Study: U.S. Has Hot, Tired, Overworked Employees

Living the Simple Life, Fighting Job Burnout

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    (Photo: Reuters/Jamal Saidi)
    A vendor prepares traditional Ramadan pastries, consumed by Muslims after Iftar during the holy month of Ramadan, at a pastry shop in Beirut August 16, 2011.
By R. Leigh Coleman, Christian Post Reporter
August 22, 2011|1:08 pm

Virtually everyone will face the prospect of job burnout at one point in their lives. Whether you’re an office worker or a carpenter, a salesperson or a doctor, job burnout occurs when we become dissatisfied and overwhelmed by our current job and can’t really identify what’s wrong.

Research blames job burnout on work overload, insufficient reward, values conflict, lack of control, unfairness and breakdown of community.

Factors that contribute to burnout are lack of job security, failure of safety nets for the unemployed, high pay of CEOs and lack of wage growth for others.

However, as suffocating heat waves continue to bear down on much of the United States and good-paying jobs are at a minimum, many workers are feeling a different type of burnout this summer.

Researchers took a fresh look at employee productivity finding that one in four employers think workers are less organized and focused in the summer months.

The study showed that nearly half of organization leaders said their employees are just plain burned out on the job. Hot weather, vacation-fever, kids being out of school, overloaded work hours, and other distractions led the list of reasons for the perceived productivity dip.

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When looking at burnout from the worker’s point of view, employers should worry, researchers with CareerBuilder said.

More than 77 percent of all workers surveyed say they are sometimes or always burned out while on the job. More than 43 percent say their stress level has increased over the last six months.

Job experts say rising stress levels and ultimate job burnout could be a result of heavier workloads. Others say workers might suffer from job burnout due to fear of losing their jobs.

When the Great Recession began in 2007 and layoffs began to occur regularly for the next year and beyond, workers began to wonder if they were next to receive pink slips.

Meanwhile, as companies downsized, responsibilities shifted and suddenly workers are now taking on the job of three other people, on top of their own work.

“The recession produced consequences for not just those who were laid off, but also for the many employees who were asked to work harder as a result of leaner staff numbers,” said Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder.

“While getting more out of a smaller workforce is a sign of organizational agility during unpredictable times, it’s hard to see such yields in productivity holding forever.”

Rasmussen said the number of workers will have to increase to meet increasing demands or burnout will get worse.

Nearly half of employees in the survey also reported an increase in their workloads in the last six months, while only eight percent said the amount of work decreased.

Psychologists say burnout is caused by many reasons. Sometimes people end up making their lives about the job. That’s the wrong way around – it should be that the job should help enhance our lives, either because we’re doing what we enjoy and feel good about, or because they bring us financial security (or a little of both).

When your life becomes all about your job for longer than a year, you’re at greater risk for job burnout, researchers said.

And we know that long work hours rob people of control over the rest of their lives: People just can’t get everything done in a 24-hour day.

One main factor in overall well-being is social connection, a culture in which people care about each other and realize that they need each other. Caring for the common good disappears in a ruthless economy.

“There’s nothing wrong with needing to focus on your job and putting in long hours from time to time,” said psychologist Dr. John M. Grohol.

“Many people do that at some point in their lives. But if you find that you’re sacrificing other things in your life for your job – your social life, your family, or even your own sanity – it’s time to take a serious look at your life priorities.”

He said to try to “right-size” your working hours and put the job back in its proper place within your life.

One of the major problems with job burnout is also the lack of organization.

Email is one of the banes of personal productivity; research has shown that most people multitask very poorly. Reduce multitasking as much as the job allows and process tasks one at a time, in the order of their priority.

If a job requires paperwork to be done for many tasks, try to do it at the time of the task rather than saving it for later. When we face a pile of paperwork that needs to be filled out, we often keep letting it go and grow until it becomes unmanageable and overwhelming.

Another problem with job burnout has to do with workplace politics. It can be exhausting. Unfortunately, our digital age is undermining the art of conversation.

“Trying to figure out how others trying to get ahead might misconstrue your behaviors or words can take up a lot of focus and energy, all at the expense of actual work,” Grohol said.

It’s best to steer clear of office politics as best you can and just focus on your own life and job.

Grohol recommends for employees to minimize engaging in office gossip and soon you’ll discover that office politics will fade into the background.

“While it’s okay to do occasionally, don’t make it the focus of your workday or always try to second guess a colleague’s or boss’ behavior,” he said.

“Sometimes a stapler really is just a stapler.”

The survey was conducted within the U.S. workforce by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder. There were 2,662 U.S. hiring managers and 5,299 workers used for the research.

 

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