Employer Branding

Is Burnout a Real “Thing” or Just a Myth?

Looking after our employees’ mental health has become a priority for many companies and rightly so. While we want our staff to be as productive as possible, the last thing we want is presenteeism or even worse “burnout”.

But is “burnout” an actual “thing”? Well, it’s been recognized by The World Health Organisation (WHO) as an “occupational phenomenon”. The findings represent online searches from January 2015 to May 2019 in the UK. In fact, “What is Burnout” was searched over 50% more since being recognized as an occupational phenomenon by the WHO.

Over the last few years, millennials have been in the spotlight in relation to workplace issues. They are much more vocal about their concerns and needs in the workplace. This stems from reasons including being subject to social, technological and economic innovations which both increase the pressure and overwhelm the nervous system, but also serve as channels to share feelings and frustrations.

Many believe the viral article by BuzzFeed on “How Millennials became the Burnout Generation” is what enraptured recognition and thoughtful reflection on “millennial burnout”. The reality is “millennial burnout” was most searched in 2019, but reached a peak in March (4,400 monthly average searches), as opposed to January when the BuzzFeed article was published (2,400 monthly average searches).

And yet despite this, many remain unsure of what burnout is. Searches for “what is burnout?” increased by 55% on average from 2018 to 2019. Average monthly searches were 602 in 2018 and now 932 just in the last 7 months. What’s even more interesting, is searches for “burnout test” – which most commonly link back to the Maslach Burnout inventory- have remained pretty steady (and high) over the last three years and currently stand at 44 searches on average monthly.

What’s more, WHO has recognized burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” but online searches signal it’s not only linked to employment. Whilst “therapist burnout” was widely searched this year (48 average monthly), “university burnout” was searched more (52 average monthly) and “relationship burnout” (38 average monthly) or “compassionate burnout” (28 average monthly) on a similar scale.

Hannah Sims, Product Manager at Perkbox Medical, says:

“Regardless of what shape or form we want the definition of “burnout” to take – be this as a “medical diagnosis” or just an “occupational phenomenon”, it’s important that we give it the attention it deserves. If your mind is frazzled like it is when you’re experiencing burnout, you’re missing out on opportunities, might not be able to deliver at work, or feel like yourself when meeting friends. All this impacts your quality of life. You’re not in the state of being happy inside and outside of work regardless of what incentives you’re given. You need separate support to get back to full speed. That’s what I think we should focus on the most when thinking “burnout” – it’s a serious issue that needs dedicated attention”.

So if you recognize that one of your employees is experiencing “burnout” or maybe you yourself are after putting in more hours than you should be or not taking your foot off the gas when you should be – then it’s time to take a step back from the workplace

About the author: Perkbox is a platform that provides a unique employee experience, enriching the personal and working life of employees. It offers a suite of products including a platform with access to best in class Perks, Perkbox Medical, Perkbox Recognition, and Perkbox Insights. It serves companies of all sizes from SMEs to large companies such as Whole Foods, Nando’s, Caffe Nero and Levi Strauss & Co. Headquartered in London, with offices in Sheffield and Paris, Perkbox has raised over £11.0 million in funding from the leading European venture capital firm Draper Esprit.

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