The Burnout Industry

Hi everyone. I’ve been working on writing up work practices that have improved my productivity, energy, happiness, and creativity.  I tend to struggle with structuring my writing ?, but I’m hoping that sharing my intro will nudge me to keep accountable by releasing the rest incrementally.  Hoping it resonates with some of you! 

xxx Moodthy
Update: this is now available as a podcast episode. Got questions or comments? Send me a voice note inside anchor :)

I first burned out at 17.

I was trying hard – as an undiagnosed person with Dyslexia and ADHD – to win a scholarship for university.

I needed a 97% grade average in that systems equivalent of high school, which, as it happens, I was learning in a secondary language.

I can’t tell you how long it was before the finals, exactly. Burnout is a blur. At this point I’d never heard the term, and wouldn’t for many, many years. I used to sit in front of my books in tears and incomprehension as I realised I literally could not absorb a single word anymore.

I would burn out several more times over the course my career:

  • During University (our biochemistry course was alleged to have more modules and hours of classes and assignments that a popular pre-med course). There were a lot of all nighters. 
  • During my first round of freelancing, while simultaneously doing a masters degree and job hunting. 
  • After the year I got settled immigration status (about a years work in itself), and after spending a year job hunting and hopping between temp jobs. Somewhere in the middle of this was a family crisis that lasted maybe also a year and culminated in a medical emergency. 
Three things I’ve learned about burnout since then: 
  1. You don’t get more than maybe two, three burnouts before it affects your health irreversibly.  There is no “rollback” function for the human body. You’ll waste several years trying yoga, fasting, veganism, raw, paleo, keto and every kooky therapy and miracle supplement before realising “this is how it is for me now”.
  2. Many young people are entering the workplace with a few burnouts already under their belt. And the bar today is even higher for getting a job today than it was for me.
  3. What I, and many other people in the tech industry call “burnout” is actually point  of crisis way beyond the actual definition of burnout
Why don’t we recognise burnout for what it is before it reaches the crisis point?

Because this story of suffering as a path to the  a very slim chance of glory is so persistent in our psyche.

In the 1939 book, The Grapes of Wrath, it’s what compelled people to move to California and work on farms.

Today, the tech industry have rebranded (pre-crisis point) burnout as “the hustle” or “the grind” and sold it as a lifestyle, a badge of honour, a necessary pain that will lead us to glory. “Like Facebook.” “Like Twitter”, “like Uber”.

Like all San Francisco startups.

And so millions of people in the tech industry still look to California as the model of how work today.

No longer moving to California farms, but emulating the same “disposable worker” mindset from their desks around the world. The only difference is that today, the bosses also work on the farm alongside us. Sometimes.

And the result is that in a Gallup study of 7,500 full time employees, 22% of full time employees report feeling burned out often or all of the time, while another 44% report feeling burned out some of the time.

I wonder, looking at those numbers, if they’re using my (and the people with whom I’ve spoken)- “crisis point” definition of burnout, rather than the actual definition.

Another survey by Blind had a simple yes/no answer: “Are you currently suffering from job burnout?” (burnout was not defined to the survey takers) And over half of respondents (57.16%, to be exact) answered yes.

If an industry like manufacturing resulted in short and medium term disability for roughly half its employees (44% – 57%), there would be a government enquiry, fines and regulations.

But because the disability of burnout – and that’s what not being able to work for months or a few years isis invisible, the industry is still flying under the radar of scrutiny. For now.

This is beginning to change.

On the 28th of May 2019, the world health organisation categorised burnout from a psychological disease, to an occupational one.

This change may seem slight to many.

In the same year, a Spanish royal decree legally requires Spanish companies to track the work hours of all staff, be they remote contractors, or in-house.

The stage is being set to change the culture of burnout and worker exploitation through regulation. At least in Europe.

The way of working I’m proposing in this ebook is how I’ve been working the last 4 years, after a lifetime of buying into “the grind” and the virtues of “the hustle”.

It will help you change how you’re working and get better results– not worse. It will help your team get a head start against those too set in their ways and beliefs to adapt.

Most importantly, it will help prevent your health suffering in the long term and enable you to continue working passionately in a field I hope you love as much as I do.

“The World Health Organization is about to embark on the development of evidence-based guidelines on mental well-being in the workplace.”

I write about work methods and work culture and especially burnout because it’s an entirely preventable health epidemic based on the most ridiculous thing imaginable: identity politics. 

It’s 2019. We don’t need to work like we’re on that 1939 farm anymore.

If an industry like manufacturing resulted in short and medium term disability for roughly half its employees (44% – 57%), there would be a government enquiry, fines and regulations. Share on X


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