I was exhausted, angry, and I had strong physical symptoms, like dizziness and headaches. I had to stop working for months to come back to a normal state of mind. From there, I learned more and more about burnout by reflecting on my own experience, as well as seeing colleagues or managers with the same problems.
Obviously, I’m not an isolated case. From 1974 to 2008, no less than 6000 different resources (including books and articles) were written on the subject. Some studies reported a burnout prevalence rates up to 69% in a given population (30% in teachers, 31% in medical students for example).
It’s important to understand how people came to speak about burnout before trying to define it. In general, if you want to really understand why something is what it is today, looking at its history is always interesting. It’s true for technologies too.
The concept of burnout was first described by the psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1974. Interested by the topic, he conducted studies on his own colleagues (medical practitioners) to find more about it. Professor Christian Maslach and her colleagues then took over his studies in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
She’s still considered the most preeminent scholar in the field. She extended burnout studies to other profession than medical and social related ones. More precisely, she studied professions requiring creativity, problem solving or mentoring. The kind of work a developer would do.
Everybody responds to chronic stress more or less differently. Freudenberger found that the dedicated and the committed employees have more chance to burnout. They have “significant amount of emotional work and empathy, personal involvement, and intrinsic motivation”.
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