The World Health Organization Is Taking Workplace Burnout More Seriously

We’ve all been there – with work sucking in most of our time and energy we’ve been left exhausted to the point that all our productivity has crashed one too many times. Unfortunately, work related burnout cannot always be tackled leaving us with no other option than to compromise on our mental well-being. This work-related stress is a serious problem that has even attracted the attention of the World Health Organization.

The WHO has updated the definition that it had for burnout in its new handbook that discusses diseases called International Classification of Diseases — ICD-11. This book will be effective in January 2022. Though the organization labels burnout a “syndrome” in this guide and explains it as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” it doesn’t shove it under the category of medical conditions but calls it can “occupational phenomenon.”

In this new version of its handbook, burnout has been put in a chapter that discusses “factors influencing health status or contact with health services.” In the previous ICD-10 , this topic appeared under the same category as it does now but was defined in more succinct a manner as a state of exhaustion.

In this new guidebook, the definition is more elaborate. While the previous one didn’t fully acknowledge burnout as a serious issue, this one does. This move can help people in European countries get help because these people typically resort to the ICD. Noting the negative implications that a burnout can have on one’s health and the way it can also influence one’s professional life, a wider discussion on this topic was vital.

The new criteria now set for a burnout requires professionals in the field to rule out other mood disorders such as anxiety and depression as this could be helpful in focusing on more targeted research about how burnouts can be prevented as well as treated. What’s more, WHO also announced this week while talking about this new handbook that it would be establishing science and evidence supported guidelines regarding the mental well-being of folks in their workplace.

Burnouts are not only bad for employees but for employers as well. A study by Gallop published last year found that of the 7,500 full-time workers involved in the research work, 23% experienced burnout at work either often or always. 44% of these reported that they felt burned out sometimes. Moreover, a new recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal has found that physicians feel burned out the most.

As per this study, the costs of employee burnout are massive with about $4.6 billion piling up each year. An author of this study, Joel Goh said, “Marketing costs to advertise the position, costs of hiring, costs associated with training and starting out a physician—all of these really add up pretty quickly.” Now that the World Health Organization has taken in account the issue of work-related stress more seriously, perhaps the time when this issue will start getting the attention it needs is not far.