August 31, 2022

Can burn-out be recognized as an occupational disease?

Can burn-out be recognized as an occupational disease?

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), "burn-out is a syndrome resulting from chronic stress at work that has not been successfully managed". It has several characteristics: 

1.feeling of exhaustion 

2.negative feelings about work 

3.a reduction in efficiency and productivity 

4.a devaluation of oneself 

Burn-out, also known as professional exhaustion syndrome, affects all professional sectors and hierarchical levels. It was first observed among health care personnel in hospitals, but today it concerns any profession requiring a high degree of involvement and commitment. The WHO also reminds us that burn-out is specifically linked to the professional context and should not be extracted from this context to explain other phenomena or life situations. In this context, a question arises: can burn-out be considered an occupational disease? 

We propose to answer this question through a few points: 

  • How to identify a burned-out employee? 
  • What kind of support and work rhythm for an employee in difficulty?
  • How to get burn-out recognized as an occupational disease? 

How to identify a burned-out employee? 

Burn-out is a sign of professional exhaustion. However, there are ways to prevent it and support employees in this situation. As we have seen, burn-out is generally characterized by fatigue, low self-esteem and a deterioration in productivity at work. More precisely, this can be translated into 5 types of signs in an employee: 

  • Physical: appearance and persistence of sleep problems, apathy and a permanent state of exhaustion, 
  • Emotional: the person in burn-out can feel mentally exhausted, experience a feeling of emptiness or on the contrary of hypersensitivity, 
  • Cognitive: on the cognitive level, burn-out can lead to difficulties in concentrating, the person suffering from burn-out can also have difficulty performing a multitude of tasks or making decisions, 
  • Behavioral: from a behavioral point of view, the person may feel isolated by interacting little with others, 
  • Motivational: the person in burn-out can feel devalued in his work, questioning his skills and performance, this can be accompanied by a deterioration of his moral state and a global demotivation. 

We can break down the symptoms of burnout into a : 

➡️ chronic exhaustion that expresses itself in the person's physical

➡️ but also in mental exhaustion

What kind of support and work rhythm for an employee in difficulty?

The first and most essential step is to raise the awareness of the staff and more specifically of the manager (which we talked about in this article). All staff and employees must be trained to recognize the signs of burn-out and know how to talk about it. To do this, it is necessary to promote mental health at work thanks to the different tools that you can find here. It is also important to understand that an employee in a burn-out situation is not necessarily aware of his or her illness, and may have difficulty sharing with others. It is precisely in this case that awareness takes on its full meaning: the training and awareness of the team and the manager is essential for a better management of the disorder at work.

➡️On ce burn-out has been identified in one or more of the employees, an effective support policy should be implemented based on a few tracks: 

  • Adjusting the working conditions and work rhythm of the employee in difficultyResumption of work after a burn-out episode must be progressive and in close discussion with the physician as well as the employee
  • Part-time work with flexible hours can be considered. The employee's willingness and condition must be taken into account, and solutions must be found based on the indicators of his or her mental and physical condition,
  • Set up regular medical follow-up It is important to offer sessions with a psychologist trained in the subject of burn-out in order to continue the support and evaluation of the employee's well-being,
  • Rethinking work methods and structures The time has come to implement new management tools to offer a healthy and more balanced work environment, by correcting failures in the organization of work (overwork, unclear boundaries between private and professional spheres).

➡️ Based on medical assistance, the manager and all employees must adopt an action plan to identify and prevent psychosocial risk factors. In this sense, the promotion and awareness of mental health in the workplace takes on its full meaning, this must be focused in particular on: 

  • Closely monitor the workload of each employee,
  • Create a caring work environment and trusting relationships between employees by encouraging discussion and team spirit, 
  • Empowering and empowering the employee so that he/she can grow in the performance of his/her work. 

In which countries is burn-out recognized as an occupational disease? 

At the European Union level, two countriesItaly and the Latvia recognize burn-out as an occupational disease. 

Since the French Rebsamen law of August 17, 2015, burn-out has been included in the table of mental disorders. However, to be recognized as an occupational disease, it must be proven that the employee's problem is largely work-related, and that it can lead to death or disability. 

In Belgium, burn-out has been recognized by the Belgian legislation since July 13, 2006 (MB1/09/2006). Nevertheless, Belgian law confuses two notions: "occupational disease" and "burn-out", which is why the Federal Agency for Occupational Risks in Belgium has clearly recognized burn-out as a disease directly related to work. 

Even if burn-out is not recognized everywhere, this does not prevent you from being entitled to assistance and support from your employer and health insurance. Be well informed!

Recent Articles