Very much a 21st century phenomenon, burnout is now included in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon.
Although it’s not classified as a medical condition, it’s described by WHO as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. It has three main characteristics:
- Feelings of energy depletion (low physical, emotional and cognitive energy), which can result in exhaustion.
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.
- Reduced professional efficacy, in which we feel despairing about our power to create meaningful change at work.
Burnout manifests as:
- Physical: Tension, chronic headaches, stomach problems, exhaustion.
- Emotional: Emotional blunting, helplessness, cynicism, depletion.
- Behavioural: Withdrawal, irritability, neglecting personal needs, loss of motivation.
In Australia, work-related mental health conditions (also known as psychological injuries) have become a major concern in workplaces due to the negative impact on individual employees, and the costs associated with the long periods away from work that are typical of these claims.
According to SafeWork, each year:
- 7,200 Australians are compensated for work-related mental health conditions, equating to around 6% of workers’ compensation claims
- Approximately $543 million is paid in workers’ compensation for work-related mental health conditions
Work-related mental-health conditions have a number of causes, ranging across:
- high job demand
- low job demand
- poor support
- poor workplace relationships
- low role clarity
- poor organisational change management
- poor organisational justice
- poor environmental conditions
- remote or isolated work, and
- violent or traumatic events
How companies approach employee burnout is so important. Employers need to be proactive around burnout, rather than waiting for the workforce to collapse in a heap. You can do this by:
- Modelling a healthy work-life balance. Managers need to lead by example!
- Foster healthy workplace relationships
- Open the lines of communication
Employers should try to create a positive workplace culture that acknowledges and tries to prevent burnout in the team. Be proactive in creating an environment that is open, accepting and understanding of employees’ health and wellbeing.
Just as you would invest in training courses to increase productivity, investing proactively in care and communication can pre-empt the harmful effects of unaddressed staff burnout on your company.
Need help to beat burnout in the workplace? Have a chat to the professional team at the HR Dept. We’re here to help.