The World Health Organization has called employee burnout a diagnosable condition. New Jersey residents should know that the WHO defines burnout as a feeling of exhaustion coupled with an increasing mental distance from, and negative thoughts about, one’s job. It results from ill-managed stress in the workplace and can lead to the inability to discharge one’s duties in a professional way.
Considering how burnout affects work performance and safety, it may be surprising that OSHA has no standard for governing it. Still, employers and managers who directly supervise employees can do their part by monitoring for burnout, talking with employees about it and providing support to those who suffer from it. Establishing employee assistance programs and giving paid time off to burnt-out employees may be advisable.
Employers should be aware that OSHA prohibits retaliation and discrimination against workers who report safety hazards. In light of this new development from the WHO, employers should now consider burnout to be among these hazards. Warning signs of burnout include fatigue, anxiety, low morale and difficulty concentrating on the job. Sometimes, burnout may escalate into arguments and violence.
One day, burnout may be classed among occupational illnesses. This will likely make it easier for burnt-out employees who file claims to establish what it is they are suffering from.
Under workers’ compensation law, injured employees may be reimbursed for the cost of medical treatments, be covered for short- or long-term disability leave and receive a percentage of their lost wages. Whether burnout can provide the basis for a workers’ comp claim is something that victims may want to discuss with a lawyer. A lawyer may also assist with the filing of the claim and with the mounting of an appeal if the employer, saying that the victim is to blame, denies the claim.