Burnout. Most of us have probably felt it at some point. It’s getting more recognition as an issue we need to address and deal with in recent years. Many employers and business owners now recognise that their employees becoming burned out will negatively impact productivity as burnout can be a contributing factor to procrastination.
How do we define “burnout?”
The WHO defines burnout as:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
The WHO goes on to then elaborate on some characteristics associated with burnout:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from your job
- Negativity or cynicism towards your job
- Reduced professional efficiency
Who is Most Affected by Burnout?
A study published in June 2018 found:
- Women aged 20 to 35 and women aged 55 and over are the likeliest to be impacted by burnout.
- For men, on the other hand, getting older is largely associated with less chance of burnout with low rates amongst those over 55
In a separate study, Researchers from the Aragon Institute of Health Sciences in Spain determined that:
- Those who work more than 40 hours a week a 6 times as likely as those who do not to develop burnout
How Common is Burnout?
So just how many people are affected?
Our September 2020 survey of 1,000 adults in the UK suggests 22% have experienced job related burnout, with a slightly higher prevalence amongst men.
There are 55 million people over 16 in the UK (based on 2011 Census) meaning that as many as 12 million have suffered this.
Occupational Burnout - Google Searches
We very often turn to Google in times we want help in understanding, well, anything! And burnout is no different.
If we look at global searches in Google for “occupational burnout” (as obtained through KWFinder.com) we can see significant growth over time:
- Globally, just 210 people searched for “occupational burnout” in August 2015.
- By August 2020 that figure had risen to 5,400
- Comparing August 2020 (5,400) with August 2019 (1,900), searches for “occupation burnout” increased by 184%
- September 2015 saw 4,400 people globally search for “burnout symptoms,” up to a remarkably high 27,100 in August 2020
- Interestingly, while other burnout queries seem to have increased in volume notably over the lockdown period, we saw a slight drop off in March and April (as countries globally went into lockdown). This coincides with fewer people working in offices and similar. Volume was back up by August, however.
Burnout - UK Trends and Statistics
But what about the picture just here in the UK? Here’s what we found when looking at burnout statistics in the UK.
- Searches for “burnout statistics” in the UK rose from 1,000 in August 2016 to 3,600 in August 2020 (a notable 290% increase)
- Searches for “recovering from burnout” rose from 320 to 880 over the same period (175% increase)
Burnout and Working Hours
With previous studies having found a direct correlation between burnout and excessive working hours, we looked into working hours within the UK.
Data from the OECD shows UK workers work an average of 1,538 hours per year.
But this data doesn’t take into account Bank Holidays, annual leave and so forth.
So let’s make an assumption that in the UK we have 5 weeks off (varies based on whether you’re part time or full time of course across annual leave and Bank Holidays. That would suggest the average worker (including all full and part time workers in the country) works around 33 hours per week.
Burnout on the Rise?
Of course we cannot say for sure an increase in searches is an increase in prevalence. People search just out of interest, not because they themselves are necessarily suffering burnout.
But we could argue that it stands to reason that our always-connected society is likely to result in more burnout. It’s harder than ever to switch off. We check our emails and check in with work even when we’re not in the office. So this is likely to be, in my view, an issue that grows over time.
If it’s something you believe you’re suffering with, you can get more help and advice from the following resources: