Workplace burnout is real!

BY PAUL ALLEN
Observer writer

Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Bemoaning work and lamenting how tiring it is almost seems to be a rite of passage that starts when one is newly employed and lasts all the way to retirement.

Sometimes, it is as simple as us doing the right thing at the wrong place, or not doing the right thing professionally for ourselves at all. There are a few who are genuinely convinced that they were not cut out for work at all, but those are trust fund perceptions we cannot afford to adopt, literally.

However, burnout is a very real thing. It sounds like something created in the inner recesses of social media when the late shift moves in, but was designated an “occupational phenomenon” by the World Health Organisation's (WHO) 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) earlier this year. Important - it's not a medical condition, so don't call out 'sick and fed up', expecting to get a doctor's note to give to your boss on return.

According to the WHO, “burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Among the factors listed as indicators of burnout are feeling depleted or exhausted, increased mental distance from your job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to the job, and reduced professional efficacy or effectiveness. Previously, burnout was defined as a “state of vital exhaustion”.

In essence, if you constantly feel tired and stressed at work, dread being there and the high point of your day is leaving, there is a good chance you are experiencing burnout.

While the declaration seems wide-reaching, the WHO says it “refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life”.

Burnout is pretty widespread, and increasingly so in workplaces where staff have large expectations and feel that their salary compensation and other benefits may not be adequate.

Consider that you spend much of your time at work and, when not there, perhaps spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about it; if the time spent there isn't satisfactory and the thoughts about it are not positive, then it can easily begin to affect other aspects of your life.

Tricia Morgan, nurse, said when she began working at one of the public hospitals after school, she thought she had found her passion and her dream job. “Work at any public health institution will be difficult, and I expected that,” she said.

What she did not expect, however, was the many systemic issues that plagued the institution and which hampered her work. Shortages of beds, medicines, medical supplies and being short-staffed, at times, which resulted in others being constantly overworked was the norm, Morgan said, adding that it began to take a toll on her not just mentally, but also physically.

“There were days when I felt like I literally could not get out of bed to go back to those ever-worsening conditions and knowing that there were people expecting me to perform miracles with what we had to work with.”

It's important that someone who may be feeling burnt out find ways to address this. Often, a break from that environment may be what is needed but that doesn't change the environment, which is problematic when they have to return to it shortly.

Determining an approach to help you deal with the environment and the feeling of burnout will better help you to cope. Some strategies that can be tried are exercise, getting adequate sleep and eating healthy. Failing that, a discussion with your supervisor and or human resource lead may be necessary to see if some of the issues you have can be addressed and if not, if you could possibly be placed elsewhere and if none of that works, it is possible you may just need a new job altogether.


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