By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Workplace burnout could be more of a risk during stay-at-home orders, CNN reported. With lines between home and the office blurring, balancing each can be difficult and burnout can happen easily. Identifying burnout and workaholism is vital.
According to the CNN article, life on lockdown may lead to worse occupational stress than normal. “Workplace burnout doesn’t solely happen when you’re putting in more hours at the office,” the article said. “It’s also a risk when you’re working from home, camped out at your kitchen table in your sweats. One expert told me the suddenness with which so many of us were forced to start working from home—while also losing our childcare in many cases—combined with a global pandemic that seems to have no end in sight, means the risk of burnout has intensified.”
Stress in the workplace is nothing new, but it remains a serious problem if it goes unchecked. Here’s how to identify burnout and how to tell if you’re a workaholic.
Occupational stress is a common element of the workforce. Meeting the expectations of customers and supervisors can be emotionally draining, especially when coupled with economic concerns related to losing one’s job. However, “burnout” is a newer term that can apply to the workforce.
“Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment,” said Dr. Jason M. Satterfield, Professor of Clinical Medicine, Director of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of Behavioral Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
“Some evidence suggests that burnout is clinically similar to clinical depression. In the 2013 Journal of Health Psychology article by Bianchi, depressive symptoms and burned-out workers were compared to clinically depressed patients. No diagnostically significant differences were found between the two groups.”
Dr. Satterfield added that six risk factors for burnout have been identified. They manifest as conflicts between the employee’s expectations of themselves and what they see as the reality of their role. The risk factors include mismatches in workload, mismatches in control, a lack of appropriate rewards, perceived lack of fairness, a conflict between values, and a loss of sense of positive connection with orders in the workplace.
In other words, when we feel as though our role in a company should be one thing, but it seems to be another, the frustration between expectation and reality can cause stress and lead to burnout.
Occasionally, the desire to get a job done or get a job done right can become a compulsion. Workaholism is a compulsion experienced by a person who constantly works, and it is measured by examining the cognition, attitudes, and behaviors of the workaholic.
“In Japan, they have a term for workaholism, actually dying from work, called ‘Karōshi,’ and they report approximately 1,000 deaths per year of people who have worked themselves to death,” Dr. Satterfield said. “In China, that number is 600,000.”
According to Dr. Satterfield, a team at the University of Bergen developed the Bergen Work Addiction Scale as a self-test to determine if you’re a workaholic. It involves seven questions the participant should answer, and each answer should be given as a number ranging from one to five. One is equivalent to “never.” Two equals “rarely.” Three is “sometimes.” Four is “often” and five is “always.”
- You think of how you can free up more time to work.
- You spend much more time working than initially intended.
- You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and depression.
- You’ve been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
- You become stressed if you’re prohibited from working.
- You prioritize work over hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise.
- You work so much, it has negatively influenced your health.
“If you scored four—often—or five—always—on four or more of these seven statements, it may suggest that you are a workaholic,” Dr. Satterfield said. “We know that workaholism influences work norms, stresses others out who try to keep up, and creates toxicity at work. Eventualy, it causes job conflict and job loss.”
If burnout or workaholism sound familiar, especially during stay-at-home orders in light of the coronavirus pandemic, it may be time to retake your life from chronic occupational stress.
Dr. Jason M. Satterfield contributed to this article. Dr. Satterfield is Professor of Clinical Medicine, Director of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of Behavioral Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He earned his B.S. in Brain Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.