A study published by The World Health Organization revealed that 745,000 people around the world died in a single year from overworking and the numbers may go up with the shift to teleworking. People who work for 55 hours or more stand a 35% higher risk of suffering a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease. Other shocking statistics are:
- 120,000 people die per year from workplace stress in the U.S alone.
- Burned-out employees are 23% more likely to go to the emergency room.
- 75% of people have experienced burnout at work and 40% reporting burnout in the pandemic year.
Working long hours doesn’t translate to you being a good employee – if anything, it just makes you an unproductive one with very little or normal output. This study shows that the output was the same for employees who worked 80hours and those who pretended to.
People overwork for different reasons; demanding and high-pressure jobs, company expectations to put in extra hours, trying to stand out from the other employees and it can also be a trauma response. Work for some people gives them a sense of accomplishment and fills the void they need to feel worthy. The more they achieve, the better they feel about themselves and when that cord is cut loose, there’s nothing but a shell left.
Many managers want to see their teams put in the work – sometimes at the expense of the employee’s health. It’s profit before people so you’re expected to always be working – on-call, respond to emails immediately, clock in for work earlier than usual, and use up your off days, weekends, and vacations. This has become so normalized that we now have toxic work cultures. With many people working from home now, it’s easy to spend more hours working than you did at the office. You then have a workforce that is suffering from chronic anxiety, stress, and exhaustion all of which lead to burnout.
WHO defines burnout as a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Warning signs of burnout include;
- Reduced professional effectiveness. You aren’t productive and it’s affecting the quality of your work.
- You feel numbness or emptiness. Work doesn’t fulfill you and you feel you aren’t doing enough.
- Your energy levels are always low. You’re always tired both physically and mentally.
- You’ve developed a negative attitude towards work and your colleagues.
Burn-out doesn’t happen at once. It grows gradually over time and before you know it, you’re dealing with lifestyle diseases and mental health issues. You might not recognize it in yourself and just dismiss it as normal fatigue. Because of the toxic work culture in both formal and informal sectors, most of us want to work as hard as we can to provide for ourselves – and the money is just never enough so we’re forced to take two to three jobs to make due.
No overtime work is worth the burnout because once you break down, you’ll be dealing with so much in healthcare expenses and lost time while recovering. To notice the burnout in yourself, here are the 12 stages of burnout;
- Excessive drive or ambition. You are eager to be seen as the person putting in more work than your co-workers. You’re trying to prove a point that you’re good at your job, you deserve a promotion or you simply want to be in your employer’s good books.
- Pushing yourself to work harder. You start working longer hours and taking up more work – you even volunteer for more work. If something needs to be done, you position yourself as the go-to person for it even when it’s not something you’re supposed to be doing.
- Neglecting personal care and needs. You start to see everything outside of work as unnecessary since you need all the time you can get to work. Your personal relationships take a hit because you don’t make time to cultivate them and you throw self-care out of the window.
- Displacement of conflict. You become aware that your work is driving you up the wall and you don’t like how it’s affecting other aspects of your life but you’re conflicted since you still want to keep working.
- Revision of values. What used to matter to you doesn’t anymore – things like relationships and hobbies. Work forms your value system so you shun anything that doesn’t conform or look like work. It consumes all your energy leaving none for any other activity.
- Denial of emerging problems. You blame your work and time constraints for your unhealthy habits to make them seem more acceptable. You also convince yourself that overworking is for a good cause – to provide and afford the life you want.
- Withdrawal. The consequences of overworking often leave you feeling lonely and since your relationships aren’t working as well, you look for coping methods like turning to alcohol for comfort. You also isolate yourself from others and start feeling hopeless and directionless.
- Behavioral changes. Your friends, family, and colleagues start to notice your behavior change because you can no longer hide behind the mask of overworking. It can get so bad that you’re given strikes in the office and called out to change your behavior.
- Depersonalization. You reduce life, work, and relationships to mechanical functions. You’re no longer seeing the value in either of them so they become like chores you’re forced to do. You’re not intentional about showing up to give your best.
- Inner emptiness. You have this unending abyss of emptiness that work no longer fills up so you indulge in harmful activity like recklessness and addiction to try and feel something but nothing seems to work. You’re in constant pursuit of the next big thing that may make you feel happy.
- Depression. You’re now feeling hopeless, worthless, exhausted, probably addicted to something, with failed relationships and a job you’re not doing well. Depression starts to kick in because of the chronic stress you’re constantly under.
- Burnout happens. You reach your breaking point both mentally and physically which may lead to collapsing and needing urgent medical care and in extreme cases, suicide may happen as a way of escaping the pain and tiredness.
As I mentioned earlier, no job is worth you putting your health and life on the line for. Once you reach burnout point, you become easily dispensable. The company will replace you in a very short time because they need someone strong and healthy – which you stop becoming when you’re burned out. If you notice any of the above signs of burnout in yourself, kindly don’t wait until the final stage for you to take action. Reach out to us for therapy.
“Burn out is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.” – Michael Gungor