We’ve all been through a rough patch at work, which mostly involves spending more time beyond your regular eight-hour shift to complete one task after another. Stress can wear you down, and this eventually leads to exhaustion where you can’t keep up with work’s excessive demands. Often, this kind of situation has taken you to a place where you drag yourself to work every day and tackle each task with a total lack of enthusiasm.
This is a sure sign of occupational burnout, and it’s more common than you think, particularly in the younger generation. With millennials making up most of today’s workforce and Gen Z right on their heels, occupational burnout has become a cause for concern. Apparently, there are various reasons behind this behavior that are specific to their generation.
These two generations may differ in many ways, but they converge in how they’re affected by stress-related work. As with every good employer, business owner, or recruitment agency professional, it’s your job to know what makes both generations tick, and this includes all the reasons that cause burnout, so you can address them properly.
A viral BuzzFeed piece explored the reasons why millennials have become the ‘burnout’ generation, and it detailed how they’ve reached a point where they struggle to do even the most mundane of tasks such as going to the grocery or vacuuming the car.
Many may think this is caused by millennials themselves, as they have quite the reputation for being entitled, lazy, and spoiled. But as much as this is an easy way for others to dismiss this as fact, this isn’t the case.
This ‘errand paralysis’ involves tasks that may be easily completed and would primarily be for their own benefit, but they just can’t bring themselves to do them. These tasks have been identified as high effort, low reward tasks, causing millennials to struggle in doing them, which was a sign that they’re getting burned out.
In the local context, a typical Filipino millennial experience the pressure of giving back to the family. It is important to take note that this generation focuses on career, self, then family, in this specific order. This is where the Filipino’s concept of “utang na loob” comes in. After graduation, they are expected to find a job, provide for their younger siblings or the family, and be seen by their parents as investments. They are “in debt” to someone superior to them which could be their families. In the end, they are burned out by not doing the thing they are passionate about. When talking about the perspective of millennials and gen Zers, you always have to think about the environment and the times they grew up in.
The reason why they can’t get these mundane tasks done is due to the fact that they find themselves working all the time. This is attributed to the way they were raised and how society has dictated that they should be busy all the time, which has shaped their mind into becoming the professionals that they are today.
The absence of motivation or time—or both
Being a workaholic may have a few benefits in one’s career, but it has more disadvantages when you step back and look at the bigger picture. For millennials and perhaps Gen Z alike, working all the time can kill their motivation and have less time to do even the most mundane tasks.
Growing up, many of them were highly scheduled individuals. Filipino millennials and Gen Zers spend most of their younger days being pressured to belong, fit the mold, and succeed. They were raised to think that having a college degree is the only path to success. This behavior has transitioned well into adulthood, turning them into a ‘driven’ generation.
This kind of attitude towards work takes a lot of their time, leaving them with very little of it to do activities that would help them balance their life out. For millennials and Gen Zers, they value having a work-life balance. Because of their failure to do so, this eventually kills their motivation to do anything else and lead to burnout.
Worst mental health condition of any generation
According to a new report from health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield, diagnoses of clinical depression have risen by 33% since 2013. It’s tagged as the ‘second most impactful condition on overall health for commercially insured Americans,’ behind high blood pressure.
Gen Zers are found to have the worst mental health condition of any generation, according to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America report. This was based on nearly 3,500 interviews with people aged 18 and older, with additional 300 interviews done with teens aged 15 to 17.
Surprisingly, the report states that only 45% of Gen Z claims to be in ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ mental health compared to 56% of millennials. Of the Gen Z respondents, 27% reported that they had ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ mental health, with stress being a huge factor. This has resulted in 91% of Gen Z adults saying they’d felt physical or emotional symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, that were associated with stress.
On the other hand, Filipino millennials and Gen Z want to work for something purposeful. They want to change the world. They want to make something impactful at the of the one long work day. This is where the cognitive dissonance happens. They become disillusioned to their job or the industry they are working for.
According to an article by Manila Bulletin on getting to understand the Filipino youth, “The young easily get discouraged because they are getting used to have things easily attainable. Achievement of their dreams is often hacked.”. In line with this, millennials and gen Z are expected to achieve perfection. This is how they were raised. Millennials and gen Zers internalize this idea of perfection on their work, social activities, and life in general.
Stress plays a huge role
It’s not surprising that stress is the major cause of burnout in the younger generations. They already feel heavy pressure from political, social, and digital stress, which make it easier for them to feel burned out from work if they find themselves in an unfavorable employment situation.
Being workaholics and ‘work martyrs’ doesn’t help the cause of the younger generation. And with the perpetual pressure of performing well professionally, it comes to a point where they just fall into the pit of burnout despair without proactively finding ways to get out of it.
A purpose-driven work life
Both generations are driven by purpose, particularly at the workplace where their career hangs in the balance. If any of these young professionals feel that what they’re doing lacks a sense of purpose, they become prone to burnout. And with the amount of stress they’re going through, they’ll need to work at a company that shares the same vision as theirs.
Employers who uphold certain values such as social responsibility are ideal places for work, so both millennials and Gen Zers don’t feel that they work aimlessly without making any contributions to society in general. A company without a cause is just a place where young employees lack the motivation to keep going.
Ways to Avoid Burnout
They say prevention is better than cure, and when it comes to employee burnout, avoiding it is far better than trying to solve this problem when it starts to hit your employees. Before you even attempt to solve any burnout issues, you must first have a deep understanding of both generations who are working at your company. And after identifying the causes, you can now proceed to take the necessary measures to prevent it from happening.
1. Slow down
Diving head-first into a fast-paced professional life can put a strain on your young employees. Unrealistic work demands can push them to the point of exhaustion. Have them slow down and take a breather once in a while, and don’t give them a heavy workload that they can’t handle.
2. Work-life balance
This is crucial in every aspect, so avoid giving them tasks during weekends or when they’ve already left the workplace. Conduct socials and fun company events to ease the stress. All your efforts to offer a work-life balance can have a huge impact on both their mental and physical health.
3. Avoid social media pressure
Social media can have a negative psychological effect, causing anxiety among your young workers. While it can be a powerful tool in connecting people or serving as a source of information, it can also be detrimental to people’s mental health. What they see on social media puts pressure on them to have what other people have or experience the same things they’re going through such as being promoted at work, driving a new car, or traveling to other countries. Sometimes it’s healthier to disconnect.
4. Manage their expectations
Disappointments can cast a heavy burden on your young employees, so make sure to manage their expectations. Many of them will have lofty goals, so it’s your job to help them reach these goals with realistic expectations. Nobody wants to fail and be left on repeat.
5. Learn how to say ‘no’
Taking care of one’s self is always a priority. This includes getting the right amount of rest, so millennials and Gen Zers should learn how to say no. They can take a rain check if friends ask them to go out on weekdays and prefer to limit this kind of activity during weekends. They can skip any event that would only add to their stress.
Let your young workers know that it’s okay to say no to additional tasks when their workload is already unmanageable. Saying no has a lot of health benefits, particularly if you’re trying to stick to a schedule. Plus, this culture of honesty will further open the channels of communication within the organization.
What Does This Mean for Your Business?
There must be a corporate culture change. You have to let go of the old customs and adapt with most of the workforce population. When you avoid the millennial and gen Z burnout, here’s what it spells for your business:
Business with a purpose
Millennials and Gen Zers want to work for something bigger than them. Something that has an impact to the world. As a business, you have to realign your goals with your moral values. What societal issues are you solving with your product or service? Does your business’ success translate to supporting causes and addressing worldly challenges?
Diverse and flexible work environment
You can attract the loyalty of the millennials and gen Zers when you provide a diverse and flexible work environment. Businesses that allow them to achieve work-life balance will be taken positively. Remember that these generations can leave their job in a snap when they don’t feel satisfied in terms of purpose, more than the financial aspect.
Lower turnover rate
Lastly, if you help the millennials and gen Zers avoid being burned out, you’ll have a low turnover rate. If these generations see that they have a supportive management, positive work environment, and a human approach to work, they will gladly trust your business.
Avoid the Burnout
Occupational burnout is a serious situation your young professionals should learn to avoid like the plague. The key is self-care and a healthy mental state, so it’s your job to help them realize their potential in their line of work by teaching them to listen and trust themselves. These two generations that are about to take over the workforce should be adept in managing stress, keeping a sound mind, and focusing on what will make them function well in all aspects of life. After all, they are set to be the future leaders of companies across all industries.
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