Those working in the corporate world long enough do at some point find that their performance at work has suddenly or gradually dropped drastically. A once-office-star can gradually be seen missing deadlines and may be seen at office less often. An employee who had been usually level-headed and a team player may begin to lose temper on minor issues and generally display disengaged behavior in the office. These sudden changes in employee behavior might be symptoms of employee burnout. 

What exactly is burnout? As of May 2019, WHO’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health problems has defined it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Burnout occurs when an employee faces prolonged stress at a workplace due to various factors. WHO states three burnout symptoms commonly shown by employees:

  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, or
  3. Reduced professional efficacy

Let’s look at some of the factors that might be causing burnouts in the first place.

What leads to burnouts?

Increased Workload 

Excessive workload with unrealistic timelines, insufficient resources, support or guidance may add to the stress of the employee. Additional factors like extremely chaotic working conditions or monotonous work can also be the causes.

Hostile Environment

Office bullies, a micromanaging superior or general negativity around the office are some examples of a hostile workspace that can cause burn-out.

Unrealistic Expectations

Employees must understand their roles and authorities they’re reporting to clearly. If they are uncertain of what is expected of them, or whose authority should they follow, it can increase their stress levels at work. Over or under qualified employees are more likely to face these issues.

Lopsided Work-life balance

All work and no play makes them dull! When there’s no time or energy to spend socializing outside of work, employees don’t get the chance to relax and see their lives being dominated by their work.

Burnout Among Doctors 

A recent study from a Mumbai-based medical college indicates that Indian doctors suffer from burnout-associated symptoms such as emotional exhaustion, lack of empathy for patients, or dissatisfaction. The study noted an increase in the incidence of burnout syndrome among more females and senior doctors. Burnout among doctors is especially worrisome because it directly impacts patients’ well-being and overall healthcare.

Organizations, including medical institutions should not ignore burnout and take initiatives to address it. The changes will need to come from policy initiatives at macro-level. Poor doctor-patient ratio in India, limited specialty training programmes, and higher work pressure on a few specialists are the key reasons for burnout among Indian doctors. These three clearly indicate what needs to be done at the policy level. For managing day-to-day stress levels however, medical professionals also need to be trained to deal with the realities of taking care of patients with advanced skill sets like dealing with conflict, dealing with negotiation, and dealing with the distress of patients.

It’s high time organizations realize that burnout isn’t a personal problem but a systemic one, and that it needs to be dealt with greater responsibility. Prevention of burnout doesn’t just help the employee but also the organization in the long run.