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Office burnout syndrome

By Vision Reporter

Added 13th December 2009 03:00 AM

“I DON’T know what is wrong with me. I feel like staying away from my workplace. It has become so monotonous, I feel I should do something new or take some rest. Don’t be surprised if I resign,” William, an accountant with a non-governmental organ

“I DON’T know what is wrong with me. I feel like staying away from my workplace. It has become so monotonous, I feel I should do something new or take some rest. Don’t be surprised if I resign,” William, an accountant with a non-governmental organ

By Thomas Pere

“I DON’T know what is wrong with me. I feel like staying away from my workplace. It has become so monotonous, I feel I should do something new or take some rest. Don’t be surprised if I resign,” William, an accountant with a non-governmental organisation, expresses his frustration to a friend.

William is not alone, this syndrome, commonly referred to as burnout, is a familiar experience at workplaces, but most employers do not recognise it.

Joseph Musoke, the head of human resource at WARID Telecom, defines it as the feeling of physical and emotional exhaustion due to stress from working under difficult or demanding conditions.

“It doesn’t happen overnight, but can take you unawares if you are not paying attention to the warning signs.”

He says the signs and symptoms of work burnout are subtle at first, but they get worse as time goes on.
Burnout is manifested in the following ways:
  • Change in attitude where an employee becomes less sociable or impatient with co-workers.

  • Change in performance where a well-performing employee suddenly has an increase in errors, misses deadlines and declines in productivity.

  • Change in attendance characterised by increased absenteeism, arriving late or leaving early and, or foregoing breaks and lunch to work.

  • Change in work habits, including poor time management, disorganisation, poor follow up and lack of concentration.

  • Change in health, for example, aches and pains, sluggishness, upset stomach, short temper and sleeplessness.

  • Anyone who feels overworked and undervalued at work, is at risk of suffering from burnout.

    This can happen from the hardworking worker, who hasn’t had a vacation or a pay-rise in years, to the exhausted stay-at-home mom struggling with the heavy responsibility of taking care of kids, the housework and her aging father. There are several factors that contribute to burnout among workers.

    Nandanan Kannanpulakkal, the chief executive officer of Future Options, a recruitment firm, says employee burnout is a result of occupational stress.
    It can happen when demands of the job are too high on an individual or when employee lacks self-management skills.
    “It can also occur when there is a mismatch between the skills and competencies of an employee and goals set. Lack of self-management skills too can cause a burnout when an individual tries to accomplish too much with too little skills and competencies.”

    Unclear job requirements where workers find it hard to work with confident, enjoy their work, or feel they are doing a good job, also lead to burnout, says John Musoke, a consultant.

    “This happens when the job description isn’t explained clearly, the requirements are constantly changing and hard to understand. With unclear expectations, workers are at a higher risk of suffering burnouts.”

    Another cause, he says, is impossible job requirements where, for instance, a job’s responsibilities exceed the amount of time given to complete it. Workers will put in a lot of effort, but never feel successful, leaving them at risk of suffering from stress.

    “Making mistakes is part of human nature, however, when there are big consequences for failure like the risk of a lawsuit, it can make the work experience stressful with the risk of burnouts going up. This partly explains why nurses have a high rate of burnout,” Musoke explains.

    The lack of personal control at work can also be cause of burnouts since people tend to feel excited about what they are doing when they are able to creatively decide what needs to be done.
    Unlike workers who feel restricted and don’t have control over their daily decisions, these can be at a greater risk of burnouts. Lack of recognition at work is also one of the major causes of work burnout because it is demoralising to work hard and never be recognised.

    Awards, public praise, bonuses and other tokens of appreciation and recognition of accomplishment, go a long way in keeping morale high. Where there is no recognition of worker, the burnout risk is high.

    Many jobs and industries have “crunch times,” where workers must work longer hours and handle a more intense workload for a time.

    “This can actually help people feel re-energised if the extra effort is recognised, appropriately compensated, and limited,” Musoke says.


    While the reverse happens when it not recognized. Poor communication, insufficient compensation and poor leadership are also some of the causes of burnout in work places.
    Effects
    Burnout at a work place usually results in lowered productivity, accidents, poor quality work, equipment damage and increased errors among others. However not all burnout are caused by stressful work or too many responsibilities, other factors too contribute to burnout, including your lifestyle, the way you look at the world and certain personality traits.
    Prevention and cure
    Jamesroger Nsereko, a clinical psychologist in Butabika hospital says “First step in prevention of burnout is by being assertive; talk about what is too much for you without any aggression. This would make you receive the proportionate amount of work especially professions like secretaries and healthcare workers where everyone heaps their on them.”

    He says since some personalities are more prone than others especially type A as compared to B. There is need to change and modify your personality incase you are type A and good parenting style used can also help when children are taught about how the world is earlier.

    Nsereko says employers also need to have clear job description and good time management skills so that employees can meet their demands without burning out. And work plans need to be used so that workers can know what to do and at what time.

    “But for a person already suffering from burnout, she/he should be given leave where they must go and relax in a place of their liking. Working places also need to employ councilors to address the emotional and psychological needs of their workers since the stressing nature of modern work requires professional help,” says Nsereko.

    Office burnout syndrome

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