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Americans Are Facing a Workplace Burnout Epidemic

Workplace burnout has been a growing trend in industries throughout the United States. In fact, a number of American workers, ranging from America’s top executives to restaurant workers, now suffer from extreme stress, reporting that their work feels overwhelming for a sustained period of time, leaving them with feelings of apathy and numbness. It’s a problem that experts say companies aren’t yet prepared to deal with.


This problem has been common for quite some time, especially in high-stress or caring professions such as medicine, social work, or corporate positions. Today, however, it's grown into an epidemic that affects nearly every corner of the job market.


"Everyone's job is now an extreme job," notes Jeanne Meister, a consultant who advises large organizations on workplace stress and employee turnover. When speaking to a journalist from the Wall Street Journal, Meister said the problem "appears to be worsening, resulting in sleep turnover and health costs."


Part of the reason this burnout exists is due to an "always-on" mentality. In essence, many feel that they are required to bring their work home with them and have a difficult time unplugging. Others report feeling addicted to work.


"In any profession, high achievers may be tempted to keep working in the evenings, over the weekend, and even while on vacation," note the experts at Maryville University. "Since smartphones, tablets, and work-issued laptops make it easier to work remotely than ever before, unplugging can seem like an unwise choice for workers who want to get ahead."


Many Americans report checking their email after work hours, or having to participate in strenuous overtime activities. Technological advances make this "always-on" mentality far more pervasive.


This kind of anxiety has a serious impact on our mental health, and the economy. The same Wall Street Journal article indicates that health-related costs associated with burnout amounted to nearly $125-190 billion per year.


Setting healthy workplace boundaries can be difficult, however. Many have a serious fear of losing their jobs, and companies may worry about the costs of addressing the issue head on. Women especially are susceptible to this problem.


In a recent study performed by Montreal University, which surveyed 2,026 people, women were far more likely to feel workplace burnout, in part because they are often denied positions of power which lead to frustration and workplace dissatisfaction.


"Our results show there are differences between men and women because, from the outset, employees are subject to different working conditions depending on their gender," wrote the author of the study, Dr. Nancy Beauregard.


Similarly, minority populations may also experience burnout differently. In a study that aimed to determine the well-being of minority medical students, researchers concluded that while symptoms of depression among minority were similar in students of all races, minority students were far more likely to have a lower sense of personal accomplishment and quality of life than their non-minority peers.


Companies are resistant to changing this workplace culture for a number of reasons, researcher Christina Maslach posits to the WSJ. While many companies, especially large companies are now creating programs that aim to make their employees healthier, simply adding yoga or mindfulness into their daily routine may not be enough. Instead, companies need to directly seek solutions for on-the-job stress, which might take a significant effort.


First and foremost, it will require a continuing conversation between employees and employers. It will also require investing in a culture that is mindful of the amount of stress associated with certain positions. It may also require an introspective look at the current state of workplace culture in America.


As it stands currently, American workers are overworked and overwhelmed. In order to create a workforce that is more inclusive and less exhaustive, employers are going to have to change the way they operate on a large scale.


Posted by DanikaK at November 20, 2018 8:09 PM
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DanikaK wrote: Many Americans report checking their email after work hours, or having to participate in strenuous overtime activities. Technological advances make this “always-on” mentality far more pervasive.
Yes, and No.

It depends on the person, and perhaps their age (based on 35 years of experience.

Younger employees are more likely to put in ONLY the required minimum hours (or less, if possible).

Older employees are more likely to work overtime almost every week (due to different work-ethic, and job security).

Some companies are worse than others, and have been getting away with unpaid overtime from their employees for decades.

However, unemployment is low, and when unemployment is low, jobs are easier to find, so some employees might not stand for it.

For example: I was working in the IT and MIS departments (1st shift) for a large bank for 8.3 years (in the Dallas, Texas area).
One day, my managers told me that I now had to work 2nd shift, which included weekends, and I would also be on-call 24/7.
I told them “Nope. I resign, and this is my two week notice”.
I was immediately replaced with a foreign contractor (who was paid about 30% less).
85% of everyone in my department was already foreign contractors (mostly, from India), and most of them could barely speak English, so they spoke Hindi in the workplace, most of the time.
It was obvious that they wanted the U.S. citizens to resign.
It was effectively “constructive dismissal”.

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