Some background:

I currently work in a small/medium company which was my first solid job after graduation (I had worked for a year in different temp roles). I have worked at this job for almost 3 years growing through multiple roles from a temp to a junior member of the Data Science team.

In these 3 years I have put in hours outside of work to learn various skills to be able to do my job and more (I come from a biology/stats background, so I didn't even know how to program!). Because it is such a rapidly growing company I have had opportunities to grow too; but with the other teething issues which come with this growth.

It has got to the point where I am physically exhausted and completely burned out. In work I take longer to handle basic tasks, often wasting time with stupid mistakes I wouldn't normally do; outside of work I have no energy for anything else. I was hoping to hang on another 6 months to complete some interesting projects (which would also be good for the resume) but I do not know if I can hang on that long. I had 2 weeks off sick in May, and even after a recent bank holiday break I have had a few more days off sick from exhaustion.

I know that some of this is due to company culture (demanding stakeholders, poor product management, working in an undersized highly sought after team etc) and of my own doing for putting in too many hours in and out of the office.

I am proud of what I have achieved, and my boss has been very supportive. But the bottom line is I do not get paid enough to ruin my physical and mental health like this (I am paid below market value but that is irrelevant).

So my questions are:

  • Is looking for a new job a good solution or am I likely to just suffer the same things further down the line?
  • If I hand in my notice and take a few months off will it affect my career growth?

I don't want to lose any momentum I've made so far, and I know the local market for my experience level is oversaturated.

  • 3
    Definitely see a doctor and perhaps even a mental health professional. Aside from that, though, have you taken any real holidays aside from long weekends and sick leave? A couple weeks spent travelling or engaging in hobbies can do wonders. Sep 1, 2019 at 5:44
  • "If I hand in my notice and take a few months off will it affect my career growth?" Aside from all the points already raised, have you considered the possibility of asking for a leave of absence?
    – user
    Sep 1, 2019 at 20:34
  • Did you take any vacation during past 3 years (other than sick leave)? How long was that? If you did, did you spent majority of the vacation to study for the role?
    – AlexanderM
    Sep 2, 2019 at 14:33

4 Answers 4


Question: How many hour a week do you work (either paid or unpaid)?

40 hours a week should be maintainable. Anything above that you need to cut it down. Since you are thinking about changing jobs or just having a break, which means your boss loses you 100%, you can go to your boss and say "the working hours that I do are too much. I'll cut it down to 40 hours a week. I hope you are fine with that, because if you're not, I'm gone".

If you change jobs, will the same thing happen? Yes, if you let it happen. No, if you don't. You know your limits. And it's not as if extra hours make you more productive - I bet you are less productive per week now when you are fearing burnout, as if you were to work 40 hours.

If you take a break, will that affect your career? It will. But a voluntary break now will affect it less than a forced break because you get too exhausted.

  • "because if you're not [fine with it], I'm gone" Of course, this comes with all the standard caveats of telling one's boss "this is what I want, it's either that or I'm leaving" (though usually when those caveats are brought up, it's in terms of getting a higher pay, not reduced hours). It's not necessarily a bad thing in this case, but it's still worth considering just as much as if the demand was, say, a higher pay.
    – user
    Sep 1, 2019 at 20:31

The first thing is that regardless of the root cause -- underlying health issue, or stress-induced health problem -- something has to give. I'm going to ignore root causes and focus solely on how to regain control over your work load and associated stress.

One of the first things you need to learn about "work" is that if you don't tell your boss you're overloaded, your boss just may not know. Some are more sensitive, some aren't. I had a web developer working for me who was clearly in bad shape, and I sent him home for several days of free vacation. I also worked internally to see what I could do to get him help. He clearly felt he had to over-work himself, and I clearly felt he was just too important to lose to illness or burnout.

What you don't want to do is walk into your boss's office and make some kind of ultimatum. "I'm only going to work 40 hours a week, or I quit." My answer would be ... "when is your last day of work?"

From your question it sounds like you are doing work and have the support of your boss. Focus on what your personal needs are (less stress, better work/life balance), what you've done for the company in the past (lots of great work), and what you want things to look like (someone to pick up some load, perhaps on the lower skills end so you get to move up the responsibility ladder).

Work with your boss to find a plan to transition some of your workload and have the time you need to have a personal life and take care of yourself.


The work will be there tomorrow. Leave every work day at a normal time. It's a pretty messed-up world we live in with this pressure we live with to put in more hours. For what? So we can get an atta-boy or a t-shirt? I'm sorry but do the job you were paid to do and nothing more. If ladder-climbing is your goal then have at it. Otherwise you can easily go somewhere else and most likely get paid way more. You have nothing to lose by taking interviews. You already have a job if the interviews don't work out. But if they do lead to a better job you'll have a fresh start oh, a better paycheck, and A renewed Outlook.


thyroid deficiency and adrenal fatigue, look it up and go see a doctor.

normal is a permanent load of 40-50 hours without even taking vacations, with vacations you should be able to maintain these hours for years. if you have trouble already now, there is maybe a medical reason.

only after you have eliminated possible causes you should start looking into reducing hours or changing your type of work. usually those come with a drop of income and if you go that route first you will have a worse overall situation once you realize it was medical.

good luck!

  • 2
    1. Please tidy your grammar. Write in sentences and start each with a capital letter.
    – RedSonja
    Sep 1, 2019 at 6:03
  • 2
    2. 40 to 50 hours is not normal.
    – RedSonja
    Sep 1, 2019 at 6:04
  • 4
    3. Even if you are a qualified doctor do not give medical advice to strangers on the internet. Suggest OP see a doctor, no more, or say "sounds like...".
    – RedSonja
    Sep 1, 2019 at 6:06
  • 1
    +1 for what @RedSonja said about not giving medical advice. It was only after being given an HIV (!) test that my doctor asked if I was under a lot of stress. The causal relationship between "illness" and "burnout" isn't always obvious. But also, the ability to tolerate a workload is highly individualized. My "ideal load", assuming a cooperative work environment, is 50-55 hours a week. For others, 40 is about their tolerance for not having a personal life. I happen to love the work I do. I'm both willing AND able, to work on interesting projects some pretty obscene hours. Sep 1, 2019 at 14:17
  • 1
    @Omegastick I work in Germany so normal is 35 hours. 40 is bearable. If you do more you are so weary that you spend more time chasing the errors you just made... Especially if you want to work for years, don't overdo it.
    – RedSonja
    Sep 3, 2019 at 10:58

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