Workplace Burnout Is Now Literally a Diagnosis

Image Credit: fizkes/iStock/GettyImages

Despite everything we know about burnout — where it comes from, what it looks like, all the ways we can try to fend it off — it's always felt a little less official than it should. Telling your boss that you're burned out won't get the same reaction as telling your boss you have a broken leg or pneumonia. That should change, now that medical professionals have finally recognized burnout for what it is.

The World Health Organization has just added the phenomenon to its International Classification of Diseases Handbook. It calls burnout a syndrome, specific to employment, "resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." If you're feeling depleted, distant, and negative and it's affecting your day-to-day, you're officially dealing with a genuine hazard.

Job-related burnout is rocketing ever higher, and it comes in lots of forms. New managers face one specific variety, while high performers face another, and everyone has their own story of how they came to be burned out. The solution ought to be systemic, since 24-hour work culture is its own epidemic and individual fixes, while offering some relief, won't scale the way the problem will.

The WHO says that going forward, it plans to put together guidelines on workplace mental health and wellbeing. Until then, burned-out workers of the world, there is help out there. Some of it might require a mental health professional, especially given that job strain accounts for 14 percent of common mental illnesses. Some of it might be small, like tweaking company culture to include more gratitude in the daily grind. Even a self-help book could be more helpful than you'd think. Burnout may be a force to be reckoned with, but here's the thing — so is your resilience.