The Cost of Burnout: Why We Need Healthy Work

Healthy Work Campaign
8 min readAug 26, 2019

By Marnie Dobson Zimmerman, PhD & Peter Schnall, MD MPH*

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Burnout is the feeling that everything is wrong with your job and that no matter how much sleep you get, you just can’t get over this feeling of complete exhaustion when you leave work and when you think about going to work. The job you might once have loved is now leaving you feeling overwhelmed and cynical. The patients, students, clients or customers you once enjoyed serving, now might make you feel irritated and hopeless. You may even feel like your job doesn’t have any meaning anymore or that you are professionally inadequate to the task. “Why can’t I keep up and everybody else can?

You are not alone.

Burnout is a complex, but well-studied phenomenon at least since the 1970s. Researchers in social psychology, including Christina Maslach, the author of the most widely used research measure in the burnout field, have found that the occupational burnout syndrome has three major components:

In May 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized burnout, not as a medical condition, but an “occupational phenomenon or syndrome.”

What does that mean to you if you are experiencing burnout?

For a start, it means you are not to blame for your burnout — it is not the result of an errant gene, family history or your behaviors. Burnout has environmental causes. The World Health Organization says that it is caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It is the result of your work environment and one or more factors like excessive workloads, unreasonable time pressures, a lack of job control (having input into your job), work-life imbalance, a lack of social support or good leadership, unfair treatment like being overlooked for a promotion, and even by bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment. [1, 2]

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Why should those who don’t suffer from burnout, care about this issue? Is this just a millennial problem? A first world issue?

Burnout affects young people. There are disturbing trends in millennials embracing the…