Trying to get work completed before the Christmas shut down is front of mind for many people at the moment. Add in Christmas shopping, increase in living costs and late nights at social events and its a perfect mix for burnout.
In 2019 World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recognised employee burnout as a occupational chronic stress illness resulting from workplace stress that has been left unmanaged.
Definition of Burnout
Burnout is distinguished by WHO as:
• Feelings of exhaustion or depleted energy
• Increased mental distance from one’s job
• Feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one’s job
• Reduced professional efficiency
It is also emphasised in the definition that burnout relates specifically to the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.
Workers in high-risk or high paced roles/ environments are more susceptible to burnout. It is important for those in high-risk environments to recognise symptoms and act quickly, as tired workers can be more likely to have incidents.
Stress vs. Burnout
It is important to note that stress and burnout are very similar. You cannot have burnout without stress.
Symptoms of worker burnout can consist of the following:
• Becoming disconnected / isolated from the work environment
• Lacking energy or showing consistent fatigue
• Increased absenteeism
• Unusual seclusion and distance from others
• Cynicism or a newly negative attitude
• Increased tendency for accidents
It should be noted that different workers experience different burnout symptoms. Some workers experience burnout without exhibiting any of these symptoms. It is important to take your people and their individual personalities into account when deciding how to act.
What Causes Burnout?
• A lack of independence or occupational control - feel like they have no input in deciding how to perform a task or simply grow apathetic about work in general.
• Vague Job Expectations - Uncertain measures of success or tangled lines of authority.
• A negative work environment - Low morale, harassment, discrimination.
• A lack of social structures/ rewards - Being secluded at work, or a lack of recognition or fair compensation.
• Poor Life / Work Balance - Overworking to the point of exhaustion or constantly thinking about work outside of the job.
• Thinking about stress from home on top of work responsibilities - arriving to work already stressed creates a lack of focus on their daily activities.
How to Avoid Worker Burnout
There are ways to make sure workers are energised and feel like they are surrounded by a caring and conscious safety culture.
Encourage Leadership -
Increase the rotation of safety committee members to give all interested workers a chance to participate in meetings. This can even help motivate and identify future company leaders.
Personalise Communications -
Encourage your more reserved and introverted workers to speak up about any issues they may have in smaller group settings like toolbox talks and one-on-one conversations.
Acknowledge Worker Contributions -
Use the power of empowerment by rewarding workers who speak up about safety hazards or suggest more efficient ways to perform tasks. This helps create a culture where workers feel they can make a difference and it helps you promote safety standards at work.
Set Up Team Building Events -
Help build more camaraderie in your team by organising optional activities.
Emphasise Personal Health -
Promote healthy living habits like getting enough sleep prior to a shift, eating health, drinking more water, and taking regular breaks throughout the work day. If one of your workers is dealing with personal stress from outside of work, refer them to services that may be able to assist them.