking point.

    Early warning

    “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” by Robert D. Putnam, was published in 2000, well before social media and smartphones. The book chronicles an innocent change in American life around the turn of the century, namely that we once bowled together after work and in leagues but not anymore.

    As the review on Amazon notes,

    Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from one another and how social structures—whether they be PTA, church, or political parties—have disintegrated. Until the publication of this groundbreaking work, no one had so deftly diagnosed the harm that these broken bonds have wreaked on our physical and civic health, nor had anyone exalted their fundamental power in creating a society that is happy, healthy, and safe. 

    Interestingly, very little has been done since publication to alleviate the symptoms either—unless you count the birth and rapid expansion of social media which might have only worsened the problem. Yes, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are on the list too which might only prove they drink their own champagne.

    So what to do? Suggestions are out there. They’re in the Times article, books, and online but as they say in the 12-step business, step one is admitting you have a problem.

    Published: 5 months ago


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