Burnout is becoming more common among workers in the United States. It’s happening more and more because workers are completely exhausted. Workers are also becoming more resentful and less willing to take on new tasks and “bend over backwards” for their employers. Many employees are “quiet-quitting,” which in my mind is just doing your job and not going above what the company is paying you for. This makes sense, because when I worked at Home Depot, the company would try and make us go the extra mile. Management told us promotions and raises would be in our future if we did. My store also hid the fact that competitor retailers were paying a lot more.
Workers are not stupid. They hear about the record profits that companies are raking in, all while those same companies refuse to give workers a living wage. In fact, as we’ve seen recently at large corporations such as Amazon and Kelloggs, workers went on long strikes and were successful at winning concessions.
This is because workers are burnt out. Workers sacrifice their bodies on a daily basis and deserve to be fairly compensated for that. They are fed up with not getting a bigger piece of the pie for driving company profits. Workers are what drive companies, and they deserve to be fairly compensated with a living wage.
Ironically, not paying workers may end up costing profits in the long term. This is because the harder you work employees and keep their pay low, the more exhausted they get, which leads to lost performance. This is why they have 30-hour work weeks in the European countries that have the happiest workers. Companies are still making profits, but their workers are making enough to live on, which cuts down on lost company revenue. Put this way, if workers are on strike, you are losing the potential output from those workers, as well as lost revenue by consumers who are in support of fair treatment for workers taking their business to other places.
Burnout is no joke. It has many consequences and can lead to depression, among other effects. Burnout is something that I, myself, am experiencing through my work for my community and is something that I’ve seen many friends struggle with as well. Burnout can lead to depression and exhaustion, ultimately resulting in worse performance. This is why employees in other countries such as France work fewer hours.
There are some solutions to worker burnout. According to a Huffington Post piece, happier workers are more productive workers, so keeping workers from being burnt out not only is a humanitarian concern but also helps the bottom line. The article goes on to state that workers who are happy increased production by 12 percent as opposed to a 10 percent decrease in productivity from unhappy workers. Companies that work their employees too much risk becoming their own worst enemies, creating conditions for high turnover, more sick days and higher health insurance costs. Exhaustion can also lead to errors that cause other nasty side effects for the company (disability, lawsuits, strikes, employee turnover, et cetera). Keeping employees happy, well-paid and rested is the key to keeping a company going. It can also make consumers feel better about buying the products.
I understand that some smaller businesses may not be able to pay as much as larger ones. There are some ways to get workers to come work for you — have them work with you, instead. Offer them stock in the company so workers have more say in it, and allow workers to unionize. A long-standing example of this is the worker-owned Food Co Op in Bellingham that I have been visiting since I was a child. It is a worker-owned company where workers have a say in the goings-on. Pay them a visit.
Cedar Bushue is a pro-union, pro-people writer who believes in people over profit. More of his writing can be found at linktr.ee/cedarbushue.
Read more of the Nov. 23-29, 2022 issue.