Burnout as an occupational hazard
In May 2019, burnout was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an ‘occupational phenomenon’.
Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.
Common signs of burnout:
- Feeling tired or drained most of the time
- Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
- Feeling detached/alone in the world
- Having a cynical/negative outlook
- Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
- Feeling overwhelmed
The burning question
With the help of YouGov, we asked 2,279 adults about their perceptions of burnout and what they think could contribute towards it in 2020, considering the covid-19 pandemic.
Lockdown drastically affected our work-life balance. The lines between work and home life have become increasingly blurred. Many of us are working longer hours, have been looking after children during the working day, and for many, having limited social interaction or change in environment.
51% of people felt that they were more prone to extreme levels of stress this year compared to the same time last year, and 1 in 5 people (20%) working full-time felt unable to manage pressure and stress at work.
Why is burnout important?
Burnout doesn’t go away on its own. It will get worse unless you address the underlying issues causing it. If you ignore the signs of burnout, it could cause further harm to your physical and mental health in the future. You could also lose the ability and energy to effectively meet the demands of your job which could have knock-on effects to the other areas of your life.
As prevalent as it is, burnout is often misunderstood, stigmatised, and costly both to employees’ health and wellbeing, and employers’ productivity.
The role of the workplace in burnout
Our research found that just 23% of people knew what plans their employers had in place to help spot signs of chronic stress and burnout in employees. This suggests that employers need to make more effort to communicate with their employees about the support that is available for work-related stress, and to educate their employees about recognising and managing stress and deteriorating mental health in themselves before things become too difficult to manage
You could use a Wellbeing Plan as a tool to help you identify what good wellbeing looks like for you, as well as what it looks like when things aren’t so good. You could share this with your team so that you can help to look out for each other.
Stress Risk Assessments are another way you can explore stress in yourself and others at work. These work the same way as a regular health and safety risk assessment: you identify a risk, then explore ways of removing or reducing the risk. This could be explored during 1:1s or less formal check-ins.