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Flanders faces burn-out crisis

Fresh figures suggest an enormous jump in the number of Flemish suffering the psychological break-down that is a burn-out.  The number of people staying at home for over a year with a psychiatric issue continues to increase.  By the end of 2017 140,000 people were in this situation.  That's a rise of 39% in only five years.

Prof Roland Pepermans (VUB - Flemish Free University of Brussels) says the figure is up mainly due to burn-outs and adds that the impact of such cases on organisations is underestimated. In 2017 the health insurance paid out 2 billion euros in benefit to people suffering such ills.

The rise has been underway for some time.  In comparison with 2010 the number of people off work for over a year with a psychiatric issue is up 85%.

Organisation psychologist Prof Roland Pepermans: "Despite the many efforts to address the problem at work, numbers continue to rise.  We are living in a stress culture. The cost to society is enormous.  For people who experience a burn-out the ramifications are enormous too.  Often they lose their self-esteem and lengthy disorganisation follows."

Prof Pepermans blames the norms set on people to perform: "Thanks to digitalisation more different roles are asked of employees. Mostly, people's work load is increased as a result. Sometimes roles are conflicting: for one you are their superior, while for somebody else you are their subordinate.  Businesses should appreciate there is a limit to the stretch of employees.  There's a tendency to changes things constantly, restructure, often thanks to countless consultancies that have little affinity with the businesses they are working with."

"Social tissue has been cut to the bone.  Because of lack of time colleagues sitting opposite each other communicate via email.  In reality people are keeping each other at a distance.  We are less self-assured and have little confidence in the future."

For Prof Pepermans job crafting could be a solution: allowing employees to modify their job so it better fits their skills, strong points and needs."