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Burn-out Is Finally Getting the Recognition It Deserves

Eric Choma

Controller, 8+ Years of Diverse Accounting Experience & Consulting

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Burn-out Is Finally Getting the Recognition It Deserves Blog Feature

Published on May 31st, 2019

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Everyone gets tired at work.

But, have you ever been SO wiped out that it not only affects your energy level, but also your overall day-to-day effectiveness — and even relationships outside of work?

If so, you are not alone, and now the World Health Organisation (WHO) is bringing attention to this problem of work-related stress.

Burn-out from work is much more common than you would think.

In a thousand-person study conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, 1 in 5 employees who identified themselves as “engaged” at work also reported “high burn-out.”

These numbers are so staggering, burn-out has officially been named a medical condition.

Burn-out Is Finally Getting the Recognition it Deserves

Earlier this week, the WHO announced it will be updating the definition of burn-out in the new version of The International Classification of Diseases (ICD 11), which will go into effect in January, 2022.

According to the official description, “burn-out is a syndrome...resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Burn-out refers specifically to the phenomena in the context of the workplace and is characterized by three criteria:

  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
  3. Reduced professional efficacy

While this recognition is a step in the right direction of legitimizing the severity of the condition, more work needs to be done to clarify.

Elaine Cheung, a professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine agrees. "There needs to be greater critical discussion on how we can more precisely measure and define this condition."

Been There, Done That, Bought the T-shirt

Before I keep going, this topic is one that I hold near and dear to my heart. Upon graduating college, I started my career working at a “Big 4” public accounting firm.

Similar to marketing agencies and other client-service businesses that operate on a deadline, this industry can be notorious for churning and burning great talent.

I experienced this first hand.

My time there was a combination of long hours, demanding engagements, and a work culture that severely lacked balance.

I witnessed colleagues burn out and quit on a regular basis.

It caused great talent to leave. I started to see the signs of burn-out in myself during the first year but ended up sticking it out for four years.

By that time, I felt like a shell of a human. My friendships, relationships, and personal health suffered. I was also not putting out my best work.

So, I made the decision to leave and focus on myself.

I loved the people I worked with, there were plenty of opportunities for advancement, but I was just simply not happy and not my best self.

My Journey Post-Burnout

After leaving, I questioned whether or not I would ever want to work in an office environment again. I was definitely not ready to make a transition into another company after that experience.

The only person I could stand working for was myself. So, I took some big risks and started my own business.

It took me over five years to get past this bad experience, but when I did, I finally felt like I was in a great mental space for work and personal relationships.

I knew that if I wanted to transition back into a traditional office work environment, I needed to find a company that matched my core values and emphasized work-life balance.

Then I found IMPACT.

I can’t say that IMPACT is perfect or immune to balance challenges, but I can say that it is miles away from my four-year journey through workplace perdition.

By contrast, IMPACT focuses heavily on employee happiness and stress and is always trying to get better.

But back to the topic at hand. Given its formal recognition….

What Can We Do to Prevent Burn-out?

My burn-out situation was likely an extreme, so I also spoke with some of my colleagues at IMPACT about their experiences and ways they used to cope and prevent future burnouts.

While you can never truly control how much work comes across your desk, you can absolutely control your mindset and attitude.

Our COO, Chris Duprey, gave some timeless advice that rings true for anyone reading this:

Always set aside time for self-care (even if that means adding a recurring event to your work calendar). No one will do this for you.

Whether it’s meditation, ping pong, skateboarding, or video games, pick something you love to do and block out time for it on your busy calendar (and stick to it!).

As an employee, you should also bring it to your manager’s attention if you start to feel burnt out.

Without communication, your employer can’t do anything to help.

Is My Company Burning Out Our Employees?

Even if employees have the knowledge and skills to try and avoid burn-out, employers control more of the factors.

According to the WHO research:

“Employers have a big role in addressing burn-out by paying attention to whether employees have a sense of community at work, strong social relationships, a collegial environment, a workload that's not too burdensome, a sense of agency at work, and a healthy work-life balance."

In other words, even if an employee doesn’t recognize it, their company should or, at the very least.

Employers don’t want their employees getting burnt out.

But how can they know if they’ve created a stressful work environment?

If you’re wondering, answer these three questions:

  1. How do employees have fun and bond as a team? What opportunities do employees have to get to know each other better outside of work. (Team building is important.)
  2. What do employees do to create a cohesive working relationship with one another?  What do those relationships look like?
  3. How consistently are employees able to get all their work done on a daily and weekly basis?

If you don’t have positive or affirmative answers to these questions, it’s likely your work environment needs improvement.

So, What Next? I’m Burnt Out from Reading This!

If you’re an organization that wants to combat burn-out, use the questions above to evaluate your environment than work directly with your team to better understand what they believe will help turn the tides.

If you feel like you meet the criteria for burn-out, you should have a conversation with your manager as soon as possible.

Also, you should plan to mention it next time you’re seeking medical or mental health care.

On its own, burn-out isn’t considered a medical condition, but it represents added stress in your life that you may need to deal with, which can lead to serious health issues like high blood pressure, ulcers, and heart disease.

And remember, self-care is extremely important to prevent future burnout. Block out the time on your calendar and do something that makes you happy.

Want to share your burnout experience? Feel free to reach out!

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