Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have attended several webinars related to issues of mental health. The issue of burnout has often been discussed by professionals in the mental health industry and what I have come to realise is that there continues to be a variety of different opinions as to what the phenomenon of ‘burnout’ actually refers to. Popular commentary still, simplistically, leans towards the idea that ‘burnout’ refers to extreme fatigue caused by excessive work demands when in actual fact, there is a lot more to it than that.

Over and above my attendance of these webinars, I have studied a lot of the work of Dr Christina Maslach, an American Social Psychologist best known for her extensive research on the phenomenon of burnout. She is also the developer of the Maslach Burnout Inventory which happens to be the most widely used tool for assessing the condition of burnout.



With regards to the phenomena of burnout, my opinions are the following:


1. Burnout is not the same as exhaustion.


2. Exhaustion is only one of 3 dimensions of burnout. The other two being cynicism as well as reduced professional efficacy. Only when all 3 dimensions are present can burnout be diagnosed.


3. Burnout is a term that is misused throughout the world of work due to the common misconception that it is simply another term for exhaustion or the feeling of being overworked.


4. Burnout can be used as an excuse, as can any mental health related condition and this is primarily a result of the subjective nature of symptoms. However, it is a real condition experienced by some people within the workplace and ought to be acknowledged as such.



Supporting the fact that burnout is a real condition, the World Health Organisation (WHO) accepted it as an “occupational phenomenon” in May 2019, and it will be listed in the next release of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

There are 6 domains, or causes, in the workplace that contribute to the risk of burnout, of which work demands is only one. When employers and managers gain insight into the other five domains, I believe that proactive organisations will begin to see a significant reduction in the number of employees who report the condition.

If you would like to learn more about burnout and other mental health matters in the workplace, take a look at the workshop offerings on my website

Take care everyone.
Your partner in Mental Health Matters in the Workplace.

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