The Future Hustler: Burnout Awareness

Burnout Awareness header image

What will the future generations of hustlers look like?

Many aspiring entrepreneurs have a misconception that hustling and working as much and as hard as possible is the best recipe for success for a new business. However, hustling too hard and too much can become a detriment to your working life, as well as your mental and physical wellbeing. Our recent survey discovered that almost 40% of workers across the UK felt they had experienced burnout at work over the past 12 months.

A life of constant hustling can lead to burnout, a very real phenomenon that can manifest itself in a variety of mental and physical ways that can have a vastly negative impact on the lives of hustling entrepreneurs. In fact, in 2019 the World Health Organisation recognised burnout as an actual syndrome and described it as ‘burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’.

By consulting expert healthcare professional Lee Chambers (a well-known, reputable environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant), we have been able to visualise how burnout could impact and shape the future hustler, with ‘Steve’, the burned-out entrepreneur of the future. But it is not all doom and gloom. There are many ways to work smarter, and we have lots of advice for both hustlers and the business leaders employing them to avoid burnout.

Meet Steve…

How to spot burnout - symptoms of burnout overview

What is burnout, and how can you spot it?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the phrase burnout when applied to a human being means ‘physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress’. Psychologist Lee Chambers explains these physical and mental symptoms:

Physical:

  • Headaches
  • Digestive struggles
  • Sleep problems
  • Feeling tense
  • A feeling of being weighed down
  • Increased stress
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Risk of Diabetes
  • Risk of Heart Disease
  • Blurred Vision

The physical impact of burnout can also make you more susceptible to other illnesses and infections because “we have lower immunity”.

Recognising burnout symptoms

Mental:

Reduced workplace performance:

  • Comes with a lack of motivation, for both tasks and attending
  • A lack of concentration and creativity lead to increased errors and mistakes
  • Cynicism and poor emotional regulation lead to increased conflict and feelings of frustration and irritability

Lack of purpose:

  • This comes with a feeling of pessimism regarding everything in life
  • Negative attitudes towards others in our lives
  • Continued low mood and feeling detached from reality
  • Low morale and feeling fatigued
  • Loss of vision for achievements

Long Term Impacts:

  • Loss of physical and mental wellbeing
  • Becoming detached from friends and family
  • Loss of our own esteem and identity

There are three distinct types of burnout which are described by Chambers, these are:

  1. Intensity Burnout: When all effort is channeled into working, and work-life balance is neglected, to the point of exhaustion and where diminishing returns set in.
  2. Boredom Burnout: Continual low mood caused by lack of workplace challenges, monotonous job roles, and a feeling of being trapped there.
  3. Worn Down Burnout: Feeling of helplessness after a continual period of high intense stress at work.

How common is burnout?

To discover how common burnout is amongst workers we conducted a survey of UK professionals to see if they had felt burnt out at work over the past 12 months. Overall 39% of them believed they had experienced symptoms of the condition and the rates were slightly higher in women than in men. Whilst 42% of women felt they had experienced burnout, only 37% of men believed they had been burned out over the past year.

Who is at risk from burnout?

Although anyone can become burnt out, there are often environmental risk factors that can increase someone’s risk of suffering from burnout. Moreover: “Burnout can manifest itself in different forms, and certain occupations can increase your potential chance of being burnt out. It’s a very individual condition, with people presenting very differently.”

Those who see trauma: “Those at higher risk of burnout are in positions that involve seeing trauma, having to detach from emotive work, have long hours, and that are regularly judged and assessed. Those who work in hospitals and veterinary surgeries, therapists and teachers, social workers and law enforcement are all at a higher risk due to the nature of their jobs.”

Entrepreneurs and hustlers: “Entrepreneurs are increasingly at risk as overworking is glamorised, they are less likely to have colleagues to keep them accountable to balance or identify the signs, and hustling is advertised as a prerequisite of being a successful entrepreneur. Don’t embrace the hustle: the reality is that most new ventures do take effort to come to fruition, and that building early momentum does require focused effort. Driving a business is like driving a large vehicle, moving forward towards a destination, and you wouldn’t get behind the wheel if you had already driven for 20 hours straight. A business is no different, and you need to take regular breaks, refuel and recharge by making time for yourself and those who support you.”

Meet Steve Again…

We have now visualised Steve again once he has identified his burnout problems, and taken actions to improve his situation. As you will see he is now a very different person from head to toe, in mind and in body.

Instantly there is a noticeable difference as Steve has realised the importance of listening to his body and taking actions accordingly. By understanding that rest and a good night’s sleep are vitally important in fighting burnout Steve now has a fresher, cleaner look as good sleep results in cleaner skin and a less tired look in the face.

On top of this, he now looks in better shape due to taking time to look after himself, by identifying burnout he has taken a step back and focused on his own physical well-being. By finding more time to exercise and eat healthily he is compacting burnout as fuelling his body correctly helps keep his mind calm and not stressed.

We can also see that Steve is much better groomed and well dressed than previously, and this is because by identifying burnout he has been able to properly manage his time. By not panicking and rushing to work in the morning he has time to wash, shower and have a shave before getting dressed and leaving to work in a more organised stress-free fashion.

Recognising a healthy work-life-balance - attributes

Improvements of burnout symptoms with a healthy work-life-balance

What to do about burnout, how can you recover and prevent it?

Studying our own thoughts and behaviours: “Sometimes, people suffering from burnout are not aware that they are until they hit a significant crisis. Looking at our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours is the first step, as awareness allows us to break free from being on autopilot and just going through the motions in life. Burnout is challenging, but it can be overcome. Still, to ensure you don’t replay the past and burnout again, we need to understand what negative behaviours have contributed to where we currently are.”

Reducing stress and care for ourselves more: “If we are suffering from burnout, it certainly highlights a need for self-care, and this is important in recovery. Finding ways to reduce your stress and reignite your passion are likely to involve self-care. What is important is that we don’t try to rigidly shoehorn self-care into our lives, as this can potentially cause us to fire the perfectionism which might have been a factor in burnout, or leave us being critical if we fail to meet those standards, which is not beneficial as we certainly need to be kinder and have more self-compassion.”

Finding a balance between work and downtime: “The balance between work and life is so often an issue that needs addressing when looking at burnout. In reality, we just have life, and work is integrated into our life. We need to investigate why work bleeds into every other aspect of our lives. By working on this balance, we get more clarity on who we want to become, and start to find the time and energy to be both productive at work and like the things we enjoy doing outside of our career.”

Deal with stress in life outside of work: “Looking at what you do for hobbies and interests, are these things that recharge you both from enjoyment and the people you are surrounded with? Sometimes we can burn out because we feel we have to be everything, or can’t say no, and we end up doing lots of things that other people enjoy. It is vital that we find the things that make us smile, laugh and feel warm inside.”

Listen to your body’s rhythms: “We all have biorhythms, little clocks in our cells. If we honour these, we feel energised and alive. These rhythms are like waves, and it is important that we flick the off switch a few times every day, and disconnect from the world of stimulation and inputs. This is especially vital at work, so we can disconnect from and take a break to refresh. This allows us to reconnect more powerfully when we return. Go for a walk, spend some time in solitude, breathe and reflect, or have a simple chat with a colleague about something light-hearted. And if you have too much work to take breaks, you need to consider highlighting this, delegating, and prioritising.”

Build your own support network: “Planning where to turn in challenging times is essential. Having the knowledge that there are people who can support you, resources you can access, and a whole network out there to use makes us feel more connected and that we no longer have to find all the solutions ourselves.”

Give yourself a break when you need it: “Taking an intentional break is vital to rest and recharge the body and mind. Taking yourself away, especially into a natural environment, induces feelings of grounding and serenity, and solitude can give us the headspace to start to process the bigger picture. It is also an intentional message to ourselves, giving ourselves permission to stop spinning and find a natural rhythm.”

Finding a mentor: “Get a mentor outside of the influencers: having a mentor who is outside of the business influences who shout ‘hustle harder’ from the rooftops will help to give you a grounded perspective on what and where you need to progress, and will likely be a great sounding board to stop you overworking and expending energy in areas where the returns are not worthwhile and the energy drain is high.”

Assess your workload: “We are only human and can only do so much. If your workload is overbearing, it’s time to access it and see if there is the ability to get support, delegate, automate or reduce what you are doing on a daily basis. At the end of the day, your health is not worth trading for any amount of business success.”

Plan for the future: “And finally, the big one, burnout is so often a by-product of your working environment. It is unlikely you can change an organisation’s culture overnight. But you can plan and shape what you can control. By planning, you start to create a path to move into, feeling more assured. Many people feel stuck in a position, which adds additional stress, but taking the initiative and looking elsewhere can be empowering and inspires hope. Most importantly, your job isn’t as important as your health, and being facing burnout means it is time to accept a change is needed.”

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Methodology

Expert advice on the symptoms of burnout, what it is, who is at risk, and strategies to help you deal with it and prevent it were given by Lee Chambers. Lee Chambers is a well known reputable environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant working at the top of his field.

Some additional symptoms were sourced from the Mayo Clinic.

Survey of UK workers was carried out in July 2021.

Emily Bates

Lead Talent Partner at Tide

Tide Team

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