Chronic work stress and a perceived lack of recognition are prime drivers of worker burnout, according to a new study conducted at the University of Zaragoza in Spain.
"The prevalence of the disorder is increasing in our country and poses a serious problem for society because of economic losses and health consequences," said Jesus Montero-Marín, lead study author and senior researcher at the Aragon Institute of Health Sciences.
Identifying three burnout profiles (frantic, unchallenged and worn), the study—published in BMC Psychiatry—shows the sociodemographic and labor variables associated with each of them.
"The profile 'frenzy' is associated with the number of hours of work," Montero-Marín said.
A person who devotes more than 40 hours per week to their work has an almost six times greater chance of developing burnout, compared to someone who works less than 35 hours per week. Such employees usually have a high involvement in their office, great ambition and high work overload.
A worker engaged in monotonous tasks, prone to boredom and lack of personal development is more at risk of developing the profile "unchallenged." Management staff and services has an almost three times higher probability of belonging to this group.
"Worn" usually appears in people with a long history in the same company—they end up neglecting their responsibilities, given the lack of recognition they perceive. Thus, a worker with 16 years of service in the same workplace has a five times greater risk of developing this type of profile, compared with one that has less than four years of service.
Whatever the kind of burnout, workers experience emotional exhaustion, cynicism or lack of efficacy on the job. In general, the researchers believe burnout is present if a person has at least one of these three traits.
Apart from the factors that cause burnout, a person's social environment can act as a counterweight to it appearing in the first place.
"Having a family, partner or children can act as a protective cushion, because when people finish their day at work they leave their workplace worries behind them and focus on other kinds of tasks," Montero-Marín said.
With regard to a person's academic level, people at the two opposite ends of the scale suffer most from burnout—those who have had little training and those with the highest levels of studies. This can be explained because people with little education usually take jobs that require fewer qualifications, and in which they receive little recognition. However, Ph.D.s with long careers also end up burnt out, because they "feel they are investing more in the job than they get in return."
(Story materials provided by Plataforma SINC and AlphaGalileo.)