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Burnout, the new stress?



Wellbeing expert and founder of online wellbeing resource MyWellbeing.org John Hamilton explores how managers can help tackle the issue of burnout in the workplace.

A lot of attention has been focussed on the stressful nature of the modern workplace and the consequent impact on the health of employees as they struggle with high workloads, deadlines, and never-ending change. Yet for many workers it’s not the actual work that they find difficult but the nature of the relationship they have with their job and the people they work with, particularly in professions which involve a high level of emotional energy such as teaching and healthcare.

What’s unique about these jobs is that a significant amount of time is spent dealing with other people’s problems or difficulties. As a result they are more at risk of burnout than those in other jobs. Burnout is a syndrome typically characterised by feelings of emotional exhaustion, significant levels of disengagement, and a lack of self-worth and self-efficacy. As such workers affected by burnout often feel they are working too hard, they don’t care about the people they support or care for at work, and don’t feel their work makes any difference to others or is valued.

In addition to factors that cause stress, such as high demands, low levels of control, and lack of support, burnout can be influenced by lack of reward and recognition, perceptions of unfairness, and a lack of alignment of personal values to those of the employer.

Un po' di yoga prima di ricominciare...

Photo used under Creative Commons license and courtesy of enfad

Tackling the demands that individuals face is an important step that managers can take to help individuals suffering burnout, as well as providing them with access to traditional therapies such as counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and relaxation techniques. However, recent work has shown that a range of non-health interventions may be equally important in helping individuals with the relationship they have with their work.

One such example is the use of job coaching to help the individual focus on their issues with work, stimulate and challenge them and engender high expectations. The coach’s role is to help the individual challenge their present perceptions and beliefs, helping them find a different way forward to achieve their goal and bring a sense of perspective to their situation.

The ultimate aim however, is to find a way forward for the individual ideally in their current job, however for some it might result in the realisation that it’s time for something new.

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John Hamilton

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