By classifying burnout as a medical disorder or syndrome, employers are encouraged to take steps to mitigate it or prevent it from occurring altogether. It is often misunderstood, stigmatized and a life-threatening mental-health pandemic. Caroline Ravenall, in her key-note speech titled: “The Madness of High Performance”, describes it as: “It’s a little more than another bad day at the office. It’s a state of complete mental, emotional and physical exhaustion where, despite the thousand volts of electricity coursing through your veins from a nervous system that is in overdrive and adrenal glands that are on the verge of collapse, you feel like a burnt-out, empty, hollow shell. Rest and sleep are impossible, because your system is so wired that you actually cannot switch off. Recovery can take years.” It is also characterized by feelings of increased mental distance from one’s job, feelings of negativity related to one’s job and reduced professional efficacy. The warning signs include insomnia, chronic fatigue, irritability, migraines, back problems, memory loss, depression, anxiety or panic attacks. Alleviating your symptoms using alcohol, tobacco, sleeping tablets or tranquilizers can lead to addiction. There are many hazards to the workplace but also on the individual. Burnout used to be linked to jobs with a high degree of people interaction like teaching or medicine, but burnout can now occur in almost any profession. Caroline Ravenall calls it “hysterical industrious”. What we are seeing is not a temporary affliction. It’s our base temperature. Our background music. It’s the way things are. It’s our lives.
Recent studies have stated that mental health is one of the biggest pandemic issues the world will face, even following the pandemic, for years to come with the potential of burn-out, PTSD, and disorders that thrive in isolation like sleep disturbances, eating disorders, suicide, depression, anxiety and substance abuse; notwithstanding the impact this has on the business. Employers need to mitigate these from worsening by offering employers a programme that has been researched, and takes all areas of psychology into consideration as well as recognizing that resilience can be temporary. The most resilient individual may be suffering with conditions we are completely unaware of due to stigmatization, fear of failure and even a lack of awareness of approaching burn-out in this fast-paced society we live in.