Age (as the old saying goes), often tends to fade into a haze as we age. But what about stress? “Burnout” is the word of the year in the global debate about working conditions in the industry we love. And it comes with all kinds of shades and dark connotations, from the increased risk of violence and addiction to a bleak sense of vocational stagnation.
“Burnout” — apparently coined by Danish workers’ rights group Frode — seems to be the work of two distinct camps. One group says that for too long the definition of burnout has been overly pejorative and cliched. As it turns out, the illness simply means a lack of energy. The other says that “burnout” is a euphemism for drug use, resulting in one-month-long stays in rehab centers.
The disagreement over what a “burnout” look is is emblematic of an ongoing culture war over what’s actually pathological and what’s just part of a work-life balance. As we’ve seen, working-life balance and balance of duty at work (and society) have become bedrocks of our economic system. But for the workforce, it’s clear that the workplace is rapidly transitioning towards a state of constant pressure — no matter the circumstance. Companies are constantly ranking up and down. There’s always a rise in fear, anxiety, and stress. An entrepreneurial workplace in a shrinking society raises questions about the risks of a hectic work-life balance and its effects on mental health.