By now, you’ve probably heard: burnout is real. A word and a concept that’s permeated our culture is now an official diagnosis according to the World Health Organization. The WHO added the diagnosis to its updated diagnostic manual (ICD-11) specifying that the diagnosis can only be used around work and careers (or in an “occupational context”), and there are other diagnoses that need to be ruled out first, probably because its three core characteristics aren’t overly specific. The criteria for diagnosing burnout are:
- “Feeling of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- Reduced professional efficacy.”
In the US, we’ve changed what it means to have a successful career. The more hours we work seemingly equate to more success, and the “cult of busyness” means that we’re bragging about how crazy and filled our schedules are. But this over-scheduling isn’t associated with success because of what we can get done, but because we’ve equated this intense work ethic with morality. We encourage worker-bees to go above and beyond in their job, take time to learn outside of work, and have the side-hustle as a passion project but make sure we’re monetizing it because we don’t have time for hobbies anymore. It’s no wonder we feel depleted.
Aside from the larger cultural implications of the way we have set up the modern workforce, there are quite a few micro issues with work that are making burnout prevalent enough to create a diagnosis around it. Most leaders find it incredibly difficult to have honest and constructive conversations with their teams because they don’t have (make!) time for one-on-ones, and place a higher premium on small perks like happy hour and ping pong tables than on professional development and opportunities for employees to grow and feel valued.
On the other hand, most individuals are not managing their own careers, which unwittingly puts them at risk of burning out at work. People are making decisions based on what they assume the “right next step” would be without aligning their career moves to their values, motivators, and non-negotiables– which means it’s no surprise that when the shine of a new job wears off, things don’t seem to fit just right. Things not fitting right leads to anxiety, imposter syndrome, malaise, boredom/ stress, and feeling stuck. Not fun. Not healthy.
It has been our mission since day one—for both individuals and companies—to kill off the bad career. In other words, we want to eradicate burnout by helping companies focus on the right things (their people), and helping individuals to focus on themselves to create the careers of their dreams (or at least not the careers of their nightmares).
Burnout is real, but it doesn’t have to be your reality.
Nora is a co-founder of Happy Spectacular, which she still can't really believe, and she's on a lifelong quest for the world's best cheeseburger (applicants accepted).