What it is, how you get to burnout, and some tools to prevent it.
The Burnout Syndrome, also called Chronic Work Stress or Office Disorder, was included in WHO’s (World Health Organization) 2019 International Classification of the Diseases and by 2022 it is to be diagnosed as any other condition.
The numerous scientific studies undertaken, on which WHO based its decision, have led to the same results: increasing workloads, the imposition of standardized performances, long hours spent in closed spaces often artificially illuminated and high levels of stress, lead inexorably to a mental and physical malaise that, if prolonged over time and ignored, triggers the development of various pathologies including nervous exhaustion, depression, chronic fatigue, eating and sleep disorders, sensory overload, digestive and cardio-circulatory system disorders, anxiety, skeletal pathologies.
How do one get to Burnout?
Nobody really thinks that one day can Burnout. Burnout’s diagnosis often finds the individual unprepared and incredulous. The path to Burnout is, in fact, paved by crawling and persistent physical and psychological symptoms that are carelessness neglected; a “downward spiral” initially perceived as “a temporary phase”. The exhaustion persevere, together with an unexplained and immeasurable weariness; a sense of prostration that does not subside with rest and is not related to health problems or intense physical activities, to finally fall into what medical science calls “Chronic Fatigue”.
Chronic Fatigue generates in the individual a negative perception of his/her own life, entourage and work, thus reducing his/her productivity and effectiveness compared to the tasks to be completed daily, ultimately causing a strong depressive state, a short circuit that does not resolve by turning off the PC and returning home. The person lives in a constant state of unease that, over time, leads to a “mental explosion”, a “free fall” that is difficult to stop without psychological support and a real life and profession change.
In the attempt to find solutions preventing the chain reaction that leads to Burnout, a progressive awareness has developed over the years on the issue related to mental well-being at the workplace: the WHO has issued a vademecum to define a positive and harmonious workplace, which does not cause anxiety and concern for employees.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health has estimated at $ 200 billion a year, US companies’ medical bills for employees, 90% of whom complain of work-related fatigue diseases.
WHO in its 2020 Global Risk Report indicated Burnout as the 21st century disease, and estimated its global cost at $ 16 trillion by 2030: “We live in a high-speed world where digital interconnection, sophisticated technology and social media presumably make us smarter, faster and more effective. Unfortunately greater digitization is also causing acute isolation; our connection with other humans and nature is replaced by the fear of getting lost and from social media anxiety. Medical research indicates that connecting with ourselves, other human beings and our natural world improves our sense of health and happiness. On the contrary, when we lose our sense of connection, anxiety, depression and Burnout are unfortunately frequent.” (Excerpt from WHO “2020 Global Risk Report” published on 10 October 2019).
According to a study published by US National Institute of Health, Burnout Syndrome is contagious: “It is very easy to let yourself be overcome by negativity if you work with a cynical and stressed colleague next to you.” Creating a positive and proactive working environment triggers the production of the “good mood hormones “(oxytocin, dopamine, seratonin) that support mental well-being, activating the areas of the brain related to a positive emotional state.”
It is no surprise then, to find an increasing number of companies, including Google, Apple, Yahoo! Deutsche Bank, McKinsey, Banca Mediolanum, Nike, IBM, RAI, INAIL offering their employees courses in meditation, yoga and various other disciplines (which are mainly inspired to oriental culture): the wellness programs dedicated to employees’ psycho-physical health represent an easy and advantageous resource to reduce the effects of an intense working activity, and above all, a saving on the medical-health bills generated by stressed, depressed and exhausted workers.
The Health Education & Behavior newspaper reports a six-weeks pilot study during which participants were asked to practice twenty minutes of yoga and meditation at their workplaces while on their lunch break: “Workplace yoga is an effective method, practical and inexpensive which can improve the psycho-physical conditions of workers. ” According to various authoritative scientific research carried out by various institutes such as the National Institutes of Health, the University of MIT, the Mind | Body Medical Institute and the University of Harvard, “a state of calm favors ideas, concentration and alleviates the many pains and fears that affect stressed workers “; and again: “Meditation silences mental chatter lays the foundation for good decisions making and encourages communication”.
Thanks to the regular practice of disciplines such as Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Meditation, the person’s psycho-physical balance and feelings blossom into new life, as well as his/her personal perception of the social and working environment, good mood and desire to invest in everyday life and in the day to day challenges.
Only the renewed ability of entrepreneurs and managers to place the well-being of their employees at the center of the company’s interest, as well as the understanding that the company’s success is intimately linked to the employees’ wellness and the quality of the working environment can change, in fact, the harmful trend that modern entrepreneurship has undertaken.
“Now, more than ever, we need to embrace an infinite mindset. The finite mindset of opportunism, selfishness and panic will hurt all of us in the long run. ” (Simon Sinek)
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