The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified and exacerbated burnout's impact on the world's workforce. In our last article (Putting Out the Fire), we highlighted COVID-19's staggering impact and the critical role organizations and their leaders play in the fight against burnout. This article explores two topics that underpin that work: first, what burnout actually is, and what it is not; and second, the crucial interplay of the organization and the individual in effectively addressing and mitigating burnout.
First announced in the summer of 2019 and effective as of January 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) will refer to burnout as an occupational syndrome that originates from chronic and persistent workplace stress, not simply a medical condition. This renaming effort underscores the importance of raising public awareness of the WHO's evolving view of burnout. More importantly, this evolved definition disconnects burnout from other illnesses, health conditions and any misguided perceptions of personal weakness and instead refocuses the attention on the syndrome's dimensions.