Recently, the concept of Millennials experiencing burnout has gone mainstream from a Buzzfeed article. In the article, Anne Helen Petersen does an amazing job painting the struggle Millennials (born 1980-1996) experience in their steady careers.
While I agree with her on many points, I don’t believe this is Millennial burnout, but its
What do I mean by that?
Essentially, we are creating a world where things happen faster than we can adapt, and as we build the gears to the machine, people burn out trying to keep up. The more the machine is built, the faster it moves and the easier it is to achieve burnout.
It seems bizarre that today where we are shifting to a more white and grey collar society, in other words, physically easier jobs and yet people complain about burnout. What about the early 1900s where they banned child labor and mandatory 70 hour weeks in plants?
Why is burnout becoming so prevalent in our society? There are many studies on why, but the heart boils down to innovation.
Never Ending Connection
Did anyone really think what the power email could really do for them? Sure you can send a message instantaneously and receive a response immediately, but what does the mean to the CEO and other people in the company who receive the email?
Leslie Perlow, in her book, Sleeping With Your Smartphone, studied a group of consultants form the Boston Consulting group attempting to answer the question “does PTO alleviate burnout?” The environment she entered had extreme intensity. Many employees suffered from burnout working high double digit work weeks at an attempt to keep up with customer demands. Perlow had to implement a rotation ‘Time Off’ period where employees could not respond to customers and could ‘relax’.
Mandatory time off to avoid people burning themselves out. However, many workplaces don’t have mandatory time off.
Many companies have pushed to put restraints on technology, but many have failed miserably. France has even gone so far to ban emails on the weekends for certain corporate companies, however, after taking to a few people who work in France, people often break this rule.
We insert our necks into the noose of innovation seduced by its convenience. And yet, we somehow are surprised when the next round of innovations kicks our stool out from underneath our feet.
Every technology created has an unforeseen consequence. Some more impactful than others. As users of technology, the goal is to use it, without it using you. Throughout history we have struggled with these drawbacks and simply accepted them. However, as innovation becomes more impactful, burnout, and other side effects will go from avoidable to inevitable.
People have enact sense of curiosity, making innovations to continuously force into the abyss of the pending mankind crisis. In the brain, our ‘dentate gyrus’, a small part close to the hippocampus, is hypothesized to be the beating heart behind curiosity. While we continue to push the frontiers of innovation, we will inevitable find this small part of our brain continuously drives the core power behind innovation. Human curiosity.
We are wired to be curious.
To explore the unexplorable.
To travel the untraveled.
To see the invisible.
And to feel what others call pain.
While I don’t think it’s appropriate to abandon technology at the expense of health. However, I believe we need to think more proactively about what we are doing and why. By answering these simple questions, we will overtime, learn how to cope with the human technology relationship before it destroys us.
Going back to the original ‘Millennial burnout’, it’s not just this generation. Burnout is an old as time, but our generation experiences some of the biggest challenges coping with innovation and so will the others after us. As we continue to leverage technology in a lock step fashion, we will travel headlong into the dystopias realities that so many futurists have warned us. The only way out is to consciously understand an innovation’s drawbacks before it takes hold.
Speaking of which someone is calling my phone.
Got to run…
Jeff Butler Internationally respected speaker and consultant, Jeff Butler helps bridge generational gaps between Millennials and companies looking for their talent and patronage. Butler has quickly built his reputation as a memorable presenter with tangible solutions for attracting, retaining, and engaging Millennials as employees and customers. Within just the past three years, he has spoken at two TEDx events and multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn.