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Burnout : the current context

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The socio-economic and legal context

Psychosocial risks at work are defined as the likelihood that one or several workers will suffer psychological (and physical) harm following exposure to components of the work organisation.

The consequences are :

  • individual : either psychological (anxiety, depression, burnout, etc.) and/or physical (cardiovascular diseases, insomnia, etc.
  • collective : conflicts, accidents at work, absenteeism, reduced quality of work and productivity, customer complaints, patient complaints, disengagement, demotivation, repeated resignations, staff turnover, submission of grievances, etc.

There is a range of causes :

  • Work organisation :available resources, procedures, management tools, management style, etc.
  • Work content : complexity, emotional demands (relations with the public, contact with suffering, emotional management, etc.).
  • Working conditions :night work, shift work, anti-social hours, career management, assessment procedure, risk of exposure to psychological or physical violence.
  • Interpersonal relationships at work between workers, line mangers, customers, users, patients, etc.

What does the legislator say ?

In France

The employer has a general safety obligation (article L. 4121-1 of the Labour Code). It must evaluate risks, including psychosocial risks and take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and protect the physical and mental health of its employees. This general obligation is based on a global approach to preventing professional risks. It does not mean simply looking to comply with specific obligations but obtaining the expected result (ensuring safety and protecting the physical and mental health of employees).
In order to organise the prevention of psychosocial risks in the company, the employer builds on the general prevention principles. See the regulations on the INRS website (french version).

In Belgium

The employer must take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and protect the physical and mental health of workers.
Such measures include detection in the form of surveys, risk prevention, information and training and the implementation of a suitable structure and resources.
The analysis involves determining whether risk factors present within the company could influence workers' health (by causing stress, burnout, abusive behaviours, etc.).
This risk analysis, which focuses on psychosocial risks at work must be conducted with the workers' participation.
Particular attention is paid to detecting and preventing psychological violence at work (emotional and sexual harassment).
See the Law on Well-being at Work of 28 February 2014 and 28 March 2014 (french version).