Organisational and self-help advice on burnout

One of the best books about burnout is Jennifer Moss‘ “The Burnout Epidemic“, which this blog wrote about in April last year. A recent book on burnout and self-help caused me to revisit Moss’ book, and one of the chapters that I missed last year seems to explain the popularity of the self-help approach.

Moss writes about the organisational and structural workplace factors that create and perpetuate workplace stress and related poor mental health. However, one of the last chapters is titled “Take Care of Yourself, Too”. Moss writes:

“Self-care won’t fix broken organizational systems, but it’s the part we can control in a world full of the uncontrollable.”

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Some good presenters, some great, but OHS conferences need more work

What was missing most from the recent conference of the Asia Pacific Occupational Safety and Health Organisation was a strong Asia-Pacific voice. Certainly, there were presentations by Asian OHS professionals and some westerners working in Asia, but the keynote speakers were almost from Anglo-European cultures. This made it hard to understand if the conference was designed for Asian safety and health professionals to learn from us or for Australians to learn from them. Perhaps it was just for all of us to learn as a profession.

Some of the keynote speakers offered universal suggestions for improving the management of workplace health and safety, but perhaps these were so universal as to be generic or safe. For instance, one of the greatest challenges for the Asian region, in particular, is ensuring the safety of migrant workers. There was one mention of the deaths of the World Cup construction workers, and that was in passing.

Below is a summary of the conference and some of the occupational health and safety issues (OHS) raised.

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Old working hours concepts persist as subtext in new debates

One of the most contentious occupational health and safety (OHS) elements of industrial relations negotiations is the issue of working hours. And one of the most effective ways to prevent physical and psychological harm is by talking about working hours. The evidence for harm from excessive and often unpaid hours is clear, but some assumptions crop up in the debate every so often.

Two recent books, one by David Graeber & David Wengrow and another by Daniel Susskind, offer reminders of these issues and are useful adjuncts to the Australian research on precarious work by Michael Quinlan, Phillip Bohle and others. ( A Guardian review of Graeber & Wengrow is available here with one from The Atlantic here, Susskind here and here)

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Who is responsible for Burnout? And for preventing it?

I apologise for often referring readers to paywalled content. This restriction can affect the impact and flow of a story, but I want readers to be able to verify the sources of my comments and my information. And I acknowledge that this blog, for many, is an example of the economic reality of paywalled content.

However, there was an article in The Guardian on October 11, 2022, about burnout that is well worth reading (You may be able to get short-term access). Below are some extracts from that article with my thoughts.

The Guardian article “‘I didn’t see how I could ever get back to a normal life’: how burnout broke Britain – and how it can recover” by Gaby Hinsliff,, recounts several cases of burnout and near-burnout that are typical of responses to work-related mental ill-health.

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A workplace injury could include adverse effects on physical, mental or cognitive conditions.

I recently refreshed my Lead Auditor in OHS training – the first time since Australia updated its Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems Standard to ISO45001. It was challenging on some issues but generic on others. Due to the recent heightened awareness of psychosocial hazards in the workplace, I was watching for how this hazard would be addressed. Still, I became stuck on the inclusion of “cognitive condition” in the definition of “injury and ill health”.

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The new approach to mental health at work may need a new profession

Managing psychologically healthy and safe workplaces makes me extremely nervous. I don’t think that anyone in Australia is suitably qualified to meet the new occupational health and safety (OHS) regulations and expectations imposed by OHS regulators in response to community demands and needs. Perhaps we need a new category of professional.

Continue reading “The new approach to mental health at work may need a new profession”

Burnout causes are organisational. Who knew?

This blog has written frequently about “burnout” in workplaces, especially since the condition was defined by the World Health Organisation in 2019. I have seen it used many times as a shortcut, or synonym, for workplace mental health but usually only at the corporate, executive level. Workers have breakdowns, but executives seem to suffer burnout.

Recently a book was published in the United States called “The Burnout Epidemic, or The Risk of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It”, by journalist Jennifer Moss. What is most outstanding about this book is that the recommended fix is organisational. Usually, burnout books from the States focus on the individual worker or executive. This fresh US perspective makes the book essential reading for if the US recognises how to fix burnout and chronic stress, any country can.

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