Professional burnout is a serious issue affecting an ever growing number of professionally active people. The issue of burnout has been studied since the 1970s and it was then that the current, suggestive name for the discussed set of symptoms was coined in science. Burnout affects employees, but its consequences are also felt by the economy and the general public. How to prevent burnout and maintain a committed attitude in the professional field? Efforts should be made to reduce professional stress.
Burnout and stress
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes burnout as an occupational phenomenon, a syndrome resulting from chronic stress in the workplace that has not been successfully dealt with. Occupational burnout in the 11th most recent revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) has its symbol QD85, but is not classified as a disease. Burnout has been identified as an issue related to employment, affecting health status and as a reason for reporting to the health service. Burnout is characterized by the gradual loss of energy, motivation and commitment in the performance of professional duties. Over time, burnout is associated with a number of adverse psychosomatic changes. Burnout can affect any employee, regardless of their position and job seniority. However, it is pointed out that some professions (e.g. doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers) are more predisposed to the occurrence of burnout.
Causes of burnout
The source of stress may be factors from various areas of professional functioning. The reasons for burnout can be divided into those dependent on the employer (organizational), related to relationships (interpersonal) and those resulting from the employee’s personality characteristics (individual). Occupational burnout may be caused by:
- excessive workload,
- exerting time pressure,
- inadequate support,
- lack of career opportunities,
- atmosphere of conflict,
- low salaries,
- lack of community,
- inadequate working conditions,
- excessive control,
- unclear role,
- low self-esteem of the employee,
- inadequate professional competence,
- provision of work contrary to values,
- excessive expectations and unrealistic work-related objectives,
- inadequate resources of the individual to cope with stress,
- maladjustment between the employee and the work/organization/team/supervisor.
The discernible multiplicity of causes makes professional burnout a multidimensional and complex phenomenon. What should be emphasized in the search for the basis of occupational burnout is chronic work-related stress and the failure to deal with this stress.
Three Dimensions of Burnout
The full image of the burnout syndrome has three dimensions. Such an approach to the problem was proposed by psychologist Christina Meslach – a pioneer of research on burnout. The WHO has a convergent definition of burnout.
Characteristic of this dimension is a sense of general and chronic fatigue and exhaustion of emotional and psychophysical resources. What appears is lack of energy and enthusiasm for action, as well as a lack of joy in life and increased irritability. The employee feels exhausted and experiences an increasing reluctance to work. There also may appear sleeping disorders and inability to rest. An emotionally exhausted person begins to experience the so-called psychosomatization of stress. There are ailments coming from different areas of the body. Weakened due to stressful working conditions, the body needs more effort to perform professional roles. The tasks become more tiring than usual, creativity and concentration decrease, and the number of mistakes made increases and so does the risk of accidents at work.
Depersonalization (in the sense of objectifying contacts with other people) is the second component of the burnout syndrome. There is a negative change in the employee’s attitude towards work and people in their business environment. The person experiencing burnout is characterized by increased distance to work and coldness in their interpersonal relationships, where cynicism and impersonal character appear. The employee treats their customers, patients, applicants or mentees objectively. They do not engage professionally, become indifferent and uncooperative. There appears reluctance to perform the adopted professional role.
Loss of commitment to the work undertaken reduces the employee’s effectiveness. There appears the stage of reduced satisfaction with professional achievements. Experienced stress related to the profession leads us to professional apatization, lack of support for the environment and halting the improvement of skills causes a growing sense of dissatisfaction with our own achievements. The employee experiences a crisis of professional competence, doubts their own abilities and their own effectiveness. They feel less and less useful, have a sense of incompatibility, sense of meaninglessness and lack of purpose. The employee adopts a resignation attitude.
Occupational burnout adversely affects physical and mental health, may cause addictions, anxiety disorders and employee depression. Burnout intensifies the intention to leave the existing employer, which may herald personnel problems of the organization. It can also be the reason for leaving the profession. Occupational stress is inevitable, but chronic work-related emotions should not consitute the norm. It should be remembered that the more stress an employee experiences, the lower their job satisfaction and greater the risk of burnout. In order to prevent burnout, it is necessary to create workplaces conducive to health and well-being. The employer can shape friendly working conditions supporting the preservation of work-life balance. A responsible organization helps to reduce the professional stress of employees and thus prevent burnout.
Lack of opportunity and ability to effectively regenerate strength and mitigate the effects of work-related emotional tension can result in occupational burnout. Burnout syndrome develops gradually, so it is worth to observe changes in the behaviour of employees and prevent this unfavourable phenomenon in advance. Rest and relaxation are the way to deal with excess stressors and lack of your own strength in the fight against stress. Knowledge of how to deal with stress effectively and the ability to rest is important in every area of human functioning. In the professional context, relaxation will help reduce the stress leading to burnout, help to maintain energy and readiness to cooperate. Thanks to the VR TierOne GO mobile relaxation headset the stressed employees can be offered a relaxation session. A break from professional duties in the environment of relaxing VR 360° videos offers an attractive and valuable form of rest that supports regenerative processes and builds mental resilience. 10-minute VR TierOne GO relaxation sessions encourage regular rest, thus preventing postponing relaxation to future date. Preventing burnout does not have to be difficult to implement nor involve reorganization of the entire company. Thoughtful solutions, such as the easy to implement relaxing VR TierOne GO headset, can be enough to prevent burnout among the employees.