Burn-out Is Now A Legitimate Diagnosis, Says WHO

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Working too hard is now a recognized as an occupational phenomenon, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The agency, which guides many health providers and organizations, now includes “burn-out” in its International Classification of Diseases Handbook.

The agency described "burn-out" as a syndrome resulting from "chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."

According to the WHO, doctors can issue a diagnosis of burn-out if a patient exhibits three symptoms: feeling depleted of energy or exhausted; feeling mentally distanced from or cynical about one's job; and problems getting one's job done successfully.

While some critics argue that the term is becoming an excuse for lack of motivation and disengagement at work, the new classification helps to validate people who may need medical assistance to manage their stress.

Burn-out is a syndrome that comes from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed, the ICD-11 says. It’s hard to say how common burn-out is, largely due to the fact that it hasn’t had an established criterion until now.

And it may open up a host of other complex challenges, says John Sarno, president of the Employers Association of New Jersey.

“Stressed out people have thrown around the term “burn-out” forever, but it’s only now become a basis for an actual medical diagnosis” he says.

All the same, the WHO’s recognition highlights the need for human resource managers to look more deeply into establishing positive workplace environments.

Sarno thinks that a diagnosis of burn-out may lead to an increase in workers compensation claims.

In New Jersey, in order to maintain a stress-related claim, the petitioner must establish that the permanent disability resulted materially from “objectively verified” job-related stress. That standard would be reviewed on a case by case basis.
In almost all cases the petitioner’s claim of job-related stress falls short of the standard of proof that the petitioner’s disability must result from an “objectively verified” job- related stress situation, says Sarno.

A petitioner’s stress claim must be supported by evidence that above normal work stress was the cause of the permanent psychiatric condition.

“It would appear that a legitimate medical diagnosis burn-out could meet the standard for a comp claim” says Sarno.
The Mayo Clinic says that job burn-out can result from various factors, including:

•    An inability to influence decisions that affect the job.
•    Unclear job expectations.
•    Dysfunctional workplace dynamics.
•    Lack of social support and isolation at work.  
•    Work-life imbalance.

Employers may be able to reduce the possibility of stress disability claims by paying attention to employee needs and fostering wellness in the workplace by establishing healthy connections at work.

Employers Association of New Jersey is committing itself to being part of their solution. Check out what we are doing so far.