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Finland looks for workplace burnout warning signals

The goal is to come up with a "traffic-light" model to identify telltale signs like exhaustion and detachment.

Työntekijä jonottaa työterveyshuollossa.
Workplace burnout has been studied extensively, but it is still difficult to diagnose. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) has announced that it is creating a list of parameters for identifying warning signs of burnout at work. The institute says that while the phenomenon has been studied widely, more needs to be done to recognise the condition in time.

FIOH research professor Jari Hakanen said in a bulletin that despite thousands of cases being reported, many practical questions surrounding the condition remain unanswered.

"There are still no clinically-defined parameters for workplace burnout in Finland that would help anyone – both employees and supervisors in the work community – to identify the early warning signs in time," he commented.

The FIOH research project will test the new model at places of work and in occupational health care programmes. The study will also try to come up with more reliable data on the number of workplace burnout cases reported in Finland every year.

Four symptoms highlighted

The goal is to produce a "traffic light" model for detecting workplace burnout. It focuses on four typical symptoms: chronic fatigue, detachment, and impaired cognitive and emotional control.

The institute defines occupational burnout as a group of symptoms linked to long-term unresolved work-related stress.

"Many individuals that have burnt out at work report unrelenting exhaustion, feeling as if their work has no significance, and an inability to concentrate or remember things. Emotional outbursts such as breaking into tears or angry outbursts are also typical and may come as quite a surprise," Hakanen says.

FIOH will coordinate the research project in collaboration with several companies and groups of professionals in the occupational health field.

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