In 2022, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Classification of Diseases, revision 11 (ICD-11) will contain a code (QD85 Burn-out) for a syndrome characterized by:

1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;

2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and

3) reduced professional efficacy.

Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Although the definition identifies “chronic workplace stress,” IBI’s recent survey of employees suggests that stress and low morale can manifest in the short term when team members take extended time off from work.

Nearly half of employees who experienced a co-worker’s extended absence reported at least one associated personal or business consequence—most commonly, increased stress or difficulty completing one’s own work. One in three reported that staff put in more overtime or spent more time at work than usual. Obtaining extra help such as the use of temporary replacements or outsourcing work was reported infrequently.

These findings provide a corrective to studies showing that in addition to the benefits for leave-takers, leaves have a small financial impact on employers—if any. More likely, the productivity costs of extended leaves are harder to measure and go unnoticed by management and researchers

The report includes guidance to help employers develop leave strategies that sustain productivity with minimal impacts to staff workloads, morale, and personnel costs.

With some advance preparation, leaves can provide security for employees who need time off without contributing to risk of burnout among their colleagues.