The World Health Organization states:

 Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully recognised and managed. It is characterized 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
    3. reduced professional efficacy.

With the WHO’s recognition and definition, it’s easier to see the difference between stress and burnout. People suffering from stress still have motivation and an urgency to get things done or make a change.

Burnout, on the other hand, is solely job-related. Sufferers have moved beyond stress and beyond caring, because they believe they can’t make a difference and any more effort isn’t going to make a change. People suffering from burnout have nothing more to give. They often do not recognise the state they are in and often colleagues are too busy, or do not know what to do, to help colleagues.

Gallup research suggests there are five factors that contribute to employee burnout:

Unfair treatment at work

Unmanageable workload

Lack of role clarity

Lack of communication and support from manager

Unreasonable time pressure

Other research suggests that employees who feel their job doesn’t have a purpose or aren’t in control of their role are also prone to burnout, where cynicism and disengagement are likely to develop.

The good news is that there are solutions – or rather – preventative methods that employers can implement to support their employees:

Recognise the importance of mental health in their employees – and that it’s as important as physical health.

Develop an open culture where mental health is important and employees are empowered to talk openly about mental health.

Risk assess areas of work and / or specific roles and jobs for potential increasing stress and eventually possible burnout.

Educate Line Managers about mental health and burnout and encourage them to recognise employees potentially leading to burnout early and direct them to professional support services.

Implement proactive Employee Wellbeing lifestyle related programs which develop employee resilience to minimise risk of mental and physical health and prepare them for challenges both at work and home.

Encourage employees to be open if they are starting to suffer stress, before it slips towards burnout, and recognise if a colleague or friend appears to be suffering. Starting a simple conversation with the words ‘how are you’ is often enough to start a process of awareness and help.

And at a personal level, employees can:

Ensure good sleep (quantity and quality are both important) to restore energy levels and reset the mind. Avoid stimulants before bed.

Eat well – a healthy diet will prevent feelings of being run-down or feeling sluggish.

Relaxation techniques – hobbies, meditation, mindfulness can prevent thinking about work.

Exercise – to prevent depression.

Social activity – shared conversations can provide perspective and differing points of view.

Monitor screen time – turn off devices two hours before sleep. Avoid social media and internet surfing.

Develop a work life balance where the ‘24 hour electronic office’ allows personal time.

Organisational tools. A priority list can stop the feeling of being overwhelmed.

For further support & advice contact EAP Assist