You may recall a BuzzFeed News article that went viral earlier this year in which Anne Helen Petersen describes "How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation." In the article, she identifies "errand paralysis"—the inability to complete mundane and straightforward tasks—as one of the symptoms of burnout in a culture where overwork is idolized and in an economy where overwork is practically required. Now, a new study is giving some real credibility to her theory.
In the study, conducted by Lexington Law and administered to more than 1,000 Americans, nearly half of respondents—from all age brackets, not just millennials—reported procrastinating on or neglecting tasks amid feelings of burnout. Some of those tasks seem trivial in the long run (e.g. not returning a purchase or not filing for financial reimbursements), but others could carry dire consequences (e.g. not booking medical or dental appointments and not scheduling car maintenance). Some of the respondents even reported dragging their feet on credit card, loan, and rent payments due to feelings of burnout, and some reported neglecting those tasks altogether.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is now including burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis in ICD-11, the latest revision of its International Classification of Diseases. "Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed," the entry reads. "It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy."
Burnout is also a huge problem for employers as it often leads to lower employee productivity, morale, and retention. And while there are many ways to address employee burnout, flexibility has proven to be the most effective solution. An antidote to burnout, flexibility helps make an employee's life and work more compatible. When employees are able to customize their workday, they're more likely to feel engaged and inspired by their work, not depleted or exhausted. And when workplace flexibility comes with structure and boundaries, workers don't feel "always on" and instead feel they have the right to disconnect.
Employee burnout might seem like an inevitability in today’s hypercompetitive and overchieving work culture, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn more about how our unique approach to flexibility can help.