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Op-ed: We Need to Cancel Burnout Culture

The New York Times recently published a piece about the millennial generation engaging in #hustleculture. Clocking in 18 hours, the younger generation is apparently looking for meaning now that religion is no longer prevalent and work is that drive. Notably absent from the article is the increase of burnout.

Burnout is defined loosely as exhaustion, alienation from work due to stress and frustration, and reduced drive to work. It is a deep focus on work that emotionally and physically exhausts a person, increases the risk of sickness, and prevents a person from interacting in personal relationships. Typically associated with high powered jobs such as the military, lawyers, or airplane pilots, burnout can affect any person at any job. 1 of 5 employees in most fields claim that they are engaged with their job and they are also burnt out. Buzzfeed writer Anne Helen Peterson suffered from burnout despite writing articles, writing two books, exercising, and moving. Peterson says that burnout was for her failing to do simple errands, and that her burnout was intensified by the intense culture of one should be working all the time.

Physicians are facing the brunt of burnout. About half of all physicians experience burnout, and the number is expected to grow. This would reduce the hours of physicians working, because there would be a smaller amount of people in the profession. Doctors are the highest at risk for burnout, because of the multiple factors their profession requires them to be engaged in.

The connection between hustle culture and intensive working and burnout culture is clear. Employees are so engaged in their work that they ignore the signs of burnout until they are suffering from it. In particular, the millennial generation is groomed by parents and peers to work hard and achieve great things, with the proof of what they can achieve reflected on social media.

Burnout culture, despite the recent discussion and openness of many who fall to it, is not truly recognized by companies and employers. This leads to people calling for companies to revamp time management techniques, overloading its employees, and expecting employees to clock in more hours. Burnout culture can be fixed, with employees recognizing the signs of burnout and taking time to emotionally prepare themselves to work again and and employers carefully listening to their employees and modifying the work structure to better prevent burnout from becoming a commodity. Hustle culture is not a bad concept, because working to one’s goal is certainly admirable, yet when it becomes excessive and obsessive, meddling into personal relationships and self-care, is when it needs to end.

Photo: Alex Holyoake via Unsplash

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Mia Boccher
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