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Workers call for protection from ‘burnout’

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
Workers call for protection from âburnoutâ
Alan Tanjusay, spokesman for Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) must come out with new rules that would protect workers suffering from burnout.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Labor groups yesterday sought new labor regulations that would protect workers from burnout, recently classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a medical condition.

Alan Tanjusay, spokesman for Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) must come out with new rules that would protect workers suffering from burnout.

“Since burnout is now classified as a medical condition, there should be an order from DOLE stating the rules and regulations for the protection of workers suffering from this condition,” Tanjusay said.

Teresita Cucueco, DOLE’s Bureau of Working Condition director, said they have included mental health such as burnout in the proposed revised occupational safety and health (OSH) standards.

“Although burnout is a consequence of mental health issues, the OSH should also address psychosocial concerns,” Cucueco said. 

Tanjusay said the DOLE should issue guidelines for state-run social insurance institutions as well as the Employees Compensation Commission and PhilHealth to provide benefits for such medical condition.

He said employers should adopt recreational programs such as routine assignment of employees to different branches, seminars and retraining for new techniques.

“Employees should be treated to routine paid rest and recreational activities,” Tanjusay added. 

For the first time, WHO included burnout in its international classification of diseases, which is used as a benchmark for diagnosis and health insurers.

WHO defines burnout as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

It said burnout refers to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Federation of Free Workers vice president Julius Cainglet said burnout is a missing dimension in the country’s occupational safety and health laws.

“There are standards for direct, physical, chemical, biological and ergonomic hazards, but none for mental and emotional hazards such as stress, which causes burnout,” Cainglet said.

He said burnout is a common condition among call center employees, who either have to meet steep call or sales requirements, or deal with irate customers every day.

“There are also countless tales of managers at the manufacturing assembly line, who breathe on the necks of their workers to meet orders and use foul language along the way,” Cainglet said.

He urged employers to prioritize workers’ safety and health, particularly mental health.

“It is a big challenge,” Cainglet said, noting the country’s culture on occupational safety and health must change for the better.

‘12 S’

As this developed, the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday urged the public to observe the “12 S” of stress management to avoid burnout.

Precy Cuevas, coordinator of DOH national program for Mental Health Program, said it is important for everyone to know how to handle stress to ensure healthy living. 

“You have to manage stress so you won’t reach a point when you get burned out. It may not develop into depressive symptoms but it can also cause various illnesses,” Cuevas said.

She       said when a person is stressed out, the chemicals in the body increase, resulting in various conditions like increased blood sugar and hypertension. 

Cuevas said the DOH conceptualized 12 strategies to effectively combat stress.

“For one, you must know how to manage your schedule. Time management is important. There must be time for everything,” she said.

Spirituality is also important in everyday living. This can be done by devoting time to pray for guidance and meditate for five to 10 minutes each day.

The other “S” are having self-awareness by developing the habit of paying attention to one’s expression of thought, emotion and behavior, and taking “siesta” or nap to relax the mind and body. 

Cuevas said a person should also engage in sports and listen to songs or sounds that relieve depression and increase self esteem.

Stretching is recommended to loosen the muscles and lubricate the joints by increasing the body’s oxygen supply.

Smile and undergoing sensation techniques like massage are also important stress relievers to calm the body and unknot tense and aching muscles, relieve headache and sleep problems. 

Cuevas said engaging in social activities is key to developing the ability to deal with other people.

Undergoing stress debriefing can be done by submitting oneself to a brief crisis intervention with an expert.

“Speak to one when you feel you are burdened or unable to deal with stress on your own or if you want to unload unwanted feelings,” she said.  – With Sheila Crisostomo

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