Emotional Exhaustion Due to Work Stress

Recent trends in work culture have been found to be highly detrimental to health, both mental and physical. Therefore, it is important to understand and address the underlying stress factors in a timely and effective manner. The current study examines the impact of exhaustion on health in middle-aged employed individuals. Three significant psychosocial contributors to stress were analyzed. These were job control, harassment at workplace and maintaining integrity and righteousness within a company. Additionally, physical stress was assessed, as was the role of interrelation among all the above factors.

“Burnout” is common terminology for stress associated with work pressure. Of the three components of burnout — cynicism, emotional exhaustion and a lack of efficiency — the most critical component is emotional exhaustion. The environment and interactions at the workplace are integral contributors to stress, which eventually affects health. Dissatisfaction and frustration with work could be consequential to one’s inability to manage job requirements and the dynamics within the organization, with respect to honesty and events of bullying. Employees often find themselves in a state of emotional exhaustion as a result of issues with colleagues and lack of proper scheduling. They feel overburdened with work and overwhelmed by decisions made by superiors. Physical weariness is not to be underestimated; this is bound to reflect in the quality of performance.

* The study included 1,145 men and 4,674 women aged between 40 and 60 years, employed across a variety of sectors.
* Data from two previously conducted surveys were collated.
* A correlation was drawn out between emotional exhaustion and parameters of job control. Job control parameters included organizational justice in terms of process and behavior, witnessing harassment and the physical strain involved in work.
* All the contributing factors were statistically evaluated as independent points. Their association with each other was also evaluated.

* The reported measures of exhaustion were similar across both sexes. It was 23 percent emotional exhaustion in women and 20 percent in men.
* Older women and those occupying more senior posts complained of more exhaustion. Likewise, lesser job control, dishonesty at work and seeing bullying events also seemed to accentuate tiredness.
* Physical work was not a major cause for exhaustion, especially for men.
* In most cases, men and women showed similar results.

Next Steps/Shortcomings
The data corresponds to the early 2000s and needs to be validated for modifications in workplace and employees subsequent to that. The participants did not include younger age groups, people in underprivileged sections of society and people employed in public sector undertakings. One major limitation of such studies is self-reporting by the participants; the reported data could be influenced by their personal qualities. For example, pessimists could report worse work conditions.

This study is very important in regards to the conditions of the workplaces today. The primary factors are management of assigned work commitments, age, place in hierarchy of organization, and discrimination within the office leading to insults. Each of these has to be independently analyzed. It is equally important to interpret the interrelation between each of these factors, too. These also act as triggers for loss of health, depression, unwanted habits and absenteeism from work. All these eventually lead to “burnout.” It’s important to note that most of this fatigue arises from psychosocial causes rather than physical work. Hence, it becomes important to modulate company policies that accommodate psychological wellness of employees as a critical part of healthcare.

For More Information:
Psychosocial Work Environment and Emotional Exhaustion among Middle-Aged Employees
Publication Journal: BMC Research Notes, April 2011
By Minna Helkavaara; Peppiina Saastamoinen; University of Helsinki, Finland

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