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Stress and Burn-out

Posted on 27 October, 2019 at 17:00

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

Burn-out seems to be a current HR topic and this year the World Health Organisation declared workplace burnout to be an occupational phenomenon. WHO defines workplace burnout as “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."

We're just coming out of Work Safe Month where the theme this year has been Safe Bodies, Safe Minds, I attended a few events and the turn out was fantastic. It seems that more organisations are realising that as important as R U OK? Day, Mental Health Week and Stress Down Day are, it's simply not enough to just have one-off events. Mental wellness needs to be part of the organisations DNA.

So how does that happen? How do you move from awareness days to a genuine accepting and inclusive culture where everyone can safely speak up? Unfortunately I guess that for some industries this is easier than others, it shouldn't be but I think it probably is, but that just means that those industries have to try harder to live and breathe safe listening cultures.

I watched an extremely confronting and yet necessary film yesterday — this film has been made for police and I supported my chronic PTSD diagnosed wife through 40 minutes of very hard viewing. The emotions I felt though this film were extreme and this led to much contemplation over the last 24 hours. My contemplation wasn't just about emergency service workers; dangerous situations and emotional demands are part of many industries. For the person living with the stressors, the seriousness of the pressure to meet demands is not measured by one industry against another. The workplace stressors for the Police Officer, the aged care worker, or, the apprentice electrician might differ but all are potentially dangerous for that individual.

In those industries where time off more than likely equals staff shortages and those staff shortages equal potentially dangerous situations, how much extra pressure does that apply? When just the 'normal' pressures of a job involve human trauma and tragedy (but it's 'just' part of the job), and those pressures start to seep into your subconscious how do accept/admit you are struggling? How do you recognise when you are affected in an industry where you have to be strong and in control? How do you speak up and ask for help knowing that your colleagues have the same experiences? How do you have a voice when those in power condemn you for being weak? How do you not make mistakes? How does that stress not impact every other area of your life?

I guess this film and others like it are a start, but we all HAVE to keep the conversations and the awareness happening. By creating awareness of the mental health risks in any industry, by creating safe and supportive environments where individuals can speak up and get assistance before they need time off, we will create change.

Many individuals still think that speaking up equates to 'being weak' or 'not being good enough', but this isn’t the case at all. Our working world is fast-paced, stressful and often under resourced — it's easy to feel over-whelmed. The first important step (after being brave enough to recognise how you are feeling) is to be open and start having a real conversation with someone you trust. A safe, respectful, accepting and inclusive work culture will provide opportunities for trusted conversation options but this doesn't just happen, this takes work and is a whole workplace commitment.

A safe, respectful, accepting and inclusive work culture can help to create a healthy set of boundaries and strategies for you at work. If you don't know how to create a safe, respectful, accepting and inclusive culture where everyone can safely speak up then ask for help. Respect at Work can talk to you about your workplace situation and help find the strategies you need.

*https/www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/

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