Burnout is Now an Official Medical Condition

Burnout is real, and it now has its own distinction with the World Health Organization (WHO) as a legitimate medical syndrome.

The term ‘burnout’ has long been used to express everything from fatigue regarding a particular task to just plain overworking yourself. The actual definition is difficult to pin down, but the WHO defines burnout by these three markers:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

Interestingly enough, the actual description of burnout asks that all three of the above criteria be met. You can’t be really happy and not producing at work; that’s not burnout.

The WHO also says the three markers of feeling burnt out are exclusive to the workplace. Not only is the parent class of the ‘burnout’ classification “problems associated with employment or unemployment,” but it adds: “Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

The Dice Salary Survey shows 35 percent of tech professionals report feeling “very burnt out,” with one-third of that crowd saying the feeling stems from a lack of recognition. Nearly the same percentage say their workload is to blame. One-fourth claim a poor work-life balance contributes most to their dissatisfaction, and close to one-fifth say their boss is specifically to blame. The WHO’s criteria are easily met by these respondents.

Last year, Blind queried its audience to find out where the most burnt-out tech professionals worked. Netflix fared best, which is not too surprising as the company is dedicated to providing a solid work-life balance for its workforce. But companies such as Twitch, Oracle, Snap Inc., and Amazon were near the top of the list, with lots of employees reporting they were fried.

There are tactics to mitigate burnout, such as making sure you get the recognition you deserve. Perhaps more critical than triaging your burnout is recognizing the signs early on and taking steps to prevent it. If you feel your workload is becoming too difficult, or you need a vacation, speak up. Your boss probably won’t like what you have to say, but the company really won’t like it if you’re on a paid medical leave because you worked until you hit burnout levels.

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