Complex Made Simple

Stress at work: The science behind burnout culture

Across the globe, the human species is working harder than ever, and somewhere along the way it became normal for stress to exist in the workplace. However, not all stress is equal.

Short-term stress, such as worrying about a deadline, has a clear endpoint, challenging you to excel toward it On the other hand, chronic stress, never ends and often leads to burnout, eventually rewires the brain Signifiers of burnout include feelings of exhaustion, mental detachment, and poor performance

Author: Demetrius Harrison

Across the globe, the human species is working harder than ever, and somewhere along the way it became normal for stress to exist in the workplace. However, not all stress is equal. Short-term stress, such as worrying about a deadline, has a clear endpoint, challenging you to excel toward it. On the other hand, chronic stress never ends, and eventually rewires the brain. 

To put it simply, burnout is a syndrome caused by chronic workplace stress. Signifiers include feelings of exhaustion, mental detachment, and poor performance. Biologically speaking, our human cortisol levels – also known as the “Stress Hormone” – increase by 2-5x when undergoing stress. In chronic scenarios, stress can eat the brain – interfering with learning and memory, lowering immune function and life expectancy, and increasing weight gain, A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

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Stress in the workplace should never be discounted – especially since more than ever we are feeling burned out. In the UK, 1 in 3 employees blame technology for job stress, saying that tech increases social isolation by 29%, workload by 45%, and deadlines by 33%. Americans are suffering as well – 64% feel stressed or frustrated at work once or more per week, and 51% have felt burned out more than once.

Working late? Feeling you aren’t showing your full potential? Isolating yourself? Here’s how you can spot the signs of burnout in the workplace.

Read: UAE edges Germany, South Korea and the Netherlands in ‘low workplace stress’ rankings