BOIT – Rationale
The European Working Conditions Survey highlighted that occupational illnesses associated with psychological stress are on the rise throughout the EU member states. The BOIT project deals with the burnout syndrome – an occupational disease which is characterised by emotional, mental and physical exhaustion.
The aim of this project is to sensitise managers for the subject burnout in order to prevent working situations that can lead to burnout. Managers (especially of the middle level, such as team leaders, project managers etc.) will get trained to recognize burnout signals among their staff at an early stage and to react on it.
The BOIT Training Concept
Maintaining a healthy, motivated workforce is crucial for managers and team-leaders to guarantee sustainable productivity and competitive advantage. Dealing with Burnout is a major issue for managers across the European Community, but what does it really mean to be “Burnt-out”?
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a real illness, distinct from “stress”, affecting more and more people in increasingly high-pressure working environments. Increasing psychological demands result in higher absenteeism and higher staff-turnover, leading to higher costs and inefficiencies, affecting outputs, outcomes and overall performance of individual, teams, and across the organisation.
Research indicates that Burnout is under-reported by employees, who, in a climate of economic uncertainty, work longer hours, taking on more responsibilities, endangering their health, thus compromising their ability to contribute effectively to organisational objectives.
The concept of the BOIT project, however, treats Burnout as a process that can be identified, prevented and intercepted by managers and team leaders.
Although there are already many training courses on offer which deal with topics such as “work-life-balance” and “stress-free life”, until now, there was nothing designed specifically for the superiors of people at risk of Burnout at work.
The BOIT concept specifically targets managers, team leaders and other members of middle-management from different sectors, making individuals more sensitive to, and more aware of Burnout, encouraging them to take on more responsibility for the well-being of their employees when it comes to work-related illnesses such as Burnout.
With managers and team-leaders in mind, the BOIT training offers a flexible, modular, blended-learning approach. A combination of face-to-face workshops and a computer-based learning-platform offers a structure than can adapted to participants’ schedules and requirements, with material than can be studied when and where participants have time.
The Impact of BOIT
With the help of the Burnout Intervention Training for Managers and Team Leaders this target group is encouraged to develop a greater awareness of working conditions that could lead to Burnout among their staff. The BOIT approach is to make as well as to encourage them to apply strategies to prevent or intercept the Burnout before it gets too serious.
We believe that widespread implementation of the BOIT concept across different sectors of the economy, will mitigate the damaging personal effects of Burnout, and help minimise the financial costs associated with Burnout.
The BOIT training concept is based on four modular work shops. Individual modules can be easily adapted according to participants’ needs, as well as their previous knowledge and experience.
Definitions, risks and impacts
Learning goals in Workshop
- Understanding of the Burnout process
- Establishing a common definition for Burnout
- Recognising general signs and signals of Burnout, and understanding the difference between stress and depression
- Basic understanding of the impact of Burnout with regard to
- General behaviour at work
- Changes in team behaviour
- Costs and other impacts on the organisation
- Understanding the role of private life and its impact on the risk of Burnout
- Insight into the target group and into the professions with higher Burnout risk
Signs, Signals and phases
Learning goals in Workshop 2
- Typical signs of Burnout
- Understanding one’s responsibilities when signs of Burnout occur
Intervention and prevention strategies
Learning goals in Workshop 3
- Knowledge of various prevention and intervention strategies
- Recognition of possible areas of change on the organisational level
- Transfer of knowledge according to one’s own situation
- Clarification of possibilities of each participant (including a planning tool for change process)
Organisational related development and suggestions for change
- Manifestation of knowledge
- Reflection on changes occurring in the organisations so far
The training concept is a mixture of face-to-face teaching and information provided on a learning management system.
Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental fatigue. The phenomenon of burnout is not an independent disease, but a combination of several factors.
Gradually people completely outspend themselves and loose, as a result, not only the interest in their (professional) tasks, but feel totally empty – they are burned out.
Burnout usually develops over months to years, in stages in a continuous process of physical, emotional and mental exertion.
The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), the international standard for burnout measurement describes the main facets of burnout in three levels:
- Emotional level: Emotional exhaustion
- Cognitive level: Depersonalisation
- Behaviour level: Reduced productivity
These warning symptoms of burnout can escalate over time into physical complaints, such as muscle pain, concentration problems, sleeping problems, headaches, balance disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, irritability, depression, etc.
Groups at risk
Studies show that mainly people in social professions, such as teachers, social workers or people in medical and nursing professions belong to the high risk groups of burnout. The risk is no longer restricted to those professions, but now affects almost all trades and professions.
Burnout is a consecutive reaction of stress, which can be caused by internal and external factors. If there are not enough resources to manage these pressures, there is a risk of burnout.
Internal factors include for example the idealization of work and the setting of unrealistic goals. Environmental factors that make the work situation very stressful are for example high demands combined with time pressure, organizational framework conditions, such as low support from colleagues and / or superiors as well as a high degree of control and additional stress coming from private life.
The BOIT project considers “intervention” as the dealing and the reaction of managers and team leaders related to burnout. Managers will not become therapists with the Burnout Intervention Training – this would be more than unrealistic and not the purpose of the project, but they will be sensitized on the issue. This further training for HR professionals is designed to recognize burnout on an early stage and to give appropriate tools to deal with people who are at risk of getting burned out.
BOIT will promote recognizing warning signals for intervening on an early stage in the process. Above all, the focus is on preventive work: working conditions should be planned to minimize burnout risks.
The project has three direct target groups:
- Team Leaders
- and other members of the middle level management
The final beneficiaries of the project are people with burnout risk and those who are already affected by burnout.
The Burnout Intervention Training for Managers and Team Leaders aims at preventing working situations with burnout risk. The target group will be enabled to
- define burnout promoting conditions
- identify first burnout signals
- develop and apply strategies for intercepting the burnout process within the personnel
Additional to these short term aims BOIT will in the long term decrease
- sick leavers (costs) caused by burnout
- personnel turnover caused by burnout
- the unemployment rate caused by burnout
The training methodology used in the project will be blended, mixing face to face workshops and e-learning content.
The main activities of the BOIT project taking place between January 2010 and December 2011 are
- General data on burnout will be analysed in a theoretical abstractand a burnout model will be presented. The needs of the project target group in relation to a burnout intervention training will be collected through a needs analysis.
- On the basis of the needs analysis and with the participation of experts in the field the Burnout Intervention Trainingwill be developed.
- An open source platformwill be adapted to the needs of the project and its target groups.
- The burnout intervention training will be pilotedin the 6 participating countries over a period of six months.
- The pilots and their evaluation results will be documented and published in a “good practice brochure”.
- The project will be presented at European dissemination conferences.
Burnout Intervention Training tools
The Burnout Intervention Training is the main product, which will be developed during the project. It contains training and learning materials and consists of 4 elements
- training curriculum
- booklet with learning materials for the face-to-face training
- e-learning objects
- trainer’s manual
Good practice Brochure
Results of the piloting phase will be documented and evaluated.
The good practice brochure illustrates how the training program can be useful for managers who are confronted with persons at burnout risk respectively with those who already are burned out. The strengths of the training program will be highlighted as well as the challenges that go together with the Burnout Intervention Training.
The project products are also available in the languages of the partner countries. Please ask for them by contacting us.
Universität Wien, Fakultät für Psychologie
Universitatea din Oradea
Århus social- og sundhedsskole
Head bridges to europe
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.