Occupational Burnout: What Is It And Who Is At Risk?

By Jori Hamilton | Published 9/6/2019 0

Photo Source: Unsplash

You leave work feeling exhausted day after day. You hope that it’s just a phase. But the longer you wait for it to pass, the higher your stress levels seem to rise. Then, you notice a mental disengagement with your work. You even begin feeling and expressing an overwhelming sense of negativity directly related to it. Even worse, you question your ability to do the job and make a difference in the workplace. Does this sound familiar?

If so, you’re not alone. This list of symptoms even has a name. It’s called burnout. It also has an International Classification of Diseases (ICD) code, although it is not considered a medical condition. Rather it is considered to be an “occupational phenomenon” that impacts health.

The WHO has announced that it will be developing evidence-based guidelines on mental health in the workplace. This is a recognition of the importance and pervasiveness of workplace stress. It also points out the failure of employers to address the systemic problems in their work places.

Increasingly, the medical community is recognizing that burnout isn’t just an individual’s way of dealing with workplace stress. Rather it is a burden that leaders need to recognize and help solve.

Who’s at risk for occupational burnout?

Many life situations cause you to feel burned out. You might experience social media burnout when you’re drowning in status updates, tweets, and stories. If you’re dealing with issues at home with parents, children, or other family-life problems, burnout can happen. Most of the time, these problems pass quickly, and you have control over the situation. This is where occupational burnout differs from run-of-the-mill stress.

Experts have long believed that other conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are an underlying cause of job burnout. However, with the new ruling from WHO, this may change. Regardless of the reason, burnout can negatively affect your physical and mental health.

There are a few factors that can leave you feeling mentally and physically exhausted. If your job tends to be full of responsibility for issues that you can’t really control, you might be at risk. You might also find yourself feeling the effects of this phenomenon if you have unclear expectations or deal with workplace bullying or a boss who enjoys micromanaging your time at the office. The level of physical activity – too much or too little – might place you at a higher than average risk. If you work in a monotonous office where you lack activity but must remain focused or if you have a job that keeps you on your feet, this could place you at risk.

Occupations at risk

Anyone can feel the effects of occupational burnout. However, there are a few categories of jobs that tend to feel tet affects more than others. Here are a few of the high-risk jobs:


If you’ve ever been in a hospital or other medical facility, you’ve seen first hand the work that nurses do. They are there when babies are born, people die, and just about every major health event in between. Long workdays are one risk factor for this occupation, which not only leads to feelings of burnout but can have an effect on one’s physical health as well. Other factors that place nurses at a high risk of burnout include inadequate nurse-to-patient ratios, high patient acuity, emotionally draining situations, and workplace violence.


Take a look in any classroom, and you can probably guess a few of the triggers for teacher burnout. They carry a lot of responsibility as they attempt to educate the youth of America. Public education expects teachers to be high-achievers, but funding doesn’t always give them the tools and technology they need to do so. Because many who go into the professional fall prey to perfectionism and take their responsibility seriously, they can be at a higher than average risk of burnout.


According to the Advisory Board, more than 40% of all physicians — and 50% of female physicians — experience the phenomenon. They also report that doctors in urology, neurology, and physical medicine and rehabilitation tend to carry higher levels of burnout. Causes include long hours, computerization of patient records, lack of respect from colleagues, and the increasing amount of bureaucratic tasks. Overcoming physician burnout can be extremely challenging in the current healthcare environment.

How to Prevent Occupational Burnout

Treating symptoms of burnout is critical. However, if our society learns to recognize the signs and create measures to prevent the phenomenon from happening, workers would be served well. Here are a few strategies you can use to prevent burnout:

Consider the Job Before You Take It

Every high school senior imagines a career filled with purpose, money, and happiness, right? They likely never consider that it can be challenging to have all three. It’s critical that high school and college counselors and other mentors discuss the risk of occupational burnout that comes with some professions before students enroll in programs and graduate.

Even after graduation, it’s essential to fully understand the responsibilities of each job before you take it. Let’s consider nursing, for example. If you’re a nurse who doesn’t handle high-stress situations well, a career in the emergency room might not be right for you. It may be a better fit to consider roles such as a health coach, case manager, or utilization reviewer.

Engage Your Physical and Mental Health

Many people tend to be good at one or the other of these activities. You might exercise three to five times each week, but spend very little time being mindful of your surroundings, or vice versa. To protect yourself from burnout, you need to fully embrace the mind-body connection and engage in activities that can help keep you physically and mentally well. Try finding an app for mindfulness and keep up with getting plenty of exercise, rest, and a well-balanced diet.

Give Yourself Permission to Disconnect

Many of the occupations that are at high risk of burnout attract people who are high-achievers and find much purpose in their work. These also tend to be people who have difficulty taking a day off or disconnecting. According to CNBC, as many as 200 million vacation days went unused in recent years, which equals about $604 annually for the average person. Unfortunately, it’s not only the loss of income that most workers feel when they don’t take a hard-earned vacation.

If you’re not good at setting aside time to disconnect, try making plans in advance. Talk to your manager about your need for a family vacation and come to a mutual agreement about dates and who will cover your work while you’re gone. If you’re feeling excited and adventurous about your time off, create a bucket list of activities you want to try or locations you want to visit. Fully engaging in the planning of your vacation increases your commitment to the time off.

Related Content:  The Burnout Burden: Why Doctors Need Help From Leadership

Don’t Get Diagnosed

There are many conditions that you can’t control. However, burnout isn’t one of them. Use this guide to gauge your level of risk based on your occupation and job duties. Then, adopt one or more of the strategies discussed and look for others that easily fit your lifestyle.

Related Content:  3 Surefire Ways to Prevent Burnout

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Jori Hamilton

Website: http://writerjorihamilton.contently.com

Jori Hamilton is a late twenty's freelance writer residing in Portland, Oregon. Coming from a marketing background, Jori took interest in blogging and content marketing and found a particular interest in healthcare and data science.

With eight plus years of writing experience, she decided to jump fully into a freelance writing career. This gave her the opportunity to write even more content on other subjects that mattered to her, including education, politics, technology, and the environment.

Jori has contributed to Life As A Human, Tuck Magazine, Clinician Today, Girl Talk HQ, and a number of other great publications.

If she's not writing, you can find her exploring beautiful downtown Portland or curled up in a blanket, reading a good book. You can follow her on LinkedIn.

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