- Employers can no longer overlook burnout in the workplace, now that it's an official "occupational phenomenon" listed in the World Health Organization's (WHO) 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The ICD-11 describes burnout as "a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."
- According to the ICD-11, its symptoms include: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion or; 2) increased mental distance from a job, or negative or cynical feelings related to a job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy.
- WHO's official classification for burnout is under "problems associated with employment or unemployment." WHO said burnout was included in the ICD-10, too, but now the phenomenon is defined with more detail in the ICD-11.
Employers have started to see the effect of burnout on employees' health, productivity and retention in recent years. With burnout officially classified in the ICD-11, however, it might be a call to action for employers to look out for burnout symptoms and get affected workers the support they need.
More than half the employees in a 2018 University of Phoenix poll reported experiencing burnout. A poll conducted earlier that year found that 60% of working parents experience the phenomenon. Burnout is seen as a somewhat ubiquitous experience for the entire of the millennial generation, too. The data may trouble employers because the employees affected can bring a lot to the workplace.
"Burnout happens when highly engaged employees have increasingly low well-being due to job pressures, overload and a lack of manager and organizational support," Laura Hamill, chief people officer at Limeade, an employee experience platform, told HR Dive in an email. "Ultimately, these top performing, highly engaged employees will leave or worse. Burnout is totally preventable, but leaders need to understand how they're causing it and what they can do to prevent it."
Though preventive measures, like encouraging workers to reengage at work in the morning or take a few days off could be helpful, they might not be enough to treat workers once burnout sets in. HR leaders can teach managers to recognize symptoms, review adjust employees' workloads and refer affected workers to treatment services, such as employee assistance programs. Allowing flexible work arrangements could also help them reset and recharge.