Was helping clean the house and found this old article from New York magazine. It's from 2006. Here's some choice cuts:
Maslach also found that married people burn out less often than single people, as long as their marriages are good, because they donâ€™t depend as much on their jobs for fulfillment. And childless people, though unburdened by the daily strains of parenting, tend to burn out far more than people with kids. (This, too, has been found across cultures; in the Netherlands, a recent survey by the Bureau of Statistics showed that twice as many working women without children showed symptoms of burnout as did working women with underage children.) Itâ€™s much easier to disproportionately invest emotional and physical capital in the office if you have nowhere else to put it. And the office seldom loves you back.
â€œI did a study in the south of Israel of â€˜sandwich generationâ€™ couplesâ€”people who have young children and elderly parents,â€ says Ayala Pines, the Israeli researcher. â€œThis is very stressful, but what I found is that these people were not that burned out at all, because their families also provided emotional support.â€
Pinesâ€™s work has also shown that people in fiercely individualist societies are more prone to burn out. â€œI once did a study comparing Mexican college professors to American college professors,â€ she says. â€œThe Mexican burnout rate was lower. To them, the kind of lifestyle you describe in New York is insane. At noon, you come home, eat, and see your family. It isnâ€™t even a question.â€ In Israel, she adds, she consistently found lower levels of burnout than in her studies in the United States, even though the lives of its citizens are tangibly threatened in a way that most Americansâ€™ are not. â€œAnd one explanation I have,â€ she says, â€œis that itâ€™s because of the existential threats to our daily lives. You feel your own life is more significant.â€
One has to wonder whether the developments of a high-speed world havenâ€™t made burnout worse. First, the obvious: With the advent of e-mail, cell phones, laptops, BlackBerrys (or â€œCrackBerrysâ€â€”the argot here seems extremely apt), and other bits of high-speed doodadry, it has become virtually impossible, in senses both literal and metaphorical, to unplug from our jobs. As Schaufeli, the Dutch researcher, notes, one of the strongest predictors of burnout isnâ€™t just work overload but â€œwork-home interferenceâ€â€”a sociologistâ€™s way of saying weâ€™re receiving phone calls from Tokyo during dinner and replying to clients on our BlackBerrys while making our children brush their teeth.
If one of the surest recipes for burnout, as Michael Leiter has said, is the sensation of inefficiencyâ€”particularly if weâ€™re still expending energy and seeing little in returnâ€”then there may be something about the modern office that conspires to burn us out. In 2005, a psychiatrist at Kingâ€™s College London did a study in which one group was asked to take an IQ test while doing nothing, and a second group to take an IQ test while distracted by e-mails and ringing telephones. The uninterrupted group did better by an average of ten points, which wasnâ€™t much of a surprise. What was a surprise is that the e-mailers also did worse, by an average of six points, than a group in a similar study that had been tested while stoned.
Indeed, thatâ€™s her colleaguesâ€™ most startling finding of all. Most Americans believe they work more today than they did 35 years ago. Yet according to the American Time Use Survey, an ambitious project that for 41 years has been asking thousands of participants to keep detailed time diaries, Americans now have five more hours of leisure per week (38) than they did in 1965. Certainly, there are academics who reject these numbersâ€”in The Overworked American, published in 1992, the economist Juliet Schor calculated we were working nearly an extra month per year, setting off a rather sharp debate about her methodologyâ€”but even those who agree our leisure time is increasing will readily concede that Americans experience their leisure quite differently and therefore may feel as if theyâ€™re working more. For one thing, itâ€™s non-contiguous leisure time, time meted out in discrete increments. Human beings have always resisted the fracturing of time. Gleick points out that Plautus cursed the sundial. Now, he says, we gain 90- second reprieves with our microwave ovens. But do we do anything meaningful in those 90 seconds? Or do they vanish in the same particle puff?
John Robinson, the University of Maryland sociologist who calculated those expanding leisure hours for the time-use survey, argues that our obsession with efficiency at work has unfortunately seeped into our attitudes toward leisure, with the multitasking of our downtime as the loony and paradoxical result. We run on the treadmill while listening to music while watching TV. We cook while flipping through a magazine while yakking on the phone. All of which raises a question: If our leisure isnâ€™t restorative, arenâ€™t we more apt to burn out?