Workplace ‘burnout’ is now an official medical condition after being added to the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases.
Meeting at the World Health Assembly this week, WHO stated that the ‘burn out’ classification will only apply to work-related stress, which makes it important for doctors to rule out mood-related disorders like adjustment disorder and anxiety.
Are you burned out at work?
We all have “one of those days” at work from time to time but if you’ve found yourself mentally and emotionally exhausted for a prolonged period, you’re likely burned out.
Other symptoms include feelings of uselessness, a seeming inability to “gain traction” on tasks or projects, and behaviours of detachment.
Using the media and marketing workers as an example, more than half said they were experiencing stress, with nearly 20% experiencing severe or extremely severe stress, according to Mentally Healthy 2018: A study into the creative media and marketing industry.
What causes occupational burnout?
The WHO found that there are six factors that contribute to workplace burnout:
- Having an overwhelming workload.
- Unrewarding work.
- Unfair work.
- Work that doesn’t align with your values.
- A lack of community in the workplace.
Of the top stressors, pressure on own expectations topped the list for those working in media and marketing industries, but batyr believes this could easily apply to many other sectors in Australia.
Burnout classification renews call for better work-life balance
Speaking with SBS VICELAND, Deakin Business School Professor Alexander Newman said the recognition of ‘burnout’ as a real medical condition should be a wake-up call for businesses to take work-life balance more seriously.
Part of this is introducing adequate wellbeing programs.
“The classification will also allow more individuals to obtain a medical diagnosis for workplace burnout, which will enable them to take time off on sick leave to recover,” he said.
While employers are critical in improving mental wellbeing, the Mentally Healthy survey also found 75% of media sector workers, specifically, continue to slug away whilst not physically or mentally well within the preceding 4 weeks.
Again, this data would apply to many other industries and it’s a clear sign that stigma is still preventing young people in the workplace from reaching out despite the availability of wellbeing programs and services.
The myth of mental health in the workplace
There is a myth that people living with mental ill-health, including those suffering from burnout, are less productive than people that are mentally healthy.
If this was the case, batyr shouldn’t exist!
Around 80% of batyr employees have a lived experience of mental ill-health yet our organisation has seen 370% growth in the number of programs we have delivered Australia-wide since 2015.
How does batyr ‘walk the talk’?
Through batyr@work, we deliver workplace programs that aim to foster better workplace mental health.
However, it’s not enough for us to tell other organisations what they should be doing. We need to walk the talk.
That’s why we have a number of initiatives that help our staff live mentally healthy lives, including:
- Running monthly ‘Dr Happy Sessions’ with The Happiness Institute founder and clinical psychologist Dr Tim Sharp.
- Providing wellbeing leave.
- Providing a wellbeing allowance for each of our staff to use on activities to maintain their mental wellbeing.
- Subsidised mental health care plans.
- Internal and external mentoring, which helps staff members to build confidence.
- Flexible work arrangements.
- Using safe language in the office so we avoid stigmatising mental ill-health.
Managing workplace stress
The Happiness Institute and batyr’s very own chief happiness officer Dr Tim Sharp said there is much we can all do to prevent or minimise burnout.
“Exercise, for example, is a great stress buster and mood enhancer; as too is regular meditation or mindfulness practice,” he said.
“It’s also vitally important that we get enough sleep and rest.”
He added that checking in with our emotions on a regular basis as well as speaking with a good friend or partner allows us to better recognise early warning signs and take action sooner, rather than later.
The Mentally Healthy study even found that people that maintain social interactions on a regular basis report lower depression scores (based on the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale or DASS).
What if you are already burned out?
Dr Sharp said that it’s never too late to take action, and it’s important to remember that you don’t have to cope all on your own.
If you’re already experiencing some or all of the symptoms described above then reach out.
“Talk to a friend or colleague, visit your local GP, or get in touch with a qualified clinical psychologist,” he said.
There are also some great free resources online provided by BeyondBlue, RUOK?Day, SANE Australia, and many more organisations that you can find here.
Have a discussion with your boss about temporarily reducing your workload and taking some time off.
You may even want to consider changing careers if you find that job satisfaction is affecting your overall mental wellbeing.
Listen to batyr programs manager Josh Wiseman speak with Catherine Bowe, Industry Marketing ANZ at Facebook, about mental health in the media and marketing sector.
If you think your workplace could benefit from batyr, check out batyr@work to request a program.