Is burnout an epidemic? And can a good vacation be a cure?

Burnout may not be a medical diagnosis (yet), but appears directly related to quite a few symptoms that characterize the 20th and early 21st century, such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, fatigue, and more. Even the World Health Organization has defined the phenomenon of “work related burnout” as an occupational hazard that needs to be addressed.

According to engagement and employee experience surveys we conduct on a regular basis, workplace burnout is  real hazard. For example:

  • 90%  of employees reported emotions they defined as workplace burnout.
  • 50%  of employees reported that the key attrition factor was the requirement to take on more tasks. Other causes listed were pressure to finish tasks faster and a “too task-oriented” organizational culture.
  • 75%  of employees who left a workplace reported that burnout was the main cause, especially where the new workplace was perceived to provide solutions for burnout related challenges.
  • Women in particular expressed their difficulty in discussing burnout phenomena with their superiors. They expressed concern that discussions may be perceived as an expression of weakness.
  • Generation Z and Millennials reported higher levels of burnout than Generation X.

Employees reporting burnout often list the following symptoms:

  • Decreases in hours of sleep and insomnia
  • Lack of enjoyment at family or social events
  • Forgetfulness and mistakes at work
  • Absences and accumulation of sick days
  • New tasks, even interesting ones, are regarded as burdensome
  • Lack of excitement, desire, and motivation
  • Nervousness, stress and outbursts of anger
  • Impairment of one’s sense of humor
  • Difficulty disengaging from work—employees are bothered by work-related thoughts outside of working hours

There are many ways in which employers and employees can try and address this work-environment epidemic. But one way which is particularly pertinent for the coming weeks is a relatively simple one: a vacation. 

Not just any vacation, though. In order for a vacation to help us deal with burnout, it has to meet the following conditions:

  • Don’t take your work with you! This is key. Disconnect as much as possible from work tasks. Connecting remotely via messages, emails, or “just this one little task” are sure ways to bring burnout along on your holiday.
  • The culture of being available 24/7 is pathological and unhealthy—don’t play that game. 
  • Take advantage of the vacation days you deserve. About 50% of employees do not take advantage of their quota of vacation days. 
  • And remember: working from home is not a vacation or a benefit. 
  • Leave message on your electronic media that you are on vacation. Specify dates, alternative contacts, and, that you can be contacted only in urgent cases.
  • Get out. At-home vacations are a recipe for making yourself available to your workplace. Lounging at home is also fun, but a trip and new experiences are a great way to kick start your worn out motors. Which leads to the next point…
  • Holidays are a chance to expand your repertoire of experiences. They create bookmarks in your life and take you out of the monotony of the everyday. The workplace isn’t the only cause of burnout, and new experiences often revitalize and inspire.
  • On the other hand, we all know that sometimes we need a vacation to recover from our vacation. So plan ahead so you can return gradually to your work and routines, and be aware that we can be emotionally susceptible after we return from vacations.

In conclusion

vacations won’t “cure” burnout, change your workplace environment, or solve the world’s ills, but they are still important in addressing these concerns. And if correctly administered, can prove an important step in ensuring you are managing the burnout phenomenon which appears an inevitable part of our modern working culture.

Bon voyage!

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