Burnout is Now Classified by the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) has now classified burnout as a typical “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully  managed.”

WHO added burnout to the international classification of diseases, on May 28, and gave it an ICD-11 code. Although WHO classifies burnout as an occupational phenomenon, not a medical condition, symptoms can have dramatic effects on health status.

This classification was introduced after a recent study quantifying physician burnout at an annual estimated cost of approximately $4.6 billion in the United States, due to  turnover and fewer clinical hours. Other studies noted that  almost half of all physicians report one symptom that is similar to burnout.

In healthcare and medicine space, burnout has a typical negative effect, which impacts  the quality of care and results of patients that medical professionals are serving.

WHO also cites three dimensions of burnout: 

  1. Exhaustion or feeling of energy depletion
  2. Greater mental distance from job and/or feelings of cynicism and negativism
  3. Reduced professional efficiency.

The ICD-11 also notes that burnout is specific to occupations and it “should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

WHO is working on an evidence-based guideline on mental health and well-being at the workplace.

What is Burnout?

WHO’s International Classification of Diseases ICD-11 describes burnout under “problems associated with employment or unemployment.”

This classification is a big step toward treating stress related to workplace and  associated health complications.

Although researchers call it “one of the most widely discussed mental health problems  in modern science” and note the rate of prevalence of up to 69 percent in some of the  groups like medical professionals, it was not until May 2019 that burnout was truly  diagnosed.

Nowadays, people experiencing burnout can receive medical assistance as well as  counseling to help manage symptoms.

Before diagnosing burnout, the WHO clarifies that doctors should rule out similar  conditions such as adjustment disorder, anxiety or fear-related disorder, disorders associated with stress, and mood disorders.

In addition, physicians, psychologists and diagnosing professionals have to limit burnout diagnosis to specific work environments, and not apply it to situations like family life or relationships.

So, if you are chronically exhausted at work, or professionally frustrated, make small  mistakes, feel unproductive, or stuck, you may like to see a doctor. It may not be burnout, but there’s no harm checking it out.

Why is Burnout so common?

Burnout is common; it occurs whenever you are overwhelmed at work, mentally and  emotionally depleted, and unable to maintain the constant professional demands. As  stress builds up and continues to mount, you may start feeling hopeless, resentful and  disinterested in your work.

The American Institute of Stress reports that Americans work much longer and harder  than they did before. In fact, in one generation, the total number of work hours  increased by 8 percent to 47 hours of work per week.

It also pointed out some startling statistics:

  • 25 percent of workers wanted to scream and shout due to job stress
  • Approximately 50 percent of workers say they needed help learning how to manage stress
  • Over a third of employees (35 percent) revealed that their jobs are harming their  emotional or physical health

The modern culture at workplaces demands workers is constantly connected through  emails, messaging, and project management tools, etc. It’s no surprise that they fail to  shut out their extremely demanding work lives.

Millennials have internalized the idea that more work is more pleasure, or that their success means working all the time. As a result, they develop chronic over-output, which causes lethargy and depletes them of motivation.

Is Burnout Treatable?

The WHO has not yet disclosed an appropriate medical treatment for burnout. However, there are a few things to do and keep stress at a bay.

Firstly, disconnect from the workplace after you leave the office. Avoid any workplace-related information. Turn off notifications for apps and emails too.

It is important to limit the time spent on work-related communication platforms. For instance, check email only thrice a day – in the morning, midday, and evening. It would save you time and allow you to focus your energy on the current task at hand.

It is important to limit social media time and exposure, especially when you are on a break from work. Instead of staring at the glaring screen, talk to your co-worker, stroll around, have coffee, and avoid looking at the screen.

Burnout is becoming a significant issue in healthcare. It is prevalent and many new established organizations and companies are now taking on initiatives to combat long-term symptoms. Physician scheduling is analyzing one million physician shift hours only to understand the exact cause of burnout. The American Hospital Association also released a playbook for healthcare organizations with a step-by-step outline to handle burnout.

sepStream® believes in taking new initiatives and following the guidelines released by WHO. With sound technical knowledge and equipment, the company is steadily building blocks to ensure people can benefit from the advanced technology used for healthcare and diagnosis.