From time to time I meet burned out people at work. I have been reflecting lately; what cause the burnout syndrome? The burnout syndrome is an expression to a long-term exhaustion. According to Wikipedia: “burnout is often construed as the result of a period of expending too much effort at work while having too little recovery”- Why is it that while in Norway, we work the third less hours per week in the world and make the second most money per year, and still we also top the burnout statistics? Not only do we have a lot of free time, but we also have the money to do fun stuff during the weekends. I want to learn more about this.
This is not a scientific report or based on a lot of research. This article is about my view on the burnout syndrome, and I hope others will participate with their views as well. Am I on to something?
A look at history.
I can still remember that the only thing my grandparents were complaining about was the complaining of others, especially young people who were lucky enough to get a job. I think my grandparents would not understand the concept of this problem. My grandma is 90 years old and she is still active around the house and garden from dusk till dawn. So what happened? Is this a new phenomenon?
From horse to supersonic airplanes.
The world has shrunk during the past century. Travelling around the world is easy creating a lot of people moving further distances than earlier. My father was born after my grandma traveled with horse and cart to the local clinic. So a bigger mass of people shift positions and spreads all over the world. I once read a book written by an old man about his childhood, awaiting the yearly visit from his aunt from Oslo, by boat to Kristiansand, the town I live in today. This was a day’s journey for her, for me it is 40 minutes by plain or 4 hours by car. I live 650 miles away from my home town, and 142 miles away from my closest relative, in a town where neither my wife nor I knew a single person.
In the old days people worked alongside neighbors, friends and family. A small town could be located around a factory, in the more rural parts people worked on farms, or in a forest alongside family members and neighbors. Along the shores families could be on the same boat going fishing. They all knew each other from birth to grave, giving room for social faults; you would still be accepted as you were. In their spare time they helped each other and mingled. Families lived together for 3 or even 4 generations. All this created a safer atmosphere.
The social pressure of today.
Today there is a stronger social pressure. You need to have a lot of friends and socialize and you need to make a lot of money because you need the big house, and the fancy furniture. As well as chasing that promotion and you absolutely must by this new iPhone, even if your old one works fine. And on top of that you feel the urge to create a family, keep up with friends, by the fanciest trolley for your 2 and half kids. Your kids need to go to football practice, dance class, horseback riding, the movies and all other activities. And you need to find time to be a lover with extra energy after being engaged in politics and the volunteer fire corps, and all this without any family members to assist us. Oh I forgot we also need to keep the house clean at all times, since all our friends are coming over for dinner and wine.
I believe that it is not work itself that put a wet blanket on our fire. I rather believe that it is the society that we live in. We no longer live in a familiar sphere, but we are small explorers moving on to new grounds with unknown surroundings. Grandma is no longer babysitting her grandchildren, as she has moved to a much warmer climate thousands of miles away. Family are scattered around a larger area. Chances are if you married a local girl, she won’t be in the family anymore.
I don’t know you.
In the company I work at, there are about 400 employees; a few of them knew each other from childhood, some from high school or college. A few are related. I guess if this was a factory a century back, a lot of the employees would know each other creating a safe and familiar setting. Being around people you know is important. And by knowing them I mean that you know the name of the grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins and pets. When I grew up and started “dating” the first question I got was who is your father, and when I told them , I could end up getting stories generations back, how their parents knew my grandparents, and my great grandfather was on the same boat as her uncle’s second cousin on his moms side. This does create some kind of safety along your path. Today I live in a city with a population of 78.000 inhabitants, and I do not know the name of my closest neighbor.
I am convinced that the burnout syndrome is strongly related to these factors. So to prevent burnouts you need to get to know the people surrounding you. Not just their favorite hobbies, but you need to mingle, spend time with them, eat together and celebrate together. The office is the new village, and working hard does not extinguish your fire. Am I on to something here?
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