Okay, so if you haven’t heard, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that burnout can be medically diagnosed.
Which is pretty crazy if you think about it, working too hard a medical diagnosis? This is where the lines could become blurred.
Burnout is a serious condition. It completely changes the way your body functions, your mental state and the way you process emotions. It’s not something to be scoffed at.
For people who have suffered from burnout, they will tell you it changed everything for them. The way they worked, exercised, ate, spent time with family and friends. Literally every aspect.
I understand a lot of people look at burnout as something simple to overcome, it really isn’t that simple.
So let’s break it down, what is burnout?
It is complete physical, mental and emotional exhaustion from experiencing prolonged stress.
I have mentioned in previous articles/blog posts that that stress doesn’t always start off as a negative. For some people, it can be positive.
The WHO has suggested that you get burnout from overworking. But what are the causes?
I think we have to look at a lot of different facets to get to the answer.
Expectations can cause a lot of conflicts if not managed properly. Whether it’s between managers and employees or the expectations people put on themselves.
Here’s my experience working with clients who have suffered burnout, they usually suffer from their own expectations. Their willing to exceed their any expectation.
Now, I’m not saying that’s always a bad thing. However, we have to look at what cost? For a lot of top performers, burning out is their worst nightmare. They will have no choice but to slow down.
On the other hand, what if managers or employers expectations are too high. This is something I have also seen. Where there is simply not enough time in the day to physically do the work. People can bust their butts trying to reach specific deadlines or targets, which are simply unachievable.
I have had one client say they literally worked 20 hours straight to reach a deadline. Annnnnd did those hours multiple times. That is a clear indication that the workload was too high.
Not only that, if you are constantly working towards an unachievable goal/deadline/target, switching off is going to be a problem.
2) The 9–5 is DEAD
What a dream that was. Coming into work at 9 am and leaving at 5 pm, what a life.
I have to say I’ve never worked in an industry where I was able to work 9–5, but hey, it was a thing. Most people I speak to are working a lot longer than that.
Then with the development of technology, work hours have dramatically changed. People can check their emails and receive phones calls at all times of the day.
Technology has given people a lot of freedom. However, it has also changed the way we work. The hours we work and how much “downtime” we get.
Not only that, but people are also programming their brains to react to every sound and vibration their phones make. Creating a new phenomenon where people are always “on”.
People have become incredibly reactionary to their phones. This doesn’t allow them to really switch off if they aren’t proactive about it.
3) Lack of Feeling Accomplished and Satisfied
Okay, so this is a little follow on from number one. Let’s think about this logically. If you are unable to hit your goals, targets or hit deadlines would you feel accomplished or satisfied? I’m going to take a wild guess and say no.
This is the mental and emotional aspect of burnout. If you don’t feel satisfied, accomplished or valued continuously, you will burn out.
A lot of employees who don’t reach their manager’s expectation (let alone their own) they won’t feel that buzz you get from succeeding.
Can you imagine never being able to relish in any success? It’s pretty bleak if you ask me.
This is a HUGE one for a lot of companies. I know countless people who have left their job burnt out because of the terrible culture.
Working in an environment that’s toxic is incredibly mentally and emotionally draining.
Trying to hit your targets, deadlines and goal while managing a toxic work culture won’t keep any good employee.
What we have to remember is stress has a very detrimental effect on the body. All of those areas can cause stress day in and day out. This is what causes burnout. The way responds to stress.
Reducing those stressors is the first step.
Are they the only causes of burnout? No, there are a lot of other areas when looking at burn out. It doesn’t always come from work. This is why people need to recognise the warning signs.
I guess my only concerns with burnout being diagnosable now is what are doctors looking for?
The WHO has said they are looking for:
1) Depletion in energy
2) Increase in mental distance from work
3) Reduced professional efficacy
They have also said they need to rule out other mental health issues. Such as anxiety, adjustment disorders and mood disorders.
My personal concern is that anxiety can be a symptom of burnout.
I hope the handbook on burnout from the WHO will be a little more detailed. Those symptoms are quite generic. There also needs to be more clarification around certain areas.
What are some take-home notes?
Burnout is a complicated illness. There isn’t one solution. There isn’t one answer.
Companies will need to take a personalised approach to how to prevent and overcome burnout for their employees.
Stress is the biggest factor when it comes to burnout. Finding solutions, investing in education and changing protocols is important.
Get Your Sh*t Together - Literally and Figuratively