Effects from burnout go beyond work

The World Health Organisation defines burn-out as "a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed".
The World Health Organisation defines burn-out as "a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed".PHOTO: ST FILE

The World Health Organisation now considers burnout as an occupational phenomenon which may require care (WHO recognises burnout as medical condition, May 28).

Burnout is elaborated as chronic work stress that is not properly managed.

It presents with excessive physical fatigue and exhaustion, a mental "distance" from the work at hand and even a negative emotive response to work, resulting in a lack of concentration and inefficiency in the actual work done.

Diabetes has been highlighted as a major medical problem facing our nation; what is perhaps not so obvious is the epidemic of burnout affecting the workforce, both young and old.

Perhaps with Singapore ranked as the world's most competitive economy, this phenomenon may become even more of a problem.

Managing work stress is not just the responsibility of the worker; it involves management and the policies and values of an organisation.

Unreasonable targets and deadlines accompanied by unclear guidelines and expectations all reflect poor work stress regulation at the management level.

Personal bias and favouritism practised by those in charge compound the problem for subordinates.

The pursuit of looking good to others with the resulting compromise in integrity and the promotion of yes-men causes disillusionment, and invariably burnout sets in.

Some workers are constantly picked on for tasks but lack the courage and wisdom to give honest feedback.

They also worry about their performance assessment and this may aggravate their emotional status, contributing to burnout.

These are just some scenarios shared by patients suffering from burnout.

According to WHO, "burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life".

However, we must be mindful that burnout can lead to the development of other medical conditions like depression, anxiety, panic attacks and even gastric ulcers, insomnia and headaches.

When we are unhappy at work, it also leads to a breakdown in relationships among colleagues and more mistakes in the performance of work.

More wholesome perspectives of work need to be cultivated which leave room for healthy family relationships and lifestyles. Sometimes, we need to see the difference between what we want and what we need.

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2019, with the headline 'Effects from burnout go beyond work'. Print Edition | Subscribe