In recent years, it has become a worrying spectre hanging over the modern professional, but workplace burnout is now considered so serious that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified it as an “occupational phenomenon”. But how can you spot if burnout is affecting your workplace? And what can be done about it?
The prevalence of burnout is well documented, but many reports point to conditions like stress and depression rather than the core factor.
In its own in-depth research into burnout in the workplace, the EU examined the impact of and responses to the issue in EU member states. Germany reported that 10% of men and 11% of women experience burnout, with 7% of men and 9% of women reporting having symptoms of depression.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reported that some 526,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety between 2016 and 2017, causing the loss of 12.5 million working days.
Perhaps most telling is the fact that burnout can seriously injure talent retention efforts, with 84% of US millennials saying they have experienced burnout at their current job and almost 50% of millennials stating they have left a job specifically because they felt burned out.
What WHO Says
In their 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), WHO has described workplace burnout as an “occupational phenomenon”. In essence, this means that it is recognized as a very real issue affecting the modern working environment but it falls just short of being classified as a medical condition.
Instead, WHO says “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” the report states. It is characterized by 3 dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- reduced professional efficacy
“Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
How To Spot Burnout
The HR departments, it can be difficult to correctly spot burnout and not misread fatigue or stress and simply that. But there are a number of things to look out for.
- Unusually low energy or fatigue
- Reduced performance or productivity
- Uncharacteristic impatience or shortness with others
- Faltering relationships with colleagues
- Sudden micromanaging
- Increased absenteeism
If these symptoms are evident, then what that be done about it? Well, experts recommend meeting with the employee, listening to what they have to say and offering a few options, like:
- to reduce an employee’s workload
- to give the employee more time off
- to find a position better suited to him or her
Is Preventing Workplace Burnout Possible?
The good news is that it is not very difficult to address the issues that lead to burnout, and in doing so prevent it.
- Listen to Work-Related Issues
Employees want to know what they say is taken on board by management, and not simply paid lip-service. Gallup produced a report which revealed that employees whose managers show a willingness to listen to work-related problems are 62% less likely to be burned out.
- Encourage Co-Worker Support
While not abandoning their own responsibilities, managers can also encourage co-workers to look out for each other so as to more quickly identify any burgeoning problems.
- Make Work Purposeful
Ensuring employees feel their work is of genuine value is another way to work against workplace burnout. Show employees how their contribution makes a difference. Fill them in on progress the company is making.
- Offer Genuine Development Opportunities
Research suggests that employees who do what they do best are 57% less likely to experience burnout. This is because enjoying work breeds enthusiasm for the job. Offering development opportunities is way to ensure that enthusiasm continues as the employee’s career progresses.
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