Published November 8, 2020, 6:09 PM

by Dr. Jose Pujalte Jr.


Dr. Jose Pujalte, Jr.

Work at first rescues us, then ravages us.” —  Mason Cooley (b. 1927). US aphorist,  City Aphorisms, 7th Selection, New York (1990)

Gwarosa is the Korean equivalent of the Japanese karoshi which they describe as “sudden death due to heart failure or a stroke as a result of extreme hard work.” Just last month, 14 delivery workers died from overwork in South Korea. This was directly correlated with the spike of online orders because of the pandemic.  In Japan, Takayuki Maezawa died of brain hemorrhage at only 32. He was a manager is a fast-food chain in Saitama, Japan and his death was blamed on overwork.A review of his work hours showed that he logged in 200 hours in three months. This means that he was working everyday from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.!

Who is at Risk? Mayo Clinic experts define burnout as “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long-term exposure to demanding work situations.” Those at high risk for burnout are in the “helping professions” – doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, caregivers, psychologists, policemen, and firemen. These people start out as very idealistic but over time become disillusioned with their inability to effect positive change in the environment.  Most of the time, expectations and standards they set for themselves are unrealistic and they cave-in from the pressure.

Self-Assessment. Ask yourself:

  • Are you more cynical, critical, and sarcastic at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have a hard time getting started?
  • Are you more irritable and less considerate with co-workers, customers, or clients?
  • Do you feel that your work is monotonous and without challenge?
  • Do you feel trapped in your work?
  • Do you find it hard to laugh at yourself?
  • Has your appetite changed? (Eating less or eating more)
  • Do you have sleeping problems?

Diagnosis. If you answered “yes” to at least three of these questions, you may be in BurnoutCity. But wait a minute. We have to qualify this. If you’re a lazy, inefficient, mediocre employee and the highlights of your work month are the 15th and the 30th, you’re not in burnout! You’re just another incompetent and you’re lucky that you have not been fired. Burnouts start from a high level of productivity and job excellence but slowly slide into under-performance. The conundrum now is: can you burnout working from home?

Causes of Burnout. Human Resource Management (HRM) experts list several causes of burnout. These include: (1) lack of control – if the person is unable to influence decisions about the job, such as work assignments (mostly too much!), (2) dysfunctional work place – too many bullies, brown-nosers (sipsip!), or just plain lazy people and (3) values mismatch – the unit or section values negative traits such as dishonesty, manipulation, or bribery but the individual at risk does not.

Time To Re-Think? The physical effects of burn-out resemble clinical depression in that appetite, sleep, and memory suffer. Burnouts report headaches, nape pains, and pain at the pit of the stomach (ulcer-like).  Some feel that they will their bodies to breakdown as a way to cop-out. Are you sliding into the quicksand of job burnout? You may need to re-think your career trajectory, particularly if you’re getting sick. Ask: Is this really the work for me? If I can’t leave or give up, what can I do to improve the situation? Ask your boss if you qualify for a “work from home” rotation or a flexible schedule in the week.

What to Do. If you believe that you’re in too deep, professional help comes in the form of counseling from a trusted supervisor, an HRM expert of the company, or a medical doctor. Coping strategies include:

  • Getting plenty of rest.
  • Exercising at least 3 to 4x a week.
  • Planning and getting a vacation.
  • Re-establishing work priorities.
  • Unloading too much work.
  • Work from home.

For the driven and workaholic though, sometimes burnout is the only way to slow down and change direction. Toxic work makes lives miserable and probably, shorter. Burnout is avoidable and surmountable provided that it is recognized. And gwarosa shouldn’t even happen at all.

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