Virtual burnout is a global problem. This is mainly due to the prevalence of remote working. In particular:
- Increased feelings of isolation during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021.
- Overwork and extended periods of uncertainty and change.
- Some researchers have refered to the VUCA world phenomenon.
Still, virtual burnout is a spectrum. Whilst most of us are somewhere on the virtual burnout spectrum, we explore how easy it is to misdiagnose virtual burnout.
So, what’s virtual burnout?
People use Virtual Burnout loosely as a synonym for tired. However, there’s a world of difference between those two states. Hence the need to have a scientific definition of burnout.
Which tests measure burnout?
- Has three separate measures which define burnout. Respondents get scores in all three areas along a continuum, from more positive to more negative. A burnout profile requires a negative score in all three.
- Is not a measure of exhaustion.
- There’s a tendency to think if you score negatively on one measure, you’re burnt out. However, that’s an incorrect interpretation of your Maslach Burnout Inventory results.
- The Maslach Burnout Inventory’s three criteria are:
- Exhaustion or total lack of energy;
- Feelings of cynicism or negativity toward a job.
- Reduced work efficacy. In other words how effective one feels in their work. Or ‘at work’.
Virtual burnout misdiagnoses
- A number of Maslach Burnout Inventory respondents will meet the single criteria of the MBI’s Exhaustion.
- The next largest respondent group is those Maslach Burnout Inventory respondents who aren’t fully engaged.
- Then there is the MBI respondent group who have become cynical (about their working environment). These individuals may no longer care about their customers. Equally, in our opinion, whether their current projects are successful, or not.
- Still, another respondent group can develop low MBI work efficacy.
The key point, when using the MBI, is that few MBI repsondents will have low scores in Exhaustion, Cynicism and Work Efficacy. An exhausted worker can enjoy their work still (hence score low Cynicism). Or feel that you still make a difference at work (Work Efficacy).
According to Maslach herself, there are three MBI profiles in between: overextended, ineffective and disengaged. Evidence suggests more than half of employees fall into one of these profiles, with a strong negative score in exhaustion, efficacy or cynicism.
In other words, whilst remote workers may not yet by virtually burnt out, they’re on their way.
The World Health Oganization recently updated its burnout definition specifically because of the burnout impact of the modern workplace. Their more elaborate burnout definition is that virtual burnout is due to poorly managed workplace stress which then becomes a chronic condition.
First burnout symptom – Struggling with workplace stress.
While the World Health Organization highlights that burnout syndrome is more than stress, stress is the core of the concern. Coping encompasses the methods utilized to moderate stressors. A key difference between stress and burnout is that stress may be moderated by coping, whereas burnout develops out of unsuccessful attempts to cope with workplace stress over time.
Second burnout symptom – Finding work draining.
- When you are experiencing burnout, you may find yourself to be exhausted or depleted from work.
- In a severe situation, this level of energy is disproportionate to what you have experienced typically.
- For example, you might recall a time in which you invested the same amount of hours…
- Yet left feeling invigorated from your efforts.
- however, if you are experiencing burnout, a typical shift may be more mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting than in the past.
Third burnout symptom – No longer enjoying your work.
- Workplace stress is minimized if you still find your work fulfilling.
Fourth burnout symptom – Negative work feelings.
- When you think about work, notice the emotions that arise.
- Do you find that you are inundated with negative sentiments and cynicism? Burnout causes
- Difficulty in recognizing and connect to positive sentiments pertaining to the workplace.
- Being flooded with intense, negative emotions.
Fifth burnout symptom – Lack of self-belief in doing your job effectively.
- When your workplace stress becomes chronic, you experienced a decrease in your self-efficacy.
- You may find yourself beginning to doubt your abilities, even for tasks in which you have previously demonstrated competence.
- Further, this reduction in your assessment of your own abilities may impede in your motivation, functionality, and productivity.
What is virtual working burnout?