Back to Blog
The World Health Organisation (WHO) define burn-out as ‘chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’.
The term ‘burn-out’ has become more prevalent in recent times as organisations struggle to manage the impact increasing workplace demands have on employees’ mental health. In recognition of this, the WHO have included the term in the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), meaning it will become a globally recognised medical condition as of 2020.
This development should remind organisations to provide appropriate support to employees who claim to be suffering with work related stress, resisting the temptation to dismiss this as a minor issue. A key aspect of the WHO’s definition is that burn-out only relates to work related stress, which should encourage organisations to be alert to any early warning signs. According to the WHO, common symptoms of burn-out include:
One of the key stumbling blocks is that burn-out, and by association work-related stress, can be viewed as ‘part of the job’ in many industries and this is where a step change is required. To counteract this, organisations should avoid creating a situation where staff are pressured into working long hours or taking work home with them. Rest breaks and annual leave are vital tools in preventing mental ill health at work and presenteeism should be discouraged at all times.
Calls to introduce mental health first aiders continue to grow as MPs and activists encourage organisations to do more in helping promote good mental health. In the same way, the use of wellness action plans and employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can also encourage greater discussion and identify any workplace factors that have a negative impact mental health.
Failing to properly prevent and address burn-out could ultimately lead to claims of disability discrimination, if an individual is able to show that their condition has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Therefore, organisations are reminded once again to ensure the appropriate framework is in place to avoid potentially costly tribunal proceedings.