Four industry leaders suggest ways an organisation can prevent and manage the effects of burnout, now classified as an occupational syndrome by the World Health Organization.
Andy Anderson CMIOSH
Health and safety manager, Amazon
It is welcome news that WHO has recognised burnout as an occupational syndrome. To manage it effectively, an organisation needs to make a thorough review of all working practices and behaviours. Once the causation has been identified, review operational practices and the resources needed. A key area is line management training to recognise the signs of burnout and enable early intervention techniques such as, for example, more job rotation and enrichment, and involving specialists such as occupational health and ergonomists to identify effective solutions.
Chris Clark CMIOSH
SHE adviser, Morgan Sindall Group
Burnout has an impact on the workload and responsibilities of the absentee’s colleagues. This can result in animosity between colleagues on return to work, fear of that workload becoming their own if the staff member never returns, and worry from the absent member of staff that they will now be treated differently. Review staff workloads and redistribute or recruit additional staff to effectively manage the team’s workload. The organisation should facilitate a restoration process so the team can effectively rebuild together and better understand each other’s abilities and needs, or identify when they are reaching their limits.
Antonio Javier Gaspar Marichal CMIOSH
Health, safety and wellbeing manager, Sheffield Hallam University
Burnout is costly to individuals, organisations and society. A focus on prevention will improve employee performance and give organisations a competitive edge. Interventions can be targeted at three levels. First, remove stressors by redesigning work systems, processes, jobs and the environment. Second, upskill managers so they can evaluate the sources of burnout, limit their impact and improve working conditions. Third, target employees’ ability to cope with stressors through social support and promoting positive lifestyle habits.
Lynda Parkinson CMIOSH
Health and safety lead, HB Projects Ltd
There is a thin line between the positive energy of high performance and slipping into a negative ‘survival’ state where workers become unhealthily task-focused. Periods of intense focus must be balanced with sufficient rest and recovery. As a manager, knowing your people and developing what Edgar Schein would describe as ‘level 2’ relationships – personal, cooperative and trusting – will assist in knowing the genuine capabilities of your people and help to identify where burnout is a risk. COVID-19 has given many an opportunity to develop these relationships. Let’s encourage this authenticity to continue.