Make us your home page

On-the-job burnout increasing with stress

While the economy is flashing signs of a rebound, it's a markedly different story for a growing number of workers.

More workers than ever report feeling burned out by their jobs, according to a recent ComPsych survey of nearly 2,000 employees conducted during September that sought to measure stress levels and their effects in the workplace.

"We're seeing a growing trend of employee burnout," said Richard Chaifetz, chief executive of ComPsych, a global provider of employee assistance programs. "It's a product of the sputtering economy — companies continue to be slow to hire, and prolonged employee stress inevitably turns into decreased performance, unfortunately."

During the recession, companies shed millions of jobs as they strove to cut costs and shore up the bottom line. But that work didn't go away with the elimination of the position, it just got shifted, pushing workers to do more with less, workplace experts said.

According to the report:

Nearly 1 out of 4 employees say their top work priority is just being present at work.

About 2 in 3 workers report high levels of stress with extreme fatigue and a feeling of being out of control.

More than half of those surveyed said they miss one to two days of work per year because of stress.

Sherrie Bourg Carter, a Fort Lauderdale clinical psychologist who focuses on employee burnout, said she hears complaints from burned-out clients firsthand. Those who say showing up for a job is their highest priority are at high risk, she said.

"Each employee has increasingly demanding workloads," said Bourg Carter. "The work still has to be done, but employers want to do it with fewer employees. One person is often doing the work of two people and probably without any support staff."

Herbert Freudenberger was the first to alert the world to the dangers of "burnout" in 1974 when he coined the term in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. He described burnout as a complete lack of motivation or reaction to incentives.

Since then, the term has become a catchphrase for maniacally stressful days. But burnout is a chronic problem, said Bourg Carter, author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout. It starts with mild stresses that most people experience, but if nothing is done to manage the stress, it can become unbearable.

"The actual state of burnout is not just a bad day or a bad week," Bourg Carter said. "It's when a person is so consumed with symptoms that they can't function."

Burnout usually sneaks up on people, she said.

"All of a sudden you're exhausted, you're feeling cynical and unattached," Bourg Carter said, "and you think, 'What happened to me?' "

In addition to extra work, a lack of job satisfaction can exacerbate feelings of burnout, said Jennifer Schramm of the Society for Human Resource Management. Because middle-aged workers have delayed retirement, Schramm said, younger employees feel like they can't advance. Less than 50 percent of workers said they were satisfied with their career development in the society's most recent job satisfaction survey.

"It could have a domino effect down the ladder, where everyone feels a little bit stuck," said Schramm, the society's manager of workplace trends and forecasting. "A lot of the millennials really are having a hard time."

Those most likely to burn out are those who work excessively without breaks or outlets for stress, said Thomas Donohoe, who researches work-life balance at East Tennessee State University.

But there's hope, even for voluntary — and involuntary — workaholics.

Donohoe said talking about stressors with trusted friends or family is a good place to start. Other options include taking five minutes to eat or do simple exercises at the office, going for a brief walk or taking a catnap on the subway with a phone alarm set.

"Most people expect their brain to constantly be on," Bourg Carter noted, "but if your brain is constantly on, it will eventually shut itself off."

Burned out?

About 1 in 4 employees show signs of burnout. Here are some signs, according to psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter:

Physical: Chest pain, chronic fatigue, sleep problems, lots of headaches, indigestion.

Behavioral: Eating more or eating less, increasing drug or alcohol use, feeling more sensitive or emotional, isolating oneself from friends or colleagues.

Psychological: Feeling depressed or anxious, feeling helpless or hopeless.

On-the-job burnout increasing with stress 11/27/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday


    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at the DOT’s Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Avenue.