The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially recognised work-related burnout as an official “occupational phenomenon”, in its latest classification of diseases.

The health agency has described burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

The WHO goes on to note that burnout is typically characterised by three dimensions.

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.

  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job.

  3. Reduced professional efficacy.

The WHO classification also notes that burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

In a statement, the Agency said it is about to embark on the development of evidence-based guidelines on mental wellbeing in the workplace.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a non-profit academic medical centre in the US, job burnout can result from various factors, including the following.

  • Lack of control, such as an inability to influence decisions that affect your job.

  • Unclear job expectations, for example as to what your supervisor or others expect from you.

  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics, such as working with an office bully or being micromanaged by the boss.

  • Extremes of activity, for example both monotonous and very chaotic jobs require constant energy to remain focused and can lead to fatigue and job burnout.

  • Lack of social support, such as isolation at work and in your personal life, leading to stress.

  • Work-life imbalance where work takes up so much time and effort, there is little energy left to spend time with your family and friends.

Last reviewed 31 May 2019