Author: Selena Rezvani Source: Philadelphia Magazine
It’s the end of a long workday. You just got home, and right when you collapse onto the couch to unwind, you look around and see dirty dishes in the sink and the mess of kids toys on the floor. You know you should do something about it, but the thought of lifting another finger sends you into a spiral.
If that sounds like you, you might be experiencing “burnout,” and you’re not the only one.
In fact, burnout is becoming so common that the World Health Organization (WHO) recently classified it as an “occupational phenomenon” and added it to their International Classification of Diseases.
Add to that a 2018 Gallup poll of 7,500 employees, which found that two-thirds of U.S. employees experience some degree of burnout on the job.
This phenomenon is spreading quickly, and it’s hitting women harder than anyone else.
The World Health Organization recently defined the term “burnout” as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
But beyond the unmanaged stress, there is the insidious problem of overwork, increasing employer expectations, and the rise of “hustle culture” that is making us all feel inferior.
All of these factors make it that much harder to deal with the everyday sprints of modern day life. Not only that, but burnout contributes to huge health risks in our society, and it costs the U.S. approximately $315 billion per year, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Burnout hurts families, employees, and companies, and it will only continue to get worse unless we take a hard look at why this is becoming an issue for so many of us.
We’re Always “On”
To understand the root causes, we must look at one of the biggest issues with our modern work culture: the constant breakdown of barriers between work and one’s personal life. Work used to end when we walked out the door to go home — we literally couldn’t take it with us. But now, the eight-hour workday seems to be a thing of the past.
When the International Labor Organization established the eight-hour limit to the workday, it was in response to the historical mistreatment of laborers — particularly child laborers — who were often asked to complete ten, 12, or even 16-hour days.
This movement created more safety and humanity around work environments in a time when most people were working in factories during the Industrial Revolution.
Fast-forward about a hundred years and that 8-hour workday is dissolving, and the result is that more of us feel the need to be always working, always responsive, always on-call.
That narrow eight-hour window of availability has stretched into all hours of the day and night, thanks to the technology that keeps us tethered to our inboxes no matter where we go.
Women Get the Brunt of It
Work-life “imbalance” is enough to cause anyone stress, but I argue the phenomenon of burnout is affecting women disproportionately for three reasons.
First, women are still fighting for equal treatment at work. Yes, we’ve come a long way in workplace equality, but there are still large disparities in opportunity and pay – factors that make it all the more difficult for a woman to say no to projects, for fear of being overlooked or undermined.