Burnout is one of the civilization diseases that affects modern society. It negatively affects both the functioning of the company and the private life of the employee. What is burnout and how can you prevent it? You will find the answer in the article.

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What is burnout?

Burnout, or burnout syndrome is a long-term process, of which the main causes are:

  • excessive stress
  • overwork
  • setting for yourself too high goals and expectations of yourself

This phenomenon was first described by a psychologist – Herbert Freudenberger – who, in 1974 published research on burnout. So far, burnout has been classified as an occupational syndrome, which significantly affects the health of the employee. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) made changes to this issue, by entering occupational burnout on the list of the International Classification of Diseases and Health Problems (ICD – International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems). Unfortunately, due to the long lasting updating process, the new list was to start applying from January 1, 2022.

From January 1, 2021, occupational burnout is the basis for obtaining a sick leave (L4 – Medical Certificate).

What are the symptoms?

According to the theory of psychologist Christina Maslach about three dimensions of burnout, this phenomenon consists of 3 main elements:

emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and lowering the sense of personal achievement.

What are the different stages of occupational burnout?

You will find the answer in the table below.

Emotional exhaustionfatigue, lack of energy, discouragement to work, pessimism, irritability, insomnia, headaches, psychophysical tension
Depersonalization (dehumanizing)indifference, distance to other people’s problems, superficiality, cynicism, lack of commitment to relationships with other people (also with the client)

Decreased personal performance
dissatisfaction with performance at work, a feeling of lack of competence, lack of faith in one’s own abilities, inability to adapt to changing working conditions, conflict, verbal aggression, sense of lack of understanding on the part of supervisors and co-workers, absenteeism from work

Maslach reports that the various phases of occupational burnout occur most frequently in the following order: 1) emotional exhaustion → 2) depersonalization → 3) lowering the sense of personal achievements; however, this is not necessarily the case.

The causes of occupational burnout

To be able to prevent employee burnout, think about what causes them. 

For this purpose, we recommend reading the research by Kronos Incorporated and Future Workplace The Employee Burnout Crisis.

As many as 95% of respondents admitted that occupational burnout significantly affects the functioning of the company.

The main causes of burnout are:

  • inadequate salary (41%)
  • overwork (32%)
  • overtime (32%)
  • ineffective management in the company (30%)
  • no relationship between the role of the employee and the company’s strategy (29%)
  • low work culture (26%)

It is commonly believed that the most vulnerable to burnout are people working as: teacher, psychologist, doctor, nurse, clerk, policeman, social worker. The common denominator of these professions is the direct contact with a person (client).

However, burnout can affect anyone, regardless of the industry. Burnout symptoms are becoming more and more common, e.g. for people working remotely for corporations or for independent employees on contract of mandate. It is possible that organizing the workplace and working time, and also setting the goal to achieve too high for yourself, can have a huge impact on your health.

Remember! It is very easy to confuse burnout with general life burnout or depression. If you are not sure of what the cause of your (or your loved one’s) health condition is, it is worth going to a specialist.

Read more about the thin line between depression and burnout. 

How to prevent it?

Unfortunately, many employers react to burnout of their employees only after the fact. As we all well know, prevention is always better than cure!

First of all, the employer should learn more about occupational burnout,

so that to introduce appropriate preventive measures in his company.

One of the most important aspects is maintaining a balance between work and private life. Another important issue is promoting a healthy lifestyle (healthy eating, exercise, well-being), as well as taking care of the mental health of employees. We notice that after the pandemic, many employers have decided to introduce an additional benefit for employees in the form of psychological assistance (e.g. access to psychotherapy).

Apart from that, the employer can introduce more effective ways to track and manage employees’ attendances. It is also worth considering the use of innovative tools for independent planning and organization of working time, to give the employee more freedom and adapt to his work mode.

A good solution would also be to hire a Workforce Advisor, who would help employees plan their holidays, overtime and general management of working time. Keeping burnout statistics and analyzing data could prove equally useful.

Preventing burnout will bring mutual benefits for both employees and the entrepreneurs. Without an efficient team, the company cannot exist!

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