Work exhaustion: Help! I am “burned out”! (And techno-stress kills me)

The study, carried out by the Bumeran employment platform, discovered that, of this total index of 94%, 72% of workers in the country reported being in a state of constant exhaustion, while 22% declared themselves in a stage advanced burnout. These figures are alarming and highlight the serious situation faced by Argentine workers.

It also highlights that job burnout does not distinguish between ages, sectors or levels of experience. It affects both young professionals and workers with years of experience in their careers. The study identifies several factors that contribute to the increase in burnout in Argentina, starting with excessive workload and constant pressure to achieve goals and objectives.

Many workers face strenuous work hours and the need to maintain high levels of performance, which can lead to significant burnout over time.

The importance of leadership

Photo: Kraken Images

The results of the survey showed that the lack of support and recognition at work is one of the triggering factors of burnout. Employees who do not feel valued or who do not receive the necessary support from their superiors or coworkers are more likely to experience high levels of stress and burnout.

That is why it is necessary to work on the so-called “soft skills”, also known as social or emotional skills, which are attributes required in the world of work today and essential for the leadership role. These are skills that include effective communication, empathy, decision making, conflict resolution, creativity and the ability to work as a team.

They are important for leadership at work because an effective leader must not only possess technical skills, but also the ability to inspire, motivate and collaborate with their team. “Soft skills” help build strong relationships, foster productivity, and improve organizational culture. A leader who possesses these skills can positively influence her team and the work environment of the organization. On the contrary, if a leader lacks these skills it could be one of the factors that most impacts burnout, in addition to causing demotivation and the loss of talent in work organizations.

Post-covid world

The Covid-19 pandemic also played a major role in aggravating the problem. The implementation of remote work and the lack of clear boundaries between work and personal life left many employees feeling overwhelmed and overloaded. The difficulty in disconnecting from work and finding a balance between personal and work life contributed significantly to the increase in burnout.

Given this situation, it is essential that organizations and employers take measures to address and prevent burnout in the workplace. It is suggested to implement policies and practices that promote a healthy work environment, such as promoting balance between work and personal life, providing emotional and psychological support, and promoting participation in activities that improve the work environment and well-being at work.

The importance of raising awareness about burnout and offering resources and tools for its management is also highlighted. This includes providing stress management training, promoting open communication and support among team members, and establishing regular periods of rest and disconnection.

It is essential to address this issue at both the individual and organizational levels to protect the health and well-being of workers and promote healthier work environments. The implementation of policies and practices that promote balance and well-being, as well as raising awareness about burnout, are fundamental steps to address this growing problem.

The society of performance and fatigue

The points made by Bumeran’s study about the high levels of burnout in Argentina are significantly linked to the ideas raised by the philosopher Byung-Chul Han in his works “The Society of Performance” and “The Society of Fatigue.” These concepts provide a valuable theoretical framework to understand the phenomenon of burnout and its impact on contemporary society.

In “The Performance Society,” Han discusses how we are transforming into a society based on performance and constant productivity. In this context, the individual becomes his own “exploiter”, assuming responsibility for optimizing his performance in all areas of his life. An important piece of information to color this conceptualization comes from research from Harvard University that discovered that, between the pandemic and teleworking, respondents reported having worked 48 minutes more per day. Han argues that this performance culture creates intense pressures and a constant sense of dissatisfaction, as a state of rest or full satisfaction is never reached.

In “The Exhaustion Society,” on the other hand, Han examines how exhaustion became a predominant symptom in contemporary society. In contrast to the disciplinary society of the past, which was based on control and repression, today’s society is characterized by overexposure and overdemand. The author maintains that fatigue in this society does not arise primarily from strenuous physical work, but from the accumulation of constant demands and stimuli that exhaust the capacity for attention and psychological resistance. The work we “should” do is never enough and is due to our own self-demand. And, without a doubt, the complexity of the context in which we carry out our work adds to this impact on the mental health of workers.

Things happen not only in Argentina

Han’s two concepts – the performance society and the fatigue society – illuminate the situation described in the results of the burnout study. 4,386 residents of Latin American countries participated in the survey. Argentina led the ranking with 94% of 1,549 responses, in second place was Chile, with 91% of burnout in 754 responses, followed by Panama (83% among 464 responses), Ecuador (79% of 452) and Peru (78% of 1167). Workers in the region, like many people around the world, face pressure to meet high expectations, meet unattainable goals, and maintain a consistent level of performance. This dynamic generates a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that can lead to burnout syndrome or feeling “burned out” at work.

Beware of technostress

Technostress is a term used to describe the stress or psychological discomfort that a person experiences due to excessive or inappropriate use of technology. The term combines the words “technology” and “stress” to refer to the negative effects that can arise as a result of interacting with electronic devices, such as computers, mobile phones, tablets and other digital devices.

It can manifest itself in different ways and affect both the physical and emotional well-being of a person. Some common symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. Technostress can arise due to a variety of reasons, such as information overload, the need to be constantly connected, pressure to respond quickly to messages and emails, lack of privacy online, and difficulty disconnecting from technology.

It is important to note that the use of technology in itself is not negative, but it is essential to maintain a healthy and conscious balance in its use to avoid techno-stress and promote general well-being. Overexposure and overstimulation in the digital age contribute to burnout. Constant access to technology, the need to always be connected, and the lack of clear boundaries between work and personal life exacerbate the feeling of exhaustion and make it difficult to recover and rest properly.

Surviving | Some recommendations

Although each work organization and each person is different, we can offer some strategies and approaches to prevent and address work stress and burnout.

1. Promote a healthy work-life balance: Foster an organizational culture that values ​​and supports work-life balance. This may include flexible working hours policies, promoting wellness activities outside of working hours, and respecting rest and free time periods.

2. Set realistic expectations: It is important to set clear and realistic expectations about job tasks and responsibilities. This includes appropriately allocating resources, realistically evaluating workloads, and openly communicating about limitations and challenges that may arise.

3. Promote autonomy and control: Providing workers with a reasonable degree of autonomy and control over their work can help reduce stress and burnout. Allowing participation in decision-making, offering professional development opportunities, and delegating responsibilities appropriately can increase feelings of control and empowerment.

4. Improve social support and work relationships: Foster a collaborative and supportive work environment, where employees feel supported and valued. Promote close and healthy leadership. Establishing open communication channels, promoting collaboration among colleagues, and offering opportunities for recognition and positive feedback can strengthen work relationships and reduce stress.

5. Provide adequate resources and training: Ensure that employees have the resources, tools and training necessary to do their jobs effectively. This may include the provision of suitable equipment, relevant training programs and access to technical support where necessary.

6. Promote well-being: Educate and encourage caring practices among employees. This may include promoting physical activity, healthy eating, time management, practicing relaxation techniques, and awareness of the importance of rest and recovery.

*Diego Quindimil is a psychologist, speaker and director of the Human Content consultancy. He is the author of “Post Covid World: The psychology of work after the pandemic” (Granica Editions). On Instagram: @contenidohumano

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