Work, Meaning, Office Space and Burnout

Office Space is one of my favorite movies. It really has a great way of depicting a lot of the bullshit experienced in office environments, has a great representation of burnout, and explores the psyche of work.

So, when we talk about work, what are we really talking about? Are we talking about a role that we have, which imbues a certain level of social status? Maybe we’re talking about our manual, physical, emotional, and psychic labor? Or about how we accrue resources to survive in our environment? Perhaps it’s when a force causes a displacement of the point of application, in the direction the force was moving? Or maybe it’s the change in potential energy? The acts of creation and destruction? Is it what we do to find meaning?

What do you do here

The word itself is an absolutely fascinating study in semantic processing, (the brain processing that occurs after we hear a word and encode its meaning) because when words have multiple definitions and values associated with them, they tend to store differently than other words. Hebb’s rule of learning is summarized as cell’s that fire together, wire together. Studies have supported this theory, demonstrating that when we hear the word run, our motor cortex gets activated and when we hear the word sun our visual processing get activated. So what happens when we hear the word work?

Hopefully for you it feels something like this:

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However a lot of people might stop and say…

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And that probably comes in if you’re working at a place that might be sending you towards burnout. Some of the biggest contributors to burnout include when our workload is too much and the resources are too low.

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And when our work conditions don’t align with our values.

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Other factors included when the culture isn’t fair,

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When work gets stagnant, or feeling micromanaged or too constricted.

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And in response to such stressful conditions (conflicting values, expending too much energy, injustice, stagnation, and restriction) symptoms like fatigue, exhaustion set in.

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Burnout also causes cynicism,

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irritability

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and social withdrawal.

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So when all of that sets in and we hear the word work, I wonder what if we’re hearing all of those things.

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Or maybe it’s…

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When ideally when we hear about work we should want something that is so important as to include our values, creativity, identity, and resources to feel more like:

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Einstein said that as technology increased, and we could reduce the labor that all people need to do, that we should spend more time pursuing the arts. And as we approach an era where we have 10 billion humans, higher rates of productivity, and increased automation, I wonder how our relationship to work will change. I wonder how we will change our potential energy, into kinetic energy? And as I think about resources, values, money, energy, and labor, I hope I continue to create love, compassion, healing, growth, fulfillment and prosperity. I hope the same for you. Until next time, be well.

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5 Signs you’re Experiencing Burnout

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Classic Burnout Symptoms

  1. You feel exhausted. Some people describe this as feeling worn out, depleted, or a loss of energy. Either way, your energy levels are not where they should be.
  2. Your attitude has shifted. If your attitude has become increasingly negative, cynical, or withdrawn this can be a huge sign of burnout. Sometimes this attitude shifts in client care, other times towards an organization, bosses, or with coworkers.
  3. You’re irritable. You seem to have a shorter fuse than you used to.
  4. You don’t feel productive. Either you feel your work is less valuable, you notice a decline in your productivity, or it just feels hard to cope with the day-to-day tasks on the job. The mundane becomes burdensome.
  5. Your coworkers are burnt out. Burnout, like other mental health phenomena, tends to be a cultural issue. When your coworkers are burnt out, your risk for burnout increases.

Causes of Burnout

Burnout has a variety of causes. The most common contributors to burnout include, too much workload with too few resources. Lack of control over your job tasks, or lack of ability to grow with your job. A lack of community or fairness in the workplace also contribute to burnout. Additionally if there is a values gap between you and the organization you work for there tends to be an increase in burnout.

Effects of Burnout

Burnout doesn’t just contribute to a poor work life, but poor health overall. People who experience burnout tend to demonstrate classic stress symptoms including chronic fatigue, headaches, GI issues, insomnia, and reduced immune functioning leading to an increase in illness. People who are experiencing burnout are also at greater risk for being hospitalized for cardiovascular disease. They also are more likely to develop mental health issues. Additionally people experiencing burnout are more likely to struggle in their relationships, and other areas of life.

Prevention and Treatment

You do have some control over your mindbody’s potential reactions to burnout. You can start by making sure you’re getting adequate self-care, this means making sure you’re getting adequate amounts of sleep, exercise, and eating healthy. Other means to manage burnout include practicing relaxation strategies, taking more breaks on the job, and exploring time-management alternatives. Additional strategies include getting social support from family, coworkers and friends, practicing mindfulness, and utilizing your own emotional coping skills. If you have the opportunity, take a vacation. We all need some time to change things up and recharge our batteries.

A lot of treatment for burnout can come at an organizational level as well. Changing work patterns, increasing community, trust, communication, support, creating more individual autonomy, and reducing the workload to resource ratio are all organizational ways to change burnout.