Burnout is a hot topic everywhere and Sourcecred is not exempt. Sundaresan (2014) poignantly observes that “twenty-first-century organizations are characterized by persistent changes, uncertainties and excessive pressure to increase productivity” (p. 93). From my perspective, Sourcrecred is clearly trying to challenge the status quo, however, the value of productivity at all costs is deeply ingrained making it challenging to shift workplace habits and culture.
Based on my research and personal experience, here is my definition of burnout: A state of mental, physical, emotional, and/or spiritual exhaustion that is characterized by lack of motivation, social disengagement, detachment, cynicism, irritability, disruption of personal equilibrium, and/or reduced feelings of personal accomplishment. Burnout can occur in any area of life such as work, volunteer positions, caretaking, academia, etc. (Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004; Wang, 2018; Maslach and Jackson, 1982; Curran, 2021)
What causes burnout?
Causes of burnout are varied and dependent upon the individual and the community/environment one is living/working in. Here are some common causes that I found in my research and from my personal experience: work overload, excessive and/or unrealistic job demands, real or perceived lack of control concerning those demands, role interference, role ambiguity, poor day to day organization, and communication, lack of support, infrequent rest breaks (during the day and over long periods of time), lack of acceptance for individual health needs (physical, mental, and/or emotional), interpersonal conflicts, and lack of communal harmony (Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004; Wang, 2018; Sundaresan, 2014).
Sundaresan (2014) notes that role interference can contribute to burnout, it is common to inhabit multiple roles simultaneously such as worker, parent, partner, family member, caretaker, volunteer, etc., and stress or tension can spill over from one role to another. In several sources role ambiguity was noted as a factor contributing to burnout(Wang, 2018; Sundaresan, 2014; Everly, et.al., 2011). This feels particularly salient for SourceCred since we define our own roles and they may shift over time.
A one size fits all model is not sufficient for preventing burnout since each person has their own unique physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, as well as their own particular roles that they have in and outside of work. Therefore, it is essential for each person to develop their own strategy for how to prevent burnout.
From my perspective the key word is balance. Some stress can be helpful for motivation but too much stress can have negative health impacts, decrease quality of life, and contribute to poor work performance. Finding a balance between life roles can be tricky but is necessary for burnout prevention.
Since role ambiguity is a common factor noted to contribute to burnout, taking the time to clearly define what one’s role is may help prevent burnout. Other ways to prevent burnout include having adequate social support, having autonomy, being able to participate in decision making, noticing patterns that lead to burnout, taking breaks from technology, and having an accountability buddy to check in with about burnout and self care (Wang, 2018; Curran, 2021; Sundaresan, 2014).
On a community level burnout prevention can be part of the culture. At SourceCred when I told the community I was going to take a couple weeks off, what I received was overwhelming support which helped me know that I would not be penalized for taking a break. Our vibes check in is another way that SoureCred helps community members pay attention to how they are doing and can be an opportunity to notice burnout creeping in. Wang (2018) states that “workers reporting low job demands, favorable combinations of autonomy and task complexity, and high coworker support have shown lower rates of certain health problems compared to all other groups”, I believe that SourceCred strives to meet all of the criteria for having lower rates of certain health problems. How else can we make burnout prevention embedded in SourceCred culture?
My relationship with burnout
My burnout cues: I start to hate everything, I have poor sleep, poor appetite, high levels of anxiety and/or depression, low motivation, I am more rude and less empathetic than usual, my creativity feels stifled, and I have feelings of wanting to quit, to name a few.
My burnout prevention: regular meditation and yoga in the mornings, talking about my feelings with others, community time, movement, dancing, and nature time. I also take regular breaks where I do not engage with my work (1-3 days per week, 1-3 months per year, and a week here and there as needed), I notice that I have to be strict with myself in this area because I often find that those around me are not taking the breaks they need and I have to fight social comparison and that ‘protestant work ethic’ in the back of my mind that tells me I am not a good, moral person if I do not work really hard all of the time. The mindset I try to cultivate is a state of acceptance that I will never be able to get everything done and perfection is a completely unrealistic goal.
What are your burnout cues? How do you prevent burnout in your life?
Working In-The science of burnout with Dr. Thomas Curran
Curran, T. (2021). The science of burnout with Dr. Thomas Curran, Working In podcast
Freudenberger, H. J. (1974). Staff burnout. Journal of Environmental Issues, 30, 159- 165.
Everly, G., Davy, J. Smith, K. J., Lating, J. and Nucifora, F. (2011). A Defining Aspect of Human Resilience in the Workplace: A Structural Modeling Analysis (January 12, 2011). Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 98-105, June 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2118948
Maslach, C., & Jackson, S.E. (1982). Burnout in health professions: A social psychological analysis. In G. Sanders & J. Sils (Eds)., Social psychology of health and illness (pp. 227-251). Hillsdale, N J: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Schaufeli, W.B. and Bakker, A.B. (2004), Job demands, job resources, and their relationship with burnout and engagement: a multi‐sample study. J. Organiz. Behav., 25: 293-315. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.248
Sundaresan, S. (2014). Work-Life Balance – Implications for Working Women
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Wang, Huaqing, The Effects of Social Support and Coping Strategies on Job Stress and Burnout (April 13, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3161858 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3161858