Years of research has established the fact that job burnout and depression go hand in hand: job burnout can lead to depression and depression can lead to job burnout. Likewise, annual studies by the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that about 7% of adults are depressed. Studies by the American Psychological Association report that about 1/3 of working adults report extreme stress in their lives.
However, recent research from Toker and Biron (2012) has found that physical activity can break the harmful link between job burnout and depression. This research was extensive – over the course of 3.5 years, the authors followed over 1,600 employees.
Their results were very eye opening…
- The relationship between job burnout and depression was definitely present and was strongest for those who did not engage in any physical activity.
- Physical activity had a significant positive impact on the relationship between job burnout and depression. In other words, the correlation between burnout and depression nearly disappeared among physically active employees.
- Compared to non-exercisers, employees who exercised 1.5 hours or more per week were about 50% less likely to experience burnout and depression over the course of the study.
What Can You Do?
Organizational Wellness Programs
Previous research has shown that participation in any type of organizational wellness program (onsite or offsite, fitness only or comprehensive) leads to decreased absenteeism and greater job satisfaction. The results of the Toker and Biron study also indicate that participation could lead to better mental health and reduced burnout.
One way to use these results is to simply share them (feel free to email or post this blog). Communicate to employees that even 13 minutes of exercise per day can make them more resistant to job stress and improve their well-being. For an easy-to use and distribute reference guide on the contributing factors to burnout (along with approaches to handling each), click here.
Gather a small group of interested employees and brainstorm ideas for encouraging exercise or incorporating fitness into your workplace. Organizations are promoting physical fitness in countless (and sometimes odd) ways, like treadmill desks and exercise ball chairs. Here are a few other ideas to get you started:
- Form an kickball league with teams in each department
- Study Google’s on-site fitness offerings, which include exercise classes like “How to Dance at a Party”
- Organize daily to weekly fitness lunch breaks and make them fun & diverse (e.g., ride bicycles to a local restaurant, yoga-picnics in the park)
If you have ideas or success stories about incorporating physical fitness into your own job or organization, please share them by commenting below.
Reference: Toker, S., & Biron, M. (2012). Job burnout and depression: Unraveling their temporal relationship and considering the role of physical activity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(3), 699-710.