Burnout is now officially recognised as a medical condition

While some could have been tempted to dismiss burnout as millennial jargon or just a phase, it’s not that easy to dismiss anymore.

Especially now that it has now been added to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Classification of Diseases, meaning that it will become a globally-recognised medical condition from 2020.

WHO defines burnout as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

The organisation only refers to such feelings within work environments and clarifies that burnout should not be applied to describe symptoms caused by other life situations.

“Although there may be multiple factors that, in conjunction, can lead to burnout, it seems the workplace environment can be key in the development of burnout,” said Dr Anthony Koller, specialist psychiatrist at the Akeso Psychiatric Clinic Group.

Lyndy van den Barselaar, managing director at ManpowerGroup SA, said “burnout will not only cause physical and mental health issues for employees, but will also cause ineffectiveness in the workplace.

“Therefore, it is in the employers best interest to ensure they take the correct steps to mitigate this.”

A 2018 study conducted by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) revealed that more than 40% of all work-related illness is due to work-related stress, major depression, burnout and anxiety disorders.

According to the Medscape Physician Lifestyle Report 2015, job burnout affects professionals working across all occupations, but appears to be most prevalent among those in service jobs, particularly physicians – 46% of whom have reported experiencing it.

Melany Hendricks, principal clinical psychologist at Stikland Hospital in Bellville said being mindful of one’s physical and mental health, thereby recognising fatigue and exhaustion at work, is the first step to avoid burnout.

Following the acknowledgement, a number of intervention strategies can be used, said Hendricks.

“Most focus on the individual and the importance of self-care.

“At work, suggestions are made to change the pattern of working, take more breaks and achieve a better balance between work and life outside of the workplace. The latter means that one must avoid working too much and sometimes working overtime should also be scaled down or avoided completely.”

Hendricks said people should aim to improve coping skills, this includes conflict and time management, as well as changing the way you think about things.

Social support, that is support from family members, friends and colleagues, are important in managing works stress, as well as improving one’s level of fitness and physical health.

Therapy or counselling to improve self-awareness and understanding is sometimes indicated.

Modern technology allows for work to interfere in the personal arena.

“Therefore, where technology impacts on personal time all efforts must be made to allow for work-life integration, which does not put too much strain on physical and mental health and personal relationships.”

New and creative ways of managing the flexible boundaries between work and personal time needs to be devised, said Hendricks.

Where to get help: Sadag: To contact a counsellor between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday, call 0112344837.

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