The World Health Organization has redefined burnout as a syndrome tied to chronic workplace stress that "has not been successfully managed."
There are three main components of burnout: feelings of exhaustion; feeling distant, negative and cynical about one's job; and a decline in professional efficacy. The World Health Organization says the syndrome does not apply to similar feelings in other parts of life. The group also does not go so far as to call burnout a medical condition.
The World Health Organization has previously included burnout in its disease handbook, which is regularly updated. The new definition offers more clarity on the syndrome and differentiates it from other types of mental health disorders. The World Health Organization says that before doctors can diagnose a patient with burnout, they have to rule things like anxiety, mood disorders or other stress-related issues.
Since the release of the revised disease handbook, plenty of people are sharing their own experiences with workplace stress and feeling validated by this recognition. The new definition has also raised the question of who is responsible for burnout — the employer or the employee? The definition refers to chronic workplace stress that isn't managed effectively, but it does not say whether employees need to better manage their own stress, or if employers are placing too much pressure on their workers.
The World Health Organization does offer ideas for what makes a "healthy job," a workplace where "the pressures on employees are appropriate in relation to their abilities and resources."
It also says staff should have an appropriate amount of control over their work, and they should be supported by supervisors and colleagues. Another important distinction is that a healthy workplace isn't just one that lacks harmful conditions, but one that actively promotes health. Suggestions include assessing health risks at the workplace on an ongoing basis, giving employees information and training on health issues and allowing employees to make health a priority at work.