Burnout and absenteeism

Together on the path to career resilience

Employers are increasingly faced with burnout and long-term absenteeism. The two challenges are also strongly related: burnout often lies at the foundation of absences that last a year or longer. How do we turn the tide? With a focus on sustainable employability that involves everyone.

In 15 years, long-term absences have tripled in number according to the annual Securex study into absenteeism (April 2017).

In 2016, more than three per cent of all Belgian employees were absent from work for longer than 12 months. Especially employees aged between 60 and 64 (18 per cent). Yet more and more people in their thirties and forties are joining the ranks of the absent.

What is causing these alarming figures? There are two explanations:

  1. Muscle and joint complaints – Stress and heavy physical work and sitting still for long periods with little movement are making us vulnerable to physical problems.
  2. Being mentally over-taxed – ‘Infobesity’ and ‘digibesity’ (obesity related to the use of IT or digital technology), additional pressure at home and work and a lack of recuperation are sending stress levels through the roof. It eventually leads to burnout.

There are still myths about burnout making their way around. It is not just a dip, nor is it depression. It is the result of a complex combination of factors from a person’s work and private life.

The number of Belgian office workers with a high risk of burnout has almost doubled over the past three years: it’s risen from 10 to 17 per cent. According to the same Securex study (October 2017), burnout particularly affects employees between the ages of 35 and 39.

Do we want to turn the burnout trend around? Then everyone involved needs to make their contribution:

  • The employer has to increase employability and commitment by motivating every individual employee and offering them achievable and meaningful work.
  • The government has to create a legal framework that encourages and facilitates tailored jobs—job crafting—and time- and location-independent work.
  • The employee needs to regularly ask himself: ‘Does this job and work environment correspond to my talents and ambitions?’ And especially: ‘Am I learning enough to adapt to the labour context as it will be tomorrow?’

An active lifestyle also prevents a lot of problems. Is health seen to be a ‘nice to have’ option today? It needs to become a ‘must-have’ to stop increases in absenteeism and burnout and to promote sustainable employability and career resilience.