Burnout in Younger Workers: Understanding, Addressing and Preventing It


Burnout has become a growing concern in today’s fast-paced, competitive work environment. Younger workers appear to be more susceptible to experiencing burnout due to factors such as high expectations, increased pressure to succeed, post-pandemic pressures and the impact of technology on work-life balance. 

It’s common practice for organisations to have procedures and support in place to combat burnout within C-Suite teams, but do we need to recognise this is now an issue across the board, no matter what your age? 

According to statistics, more than 50% of the current UK workforce is made up of millennials and Gen Z workers with an increased awareness of burnout. They have played a significant role in acknowledging and promoting awareness of mental wellness in the workplace. Yet the incoming generation, constituting 20% of the workforce, does not share the values and experiences of their older counterparts. Gen Zs are more financially and security-orientated, having grown up in an era of financial instability. They also have a tendency towards entrepreneurship and career advancement. Consequently, they are vulnerable to an escalation of stress that could contribute to burnout. 

The Growing Concern of Burnout in Younger Workers 

Burnout is a real problem and is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress. It can manifest itself in various ways, such as resentment, detachment, constant tiredness, lack of motivation and reduced productivity. Younger workers, especially those in the early stages of their careers, often face these unique challenges that make them more prone to burnout: 

  • High expectations: with the pressure to establish a successful career, younger workers may set unrealistic goals for themselves, leading to excessive workload and less control over their working day. 
  • Inexperience: as they navigate the professional world, younger workers may lack the skills or experience to effectively manage their workload, time, and stress levels, increasing their risk of burnout. 
  • Constant attachment to technology: Smartphones and social media addiction can blur the lines between work and personal life, making it harder for younger workers to disconnect and recharge. 
  • Fear of job instability: In a competitive job market, younger workers may feel the need to constantly prove themselves, leading to over-commitment and a reluctance to set boundaries. 
  • Financial constraints: younger workers are generally paid less than senior staff members. In our increasingly unsettled financial times, it’s understandably frustrating that a lot of the Gen Zs (of the late 1990s onwards) are years behind other generations in terms of living financially independent lives, like owning their first homes and having a disposable income that gives them the freedom to do what they want. 

Millennials have the tendency towards environmental awareness and the need for organisations and people to work ethically. Looking after our planet, maintaining good mental health and being inclusive are values that hold strong with our younger generations – and we must nurture them. If the new generation of talent coming into work feels that organisations don’t have the same values and outlook in life and the workplace, it will influence their choice of work. 

Identifying Early Signs of Burnout 

Recognising the early signs of burnout is essential for taking appropriate action to prevent its escalation. Some common warning signs include: 

  • Chronic fatigue and exhaustion 
  • Irritability and mood swings 
  • Loss of motivation and engagement in work 
  • Difficulty concentrating and increased forgetfulness 
  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches, sickness, muscles with flu-like pain 
  • Feelings of depression, being tearful 

How workers can help themselves 

Recognising symptoms and feelings is the first step to taking action. Knowing that you don’t feel yourself most of the time, and identifying the triggers, is incredibly important. 

If there is someone within your workplace who can help, then go and speak to them. They must support and help you grow and develop in your career. Of course, how you act and take responsibility for your own life and career is key, but by working together, you can find more balance at work and in your life. Think about a few things that are actionable: 

  • What is your biggest challenge or problem? How have you been feeling? 
  • Identify your priorities – what’s important to you in your career? Financial reward, work-life balance – or both? 
  • Write it all down – keep a diary – and if you’re constantly feeling exhausted and increasingly unhappy, seek help. 
  • Talk to your supervisor or identify a person you can talk to in your organisation. 
  • Talk to friends and family to help you gain perspective and identify the help you need. It’s perfectly okay not to be okay and to look for help and support. 
  • Is there a relaxing activity that might help? How about a massage? Or some other form of exercise that will help, such as yoga? 
  • Are you getting enough sleep and eating properly? 
  • Mindfulness works – there are all sorts of free apps and organisations that can help. 

To effectively manage and prevent burnout in younger workers – tips for organisations 

Growing evidence shows that anxiety is often fuelled by the working environment rather than the job itself. One of the main causes of stress and burnout is the feeling of being undervalued and unsupported in the workplace. 

What can you do to support your young employees better? Here are a few tips that could be incorporated into your organisational policies – and not just for younger workers! 

– Set realistic goals: encourage younger workers to set achievable goals and prioritise tasks, first focusing on the most important and time-sensitive projects. 

– Encourage work-life balance: promote the importance of taking regular breaks, disconnecting from technology, and engaging in hobbies and activities outside of work. 

– Foster a supportive work environment: create a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable discussing concerns and seeking support from colleagues and supervisors. 

– Encourage self-care: promote regular exercise (like yoga or walking as well as cardiovascular exercise), healthy eating, and adequate sleep as essential components for well-being and resilience. 

– Offer professional development opportunities: provide younger workers with training, mentorship, and resources to help them build the skills necessary to effectively manage their workload and stress levels – while building their careers. 

How Recruitment Agencies Can Help 

As a recruitment agency, we understand the importance of addressing burnout to ensure the well-being and productivity of younger employees. People are at the heart of any organisation – and as a conduit between organisations and talented/skilled workers, it’s imperative we all recognise that it’s not just the job and salary that counts but how people are supported. 

A recruitment agency can play a vital role in supporting both employees and employers in addressing and preventing burnout. Here are some ways a recruitment agency can help: 

– Finding the right fit: matching younger workers with job opportunities aligning skills and interests with long-term career goals, helping reduce the likelihood of burnout. 

– Providing guidance and support: offering valuable insights and resources on managing stress, setting realistic expectations, and maintaining work-life balance. 

– Advocating for a healthy work culture: recruitment agencies can work with employers to help implement support systems within an organisation. These will attract, nurture and develop younger talent and keep employees motivated to stay – supporting them on their path to future career opportunities. 

For some more interesting reading about why burnout is prevalent amongst younger workers and how we can help to prevent it: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20220520-why-gen-z-workers-are-already-so-burned-out 

Contact us: 

For more insights about how we see future trends developing in 2023, come and visit us at Proactive Appointments – IT Recruitment in the UK & Europe – or contact us at Contact Proactive IT Appointments to learn more about how we can help support young talent and the organisations that hire them. 

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