32 is the age we are 'most likely to experience burnout'

Most of us are familiar with the concept of burnout. It’s a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. And now scientists have predicted when it will likely happen to you.

Burnout happens when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands, and it is most likely to happen to you at age 32, according to a new study.

The study, commissioned by flexible workspace provider TOG, found that this age group – who make up 50% of the UK workforce – are now experiencing the second economic recession in their adult lifetime, which is proving a major burnout trigger.

The biggest reasons for this age group feeling stressed and exhausted include working longer hours while working from home (59%), being unable to separate work and personal life (42%), and facing an uncertain, increasingly competitive job market (33%). 

In fact, the whole UK workforce is under pressure; almost half (48%) of over 50s have been unable to take a proper break since lockdown. 

And being young doesn’t exempt you from stress, with almost 6 in 10 (58%) Gen Z workers feeling the strain of ‘always on’ culture. Nearly half (49%) of those surveyed have gone so far as quitting a job due to stress, and over a quarter (29%) would be open to taking unpaid leave if they were faced with burnout.

With many looking to lower their stress levels, 1 in 5 have turned to meditation or yoga to relax outside of work. 

More than half (51%) said they had been working outside of their contractual hours since lockdown, with the average UK worker putting an extra 59 hours, or 7 working days into their job over 5 months. 

For many, lockdown has been particularly challenging, with a third (32%) saying it has brought them closer to burnout. Workers felt that the longer hours due to having their workstation close to them (31%) and the lack of social interaction (27%) had contributed to making the time particularly difficult. 

7 in 10 (69%) employees stated that their workplace hadn’t offered any ways to improve their work-life balance or wellbeing while working from home during lockdown.  

Nearly a quarter (22%) of respondents wanted their workplace to offer mindfulness and wellness classes as a means to fight burnout.

‘We feel strongly about constantly re-evaluating what people need from their office spaces, especially as we continue to navigate the impact of the pandemic,’ says Olly Olsen, co-founder of TOG.

‘Putting wellbeing at the heart of workspace design doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. Providing natural light plus simple additions like breakout areas, comfortable seating and air purifying plants, can make all the difference.’ 

Simple tips to prevent burnout

TOG has partnered with consultant psychiatrist Dr Sarah Vohra, aka The Mind Medic, to share further advice on how to prevent burnout and spot the signs of heightened stress and exhaustion at work: 

Make distinctions between day and night routines

Whether you are commuting to the office, or working from home, make sure you have consistent wake and sleep times.

This helps regulate your body’s 24-hour circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle.  

Write down ‘must-dos’ for the day

Studies show that the more tasks we commit to simultaneously, the lower our attention span is.

This can affect how quickly we complete our tasks, with time often wasted switching between them, making us less efficient and more prone to making mistakes. 

Exposure to natural sunlight

Your 24-hour body clock relies on repeated patterns of loss of light (night) and return of light (day) to help reset it.

Studies show that workers in workplaces with windows not only had significantly more sunlight exposure during work hours, but also slept an average of 46 minutes more each night.  

‘With almost a third of people saying lockdown has brought them closer to burnout, there is no question the pandemic has greatly impacted the nation’s collective mental health,’ says Dr Sarah Vohra.

‘Companies must put defences in place and guard against elements which might cause stress and anxiety, and looking forward, they must make robust changes to ensure employees are protected, particularly during times of uncertainty.’

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