By Michael Selinger
The World Health Organisation has recently recognised chronic stress as the cause of an occupational phenomenon more commonly known as ‘burnout’.
The newly listed dimensions of burnout are:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy (work performance).
A question that arises now for employers is what steps they are putting in place to eliminate or minimise the risk of burnout.
Sometimes the symptoms of burnout are not obvious to the person suffering them. They may be more irritable to angry about the work they are doing or being emotional for no obvious reason.
However, for an employer, there should be indications from the amount of work a person is taking on in association with reports of any emotional outbursts from team members.
These signals should not be ignored.
Employers have a statutory duty of care to ensure worker well-being and ensure that processes are in place to reduce the chance that staff are continually overworked or highly stressed.
Apart from monitoring the work load that staff have to ensure that it does not become too much, employers can also put in place ‘destressors’ such as:
- educational sessions on health and wellbeing topics e.g. how to reduce stress;
- distributing posters and publications on relevant topics e.g. mental health;
- fun runs or walks;
- sport during lunch breaks;
- fitness classes or gym memberships or subsidies;
- ergonomic assessments;
- health coaching;
- health checks;
- providing healthy food options in staff tea rooms or cafés;
- stress management classes;
- free days off;
- quit smoking programs; and
- access to employee assistance programs.