Invisible burnout – another HR worry for businesses

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Business leaders have yet another post-lockdown trend effecting workers to worry about – invisible burnout.

As its name suggests, invisible burnout refers to workers who are exhausted and have reached their breaking point, but do not display any obvious signs or symptoms.

“It’s a particularly difficult and worrying phenomenon,” says Nicol Myburgh, Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit. “Not only is the worker physically and emotionally drained, so productivity is impacted, but invisible burnout means these workers don’t necessarily show any signs of mental or physical fatigue. This can cause a host of related problems.”

Occupational burnout has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which began to issue statements as the Covid-19 pandemic spread in 2020. The institution drew attention to the problem of burnout linked to job stress, uncertainty and a fear of the unknown.

One such statement “WHO calls for healthy, safe and decent working conditions for all health workers, amidst COVID-19 pandemic”, the organisation warned of the impact of long working hours, psychological violence, and other dangers.

Three years on and burnout not only remains a concern, but has actually evolved into invisible burnout.

CRS Technologies warns that this form of burnout is difficult to manage.

“We know the symptoms of burnout, but catalysts like job stress, feelings of cynicism, depression, anxiety, concern about the rising cost of living and other sources are often hidden. Employees remain determined to work, they go through the motions and try their best, but either willingly or not, simply don’t show these signs,” says Myburgh. “This adds complexity to an already difficult situation. If the workplace does not know the extent of a worker’s stress or how close they are to burnout, there is little they can do.”

An article published by CNBC reports that women and workers under 30 are more prone to invisible burnout.

Part of the report reads, “There’s no single reason burnout is hitting women and younger working adults particularly hard, but experts agree that intersecting stressors of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic uncertainties have exacerbated stress and disengagement within these groups.”

CRS Technologies urges business leaders to pay close attention to any signs that employees may be struggling with invisible burnout.

Myburgh emphasises the need for companies to encourage workers to take regular breaks during the day, focus on self-care and wellbeing, to feel comfortable to approach management to discuss the issue, to try to regulate time management to help ease stress, and to avoid taking on too much too quickly.

Ultimately, employees must feel they can ask for help and regularly assess their well-being.