Understanding Burnout

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What is burnout and are we suffering from it?

A survey by SurveyGoo digging into our awareness, symptoms and what we’re doing about it‍

In May 2022 we conducted a large survey looking into burnout, work-life balance and attitudes to hybrid working. We’re going to delve into our findings on the hot topic of burnout. We’re all talking about it, but what is it, and are we suffering from it? In this survey, we looked at a cross-section of sectors including; marketing, sales, account management, PR, advertising, HR and project management.

What is burnout and how aware of it are we?

Mental Health UK define burnout as a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time. Sound familiar?

Awareness of burnout was high among across our respondents, regardless of age (68% overall), but the highest awareness was measured in 45-64 year olds. Whilst our midlifers were more aware of burnout, we found that they were less affected by it.

Predictably, stress, exhaustion and overworked were the most commonly associated terms with burnout. However, terms such as incapable, inability, unsure and brain fog also featured suggesting that burnout is not only affecting performance but also our feelings around competency and confidence.

70% overall equated an inability to focus with burnout whilst an inability to focus/gather thoughts and poor concentration was experienced byone third of workers.

How are we feeling at work?

When we delved into how our people felt at work, over half of our respondents answered that they experienced anxiety, pressure to deliver and self-doubt. But is this across the board? Experiencing anxiety was found to be most prevalent in those working in advertising (70%) and marketing (62%).

Looking beyond sector to age bands, we discovered that it was the 18-24 year olds who were experiencing and being affected by anxiety, where it was the 35-44 year olds who were affected by self-doubt and feeling pressured.

Typically 35-44 year olds would be mid-career strivers, experienced and established professionals and it is this demographic most suffering from self-doubt. Perhaps this group is under the most pressure to produce results and earn promotions whilst juggling other commitments such as family life and bigger financial commitments?

These feelings of self-doubt is not as common however in the older age groups, these mid-lifer age groups cited feeling pressure to deliver but were noticeably less affected by self-doubt.

Our experiences of these debilitating feelings and symptoms of burnout are not sporadic either.

69% of respondents suffer from poor concentration on a daily basis, with related issues such as struggling with planning work, recalling instructions and inability to focus affecting us almost everyday.

If we know what Burnout is it, and how its affecting us, what are we doing about it?

One of the most concerning findings from the survey indicated that despite knowing about burnout and recognising the symptoms in ourselves, we’re quite unwilling to seek help. Of those that answered they had experienced symptoms of burnout, only 34% sought help. Of the respondents who would or did seek help, half cited that they would go to friends and family rather than their HR department (20%) or a therapist (only 18%).

Reasons for people not seeking help included a concern it would risk their careers, but nearly half of respondents actually cited that they felt their symptoms of burnout were not bad enough, did not warrant them seeking help. This is despite admitting they experience symptoms of burnout on an almost daily basis.

The good news is that of those workers who have sought help, be it from friends and family, colleagues or sought help from their doctor, a significant 62% found it helpful and effective. Significantly, 85% cited that the help they received from their doctor was effective.

There’s clearly some work here for both employers and employees to acknowledge and address the symptoms of burnout, to understand that it is something that can be helped and doesn’t have to be the next ‘new normal’.

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