Burnout is officially identified as an illness

Date: Wednesday, 3rd July, 2019

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed it will recognise the growing issue of corporate burnout as a medical condition, meaning, by 2020 it will officially be identified in the International Classification of Diseases.

Burnout, which the WHO identifies specifically as a ‘workplace issue’, is officially described as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”, in the WHO’s official definition of the new condition.

The WHO state: “It is characterised by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

So what does the new classification mean?

The WHO classification means that workers experiencing the issue will be able to receive a medical diagnosis. Along with mental illness, workers have historically felt discouraged from discussing such issues within the workplace.

Now, due to the classification, workers may well feel emboldened to open up about the issue, therefore preventing a culture of taboo.

What is “burnout” 

The condition was first researched and published in a psychology journal in 1974 by Doctor Herbert Freudenberger and was based on observing volunteer’s at a free clinic for drug addicts. He coined the term after identifying a set of symptoms including exhaustion resulting from work’s excessive demands, as well as headaches, sleeplessness, short temper, brain fog and what he called ‘closed thinking’.

What are the symptoms of “burnout “

1. Feeling tired all the time

We all know that a healthy diet and a relaxed sleeping environment can contribute to your day-to-day alertness, there is no substitute for going to bed at a reasonable hour. While you may be tempted to finish that final report, don’t, it may well be sending you on a path to burnout.

2. Increased anxiety

Often, work is a stressful environment to be in, but this is made far worse by the cognitive catastrophe that is burnout. Whilst outside factors may present, reducing your work stress, refusing to take on tasks that you can’t handle and taking your allotted break time to relax will have a marked effect on your anxiety levels.

When feeling like work has taken over your life, it’s natural to see a slump in your motivation levels. This can result in a decreased output and potentially negative consequences from your management. Remember, motivation is like a muscle; it must be utilised and exercised to be successful.

4. Lack of positive habits

The classic image of a burnt-out worker usually features unkept hair, blotchy skin and stained clothes. When your workload is affecting your daily routine to such levels, it’s time to accept that you’re suffering from burnout; maintaining yourself and your positive habits is essential for any member of a workforce.

5. Severe health issues 

If burnout isn’t dealt with, the consequences can be potentially life-threatening. Whilst symptoms may start with back pain, migraines and eye-strain, feeling like you’re drowning in your workload, have led to strokes and even heart attacks for some workers who refuse to seek help. Research has found that 70% of polled CEOs were in a severely unhealthy fitness condition, whilst 100% claimed to be suffering from some sort of stress ailment including headaches, asthma, ulcers and backaches.

If you have any HR issues that you need to address, then give us a call, were are here to help!

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