Work Burnout is Now a Mental Health Diagnosis


Ever feel like you may be suffering from work burnout? The World Health Organization now says it’s a real thing and they’re officially recognizing it.

Work burnout? Yep, it’s really a thing.

The World Health Organization says it’s now recognizing the condition as an actual mental health condition. The agency announced Tuesday it will add burnout as an official syndrome in their International Classification of Diseases Handbook. The listings will go into effect in January 2022.

I suppose anyone feeling work burnout until then will just continue to be told they think too much or it’s all in their head.

WHO says it is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. The agency’s official definition of the condition applies only to the workplace and contains three parts:

  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; and
  3. Reduced professional efficacy.

Dan Schawbel, research director at HR advisory firm Future Workplace, told CNBC the syndrome is already an “epidemic” that he expects to worsen. He says employees feel undervalued, underpaid and are often pressured to skip vacation time and be “on call” to answer emails and text messages nearly 24/7.

“Basically, workers are getting taken advantage of,” Schawbel said. “As a result, people are burned out, they’re stressed out.”

I’ve been there.

I’ve felt what I’d call work burnout at times over my 28 years in TV. Ultimately, I’d find a different job in a different location.

But it wasn’t the change of setting that did the trick. For me, it was finally finding the right workplace with the right boss.

I do believe we workers bring a lot of burnout on ourselves with our own unreasonable expectations of ourselves, our bosses make a huge difference as well.

When you’re treated like you don’t matter, when you’re treated like you’re a “necessary evil,” you can’t possibly be happy longterm in such a workplace.

When you have a boss who really cares about you — and that’s not something most bosses can successfully fake — that alone can make a difference.

If you manage people, I urge you to take some time to think about those workers. Do they know you care? Do they know you value them? (Here’s a hint: If you haven’t made a point to say it and show it, assume they don’t.)

As a leader in my workplace, I take it personally. Some people will always feel burnout and be sensitive to it more than others. But a good manager makes sure he or she takes the time to get to know employees well enough to determine if that’s the case. And then that manager makes time to find ways to make things better.

Technology is definitely making life easier on one hand. But it’s complicating lives by intruding into personal time on the other.

Maybe part of fighting burnout is having leaders set rules about how much work is too much.

Much of what the workplace defines as an “emergency” really isn’t. And if your workplace acts like it’s full of the little boys who cried wolf, you’re in for a rough time.

Have you ever experienced work burnout? What did you do about it?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.