Burnout

Exhaustion, anxiety and stress run rife in post-pandemic workplace.

People across the world are feeling burned out and exhausted in the world of work. Pre-depressive feelings as cynicism, ineffectiveness and frustration are signs of burnout, damaging people and having negative effects in companies. In Latin America, 76% of workers experience symptoms, revealed a study carried out by Pura Mente, a meditation mobile app.

The study revealed that the countries with greater economic and social gaps will experience more cases of burnout, which was recognised as an occupational phenomenon by the World Health Organisation (“WHO”) in 2019. Although WHO did not classify burnout as a medical condition, the organisation said that the syndrome is caused by chronic workplace stress which has not been successfully managed.

A physician and former director of the Mexican Social Security Institute commented, “There are three elements that combine: physical exhaustion, anxiety and stress. This mix is creating extreme fatigue and burnout for those employees who, after more than two years of remote working, are returning to the workplace.”

“There are three elements that combine: physical exhaustion, anxiety and stress.”

Physician and former director, Mexican Social Security Institute

Research conducted by Asana, a work management platform, shows that younger generations report suffering higher burnout cases. Among Generation Zs, 84% report burnouts, compared to 74% of Millennials and 47% of Baby Boomers. When it comes to gender, 67% of women and 59% of men have experienced burnout.

Worryingly, children are also suffering according to a senior public health official in Mexico, “We are seeing a worrying trend of tiredness in children. Especially those children in urban areas with high population density, such as large cities. Added to the pandemic, environmental pollution and poor quality of nutrition, many groups of infants are falling asleep, literally, or have decreased levels of physical play. This is a serious concern we are monitoring closely.”

“We are seeing a worrying trend of tiredness in children. This is a serious concern we are monitoring closely.”

Senior public health official, Mexico

In Latin America in general and Mexico in particular, a lack of institutionalised work-life balance practices and a social perception that long office hours are the key to success have significantly contributed to employee burnout. Erika Villavicencio, a workplace health specialist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (“UNAM”) exemplified the normalisation of long office hours with Costa Rica’s labour bill proposal to allow workdays of 12 hours in exchange for three-day weekends.

Despite these observations, there may not be a direct correlation between long office hours and employee burnout.  “Mexico has the longest working hours in Latin America,” explained the public health official, “but amongst the lowest productivity levels, suggesting employees are not actually working that hard. Also, in places like Mexico City, some people can spend up to two hours just getting to work and this time may be included in their ‘office hours’.”

The undeniable trend is the rise in burnout and mental health issues in the workplace across Latin America. As such, experts across the region are calling on regulators to implement smart and best practices at the workplace and are encouraging corporations to support more breaks at work. A recent study by the multinational asset management firm, Mercer, found that four out of ten companies in Latin America are now planning to implement measures to combat employee burnout.

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