“The wise rest at least as hard as they work.”
Something interesting happened on the 28th of May 2019.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recognized and classified workplace burnout as a Occupational phenomena but they did stop short of classifying it as full disease (2).
For those interested ” Burnout ” is now officially defined as by the WHO as
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy “
If you are suffering from 3 of the above criteria it’s possible you may actually be suffering from burnout.
It’s important to note that burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.” (1) This is important to note as there is a lot of overlap between burnout and other conditions such as depression so i think the WHO got this right in seeking to limit the definition of burnout to just the workplace.
This is still a significant step forward as clearer terminology leads to better studies and hence better solutions to this perplexing problem. It’s likely as this important topic gets more attention we can better manage burnout and its implications.
Let’s talk more about Burnout
Having experienced a burnout last year I now have more than academic interest in the topic.
The movies like to depict a sudden snap where all of sudden you are wearing your pajamas to work and making goodbye speeches standing on your desk. The reality is far more boring. And depressing.
You find yourself tired all the time, growing increasingly disconnected from you work and meaning that you attributed to it. Your coping mechanics such as a quick holiday or a few cheeky bevies on the weekend that used to see you through no-longer seem to be effective and in some cases just make the problem worse.
In his classic “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” Michael Gerber talks about another peak in business failure rates around 5 years. It’s not because the the business was unsound, it was financially viable and had found a niche to service and generate income. It had survived the dreaded start up phase. But it failed for another reason. The owner simply burned out from exhaustion.