Really great article in this week’s New York magazine, “The Science of Burnout” by Jennifer Senior. The subhead alone speaks volumes: “In a culture where work can be a religion, burnout is its crisis of faith.”
It’s about how burnout—that crispy, dulled, done feeling—is a researched phenomenon with relatively consistent symptoms. Attempts have been made to quantify and analyze the components of burnout. Thus, the the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which posits that “one of the following six problems can fry us to a crisp: working too much; working in an unjust environment; working with little social support; working with little agency or control; working in the service of values we loathe; working for insufficient reward (whether the currency is money, prestige, or positive feedback).”
Senior also addresses the fact that businesses are only starting to acknowledge that burnout is not about laziness, lack of drive or commitment, or for the thin-skinned. She notes that one company has a week per month with no meetings and another gives an eight-week sabbatical after seven years of employment (though she points out that most Europeans get that every year).
A researcher in the story says, “‘It’s kind of like ergonomics… It used to be, ‘You sit for work? Here’s a chair.’ But now we design furniture to fit and support the body. And we’re doing the same here. The environments themselves have to say, ‘We want people to thrive and grow.’”
I look forward to the day when U.S. companies realize that things like paying attention to things like light, breaks, flex time, sound, smell, décor, and certainly ample vacation time actually contribute to more productive workers who can substantially enhance the bottom line.
Does your workplace do anything to prevent burnout? What do you do to prevent it yourself?
—By Valerie Reiss. Amy’s on vacation.