Burn-out is an "occupational phenomenon"
International Classification of Diseases
28 MAY 2019 - Burn-out is included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon.
It is not classified as a medical condition. It is described in the chapter: ‘Factors influencing health status or contact with health services’—which includes reasons for which people contact health services but that are not classed as illnesses or health conditions.
Burn-out is defined in ICD-11 as follows:
“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.
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
The World Health Organization is about to embark on the development of evidence-based guidelines on mental well-being in the workplace.
Globally, an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression, one of the leading causes of disability, with many of these people also suffering from symptoms of anxiety.
MENTAL HEALTH in the Workplace
World Health Organization Information sheet
- Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems.
- Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
- Harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems, and can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health.
- There are many effective actions that organizations can take to promote mental health in the workplace; such actions may also benefit productivity.
- For every US$ 1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US$ 4 in improved health and productivity.
Globally, an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression, one of the leading causes of disability, with many of these people also suffering from symptoms of anxiety. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Unemployment is a well-recognized risk factor for mental health problems, while returning to, or getting work is protective. A negative working environment may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity. Workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains.
This information sheet addresses mental health and disorders in the workplace. It also covers difficulties which are not mental disorders but which may be created or exacerbated by work such as stress and burnout.
Work-related risk factors for health
There are many risk factors for mental health that may be present in the working environment. Most risks relate to interactions between type of work, the organizational and managerial environment, the skills and competencies of employees, and the support available for employees to carry out their work. For example, a person may have the skills to complete tasks, but they may have too few resources to do what is required, or there may be unsupportive managerial or organizational practices.
Risks to mental health include:
- inadequate health and safety policies;
- poor communication and management practices;
- limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work;
- low levels of support for employees;
- inflexible working hours; and
- unclear tasks or organizational objectives.
Risks may also be related to job content, such as unsuitable tasks for the person’s competencies or a high and unrelenting workload. Some jobs may carry a higher personal risk than others (e.g. first responders and humanitarian workers), which can have an impact on mental health and be a cause of symptoms of mental disorders, or lead to harmful use of alcohol or psychoactive drugs. Risk may be increased in situations where there is a lack of team cohesion or social support.
Bullying and psychological harassment (also known as “mobbing”) are commonly reported causes of work-related stress by workers and present risks to the health of workers. They are associated with both psychological and physical problems. These health consequences can have costs for employers in terms of reduced productivity and increased staff turnover. They can also have a negative impact on family and social interactions.
Creating a healthy workplace
An important element of achieving a healthy workplace is the development of governmental legislation, strategies and polices as highlighted by the European Union Compass work in this area.
A healthy workplace can be described as one where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety and well-being of all employees. An academic report from 2014 suggests that interventions should take a three-pronged approach:
- Protect mental health by reducing work–related risk factors.
- Promote mental health by developing the positive aspects of work and the strengths of employees.
- Address mental health problems regardless of cause.
Building on this, a guide from the World Economic Forum highlights steps organizations can take to create a healthy workplace, including:
- Awareness of the workplace environment and how it can be adapted to promote better mental health for different employees.
- Learning from the motivations of organizational leaders and employees who have taken action.
- Not reinventing wheels by being aware of what other companies who have taken action have done.
- Understanding the opportunities and needs of individual employees, in helping to develop better policies for workplace mental health.
- Awareness of sources of support and where people can find help.
Published in Mosaic newsletter, 2020 Q1&2, Spring issue