Burnout Nation: How US companies are de-stressing workforces


  • TECH
  • Friday, 14 Jun 2019

FILE PHOTO: A trader looks at his screen on the IG Group trading floor in London March 18, 2013. The surprise decision by euro zone leaders to part-fund a bailout of Cyprus by taxing bank deposits sent shockwaves through financial markets on Monday, with shares and the bonds of struggling euro zone governments tumbling. REUTERS/Neil Hall (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)/File Photo

NEW YORK: No matter who you are or what you do, let me take a wild guess: You feel a little burned out right now.

Was I right? If so, you are one of the two-thirds of Americans who report feeling burned out on the job, according to a recent Gallup poll.

That breaks down into 23% who are burned out very often or always, and another 44% who feel that way sometimes. Those numbers are epidemic.

But they do not surprise Cleveland Clinic’s Dr Adrienne Boissy. When the famed clinic asked its own physicians about burnout, surveying over 1,500 of them, 35% reported at least one symptom. Across the US for physicians it is even worse: a whopping 54%, according to Mayo Clinic researchers.

“People are feeling like their bucket is empty at the end of the day,” says Boissy, who as the clinic’s chief experience officer is leading the charge to combat employee burnout. “There is an ocean of distress and suffering out there.”

Burnout does not just happen in healthcare, though, with its particularly intense life-or-death environment. It takes place across industries and across regions. Popular YouTuber Lilly Singh even made headlines when she announced she was taking a break to recharge her batteries.

So what exactly is going on, to make everyone feel so depleted? There is no one answer. Rather, a host of factors conspire to make modern workers feel tapped out.

Technology is one. Smartphones now make people accessible 24/7, leading to the expectation that they will be responsive outside of normal office hours. It can develop into a two-shift day: one at the office, one at home.

“All the ways we can get in touch with people these days, puts stress on people about how to balance it all," says Julie Coffman, a Chicago-based partner with consultants Bain & Co and global head of its organisation practice. "It’s exhausting to navigate.”

To their credit, organisations are starting to realise that burnout is in no one’s interest. At the Cleveland Clinic, Boissy and her team have rolled out a number of fixes to help reduce physician burnout. Since much of the problem stems from overwhelming documentation, assistants are now handling more paperwork or refilling prescriptions, so doctors can interact more with patients.

Cleveland Clinic is using innovative solutions like “Code Lavenders”, where dedicated teams help during the painful or traumatic moments that happen every day in a hospital.

Tips to prevent burnout

Some burnout prevention tips from Bain & Co’s Coffman: Try no-meeting or no-email days to give staffers a break from overscheduling.

Another suggestion is to analyse your employee networks. If everyone wants access to a particular manager, you need to help that manager out with his or her workload.

And remember that it is okay to say no. If you have five project groups demanding your time, go to your supervisor and figure out which are priorities, and which you can pass on.

Changing jobs can also relieve some pressure. Just ask Jane Barratt, who has plenty of experience working in the digital space, where “all anyone could ever talk about was how tired they were”.

When she signed on with financial-data firm MX as its chief advocacy officer, it was like a different world. Dedicated areas for spouses and kids, nap rooms, massage time, big family events like booking movie theatres or taking over theme parks – the list goes on.

As a result, her new venture "does not have the level of exhaustion of other tech companies”, she says. “It’s something I haven’t really seen before.” – Reuters

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