Unfortunately, many individuals blame themselves when they feel burnt out at work. They always look for things which they could have done differently in order to have prevented it. Whether it be taking more holiday, or not working quite as heard. However, there is significant evidence which suggests that burnout isn’t quite that simple.
Organisations throughout the world are now being tasked more with the ability to manage the burnout of their employees and build a strategy around employees in order to reduce their chances of burnout. The evidence is mounting up that burnout isn’t caused by the people, but by the workplace that they are in.
The term burnout was first coined in the 1970s, and still to this day, the medical community has struggled to exactly define it. In May 2021, the WHO included burnout as an internationally classified disease, and therefore it could be assumed that burnout is in fact a medical condition. However, they then went on to clarify that it isn’t a medical condition, but an ‘occupational phenomenon’, which further fuels the confusion over exactly what burnout is.
Here is what the WHO stated in their release on the topic:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three 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; and
- 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.”
As stated, people generally look at burnout from the wrong perspective. This has only been exacerbated with the WHO’s statements on the topic. It implies that the person has something wrong with them. However, there are many reasons for burnout which actually have nothing to do with the individual themselves.
According to a survey performed by Gallup, they found that the top five causes for burnout were:
- A feeling of mistreatment at work
- An unmanageable workload
- Lack of clarity within your role
- A lack of communication and/or support from management
- Unreasonable pressure on time for completion of tasks
It is clear from this study that the problem with burnout isn’t the individuals themselves, but the environment in which they are working. This emphasises the requirement for management teams to notice this and work towards improving the workplace environment to reduce the likelihood of burnout.
Organisations throughout the world should take note of the impact the pandemic has had on their staff, and work towards making effective changes within the workplace in order to prevent burnout. This is the reality. Burnout isn’t a guarantee, and it is wholly preventable when implementing empathetic policies and changes at work. It is imperative to remember that as leaders, you are the key to a reduction in burnout amongst your team. By reducing the chances of burnout, you will also find that general productivity and staff morale will increase significantly.