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Well-being and Burnout in the Workplace

Well-being and Burnout in the Workplace

Well-being is a complex phenomenon, and the discussion of well-being is often simplified and connected to individual assumptions and expectations, and, often, its complexities are understimated

This article aims to unwrap some of the complexities I uncovered while researching well-being and burnout in the workplace. For the context of this article, I share the perspectives of Hosseini (2018) and the suggestions discussed in the research that well-being is more than feeling happy. According to Hosseini (2018), well-being, or well-living as the author coined it, is a subjective experience which can be associated with the contexts of one's cultural worldview and thus is not universally defined. I will conclude with some of my pondering thoughts and leave the reader with further considerations that I urge one to reflect on while using the context of one's workplace and well-being.

According to de Vries et al. (2017), burnout results from prolonged work stress, including excessive job tasks and work demands on the employee. However, Çelik (2018) identified four dimensions of psychological capital, which the author associated with affecting an employee's attitude to work and its impact on their stamina. Moreover, Çelik's (2018) study suggested that a cultural context may impact the employee's well-being, as Hosseini (2018) suggested. Braun and Peus (2016) and de Vries et al. (2017) identified in their studies that leadership behaviours are also linked to an employee's well-being. In addition, Braun and Peus (2016) further suggested that negative consequences of leadership behaviours may not impact individuals universally. For example, Braun and Peus (2016) asserted that an impaired cognitive function on the part of the individual can be associated with a decline in productivity. Furthermore, de Vries et al. (2017) also suggested that physically fatigued individuals were also associated with secondary consequences such as struggles with self-efficacy, lack of sleep, lack of work-ability, and lower cognitive functioning causing further challenges for the individual to achieve well-being.

It is evident from the literature that well-being has many layers. However, I continue to ponder upon the thought of at what stage would a negative experience at work tip an individual into burnout? Although using limited literature, my findings pointed to the fact that burnout is equally complex as well-being. For example, Braun and Peus (2016) described work-life balance as a mediator to prevent burnout is complicated but can be alleviated by promoting a leadership style that fosters employee well-being. Diebig et al. (2017) questioned the link between a leader's health and the impact on the employees they line manage. More complexities, such as the theoretical frameworks associated with leadership styles and follower perspectives, further highlighted that well-being and burnout are more complex than many institutions or organisations acknowledge.

Furthermore, Diebig et al. (2017) suggested that theories that constitute the connection between stress-related antecedents influence a leader's behaviour towards their employees, which may further transfer increased stress onto their members and vice-versa. In addition, Diebig et al. (2017) suggested that burnout is generally influenced by quantitative measures such as job demands, role conflict, limited feedback, and poor social support. However, Çelik's (2018) study affirmed that job stress disturbs employee efficacy but suggested that an employee's predisposition to stress triggers may affect work attitudes. According to Joshi (2017), an employee's inability to take any more work stress and the refusal to want to go to work anymore indicate an individual's distress which the author identified as burnout. The literature identified that burnout includes psychological responses to the stress experienced at work which may create emotional or physical strains of varying seriousness for the individual (Braun & Peus, 2016; Diebig et al., 2017; de Vries et al., 2017; Joshi, 2017). However, the literature does provide remedies or strategies for preventing burnout for individuals at work, such as coaching, leadership styles and exercise (Braun & Peus, 2016; de Vries et al., 2017; Diebig et al., 2017).

As a career educator and practitioner, I aim to prepare the youth for future career aspirations. Included in this process is my obligation to ensure that young people are aware of the impacts that work will have on their personal lives. For example, the current indicators of work stress, strain and lack of well-being negatively impacting the quality of an individual's life is essential information that can inform a young person's career-decision-making process. For example, Çelik's (2018) study identified kindergarten teachers' perceptions of workplace stress as lowering job satisfaction and increasing the participants' intentions to quit their teaching jobs. In addition, the study by Diebig et al. (2017) also identified that the crossover of stress and strain from principal to teachers was apparent. Therefore, a student considering a future career should be aware of the potentially adverse working conditions ahead of them where they may be spending an increasing number of hours at work (Brown& Peus, 2016).

Furthermore, Hosseini (2018) asserted that well-being is contextual and includes cultural context, and Helmbold and Schofield (1989) suggested that social constructions determine the value attached to one's work. In addition, one cannot overlook the literature findings, which revealed that well-being cannot be limited to a simplistic perspective if work, culture and gender are complex (Iversen et al., 2020). The topic of 'burnout' is of great importance, but the current discussions of burnout may not aptly discuss the even more complex spectrum of strain at work to burnout. Writing this article and participating in the GESS Education Well-being Webinar (2023), I aimed to create opportunities for further pondering to enable the reader to self-reflect and process how work stresses influence one's personal life quality, which may further influence the individual's workplace efficacy.

In conclusion, if one were to view Hosseini's (2018) suggestion that well-being may not be universally defined, it seems essential to also recognise the importance of future research inquiries into the consequences of a negative work environment. One must not forget that working in a culturally diverse world where individuals collaborate in the workplace while impacted by increasing work demands, technological competitors and the fear that a disgruntled employee experience may lead the individual to choose between increasing work stress or choosing well-being and therefore leaving one's job. It is with this premise that as a career educator, I ask myself how educators and professionals can become more consciously aware role models if educational institutions demonstrate ever-mounting crossovers of stress and strain occurring between the principals and the teachers who will return home after a stressful day at school feeling fatigued, overloaded and potentially suffering from burnout.

If Diebig et al. (2018) correctly asserted that stress impacts one's cognitive functioning leaving individuals with the inability to overcome the strain from stress also linked to the emotional contagion, which Diebig et al. (2018) described as an unconscious and automatic transmission of stress from one individual to another, I believe that school leaders must make a more conscious effort to include strategies that create reflexive thought at the end of every work day. It cannot be forgotten that education institutions are playgrounds where young people learn about the world of work and mimic the habits and skills they gain from their teachers and school leaders which they will transfer to their lives at home and in into their future workplaces.


Author : Maria Vitoratos, Executive Careers Coach.

Maria Vitoratos is a freelance Excecutive Careers Coach, the Founder of the UAE Careers Community, an author and an avid careers practitioner who engages with colleagues across the globe.  She continues to strive to change the conversation from 'what university degree to you want to complete to what do you want to bring to the world and how can post-secondary experiences and education help you to achieve these career and life goals'?

Maria is an active member of the global careers education community and finds every opportunity to enrich her skillset so that she can create a careers provision that will both prepare and ignite enthusiasm in the youth of her educational institution and the UAE.



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GESS Education. (2023, March 23). Webinar 15: Key Strategies for Preventing Burnout in Educators and Students: A Comprehensive Guide to Well-being.

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