A couple of years ago, I attended a string of workplace wellness classes designed to help employees at my university cope with “burnout”. The classes had names like “Mindfulness for Resilience” and “How to be a Productivity Ninja”, but questionable titles were not the only thing they had in common. Whether I was being sold meditation, exercise, gratitude or scheduling, the underlying message was always the same: the remedy for work stress is better self-management. What is more, the resulting boost in morale is always a “win-win” for the workers and organisations because happier workers are more productive.
Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced plans to add a more detailed definition of burnout to the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). They suggest that burnout has several key symptoms, including exhaustion, “mental distance” at work, “negativism and cynicism” in relation to one’s job, and “reduced professional efficacy”. At the broadest level, burnout is defined as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.