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Applicants with a History of Burnout Select Different Job Offers

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Previous research showed that clinical burnout complicates career resumption because employers are less inclined to hire or promote previously burned-out workers. Researchers have now studied the opposite perspective: Do workers with a recent history of burnout make different career choices?

To answer this research question, the interdisciplinary research team had a representative sample of Belgian workers participate in an experiment in which they evaluated fictitious job offers with varying characteristics. From their experiment, we learn that workers with a recent history of clinical burnout were relatively more attracted to jobs that offered more telecommuting opportunities and where feedback was provided regularly. Surprisingly, they also valued jobs with training opportunities less than workers without a recent history of clinical burnout.

The study, titled “I won’t make the same mistake again: Burnout history and job preferences,” is published in Journal of Population Economics.

“From previous research we know that burnout can be explained by excessive work demands and too limited resources that can buffer these demands, such as appreciation in the workplace. Our recent analyses now indicate that job demands and resources are similarly important in explaining the career choices made by individuals who experienced burnout,” said Philippe Sterkens, a doctoral researcher in economics and psychology at Ghent University. “Specifically, feedback opportunities are perceived more strongly as a job resource by workers who recently experienced clinical burnout.”

These findings are consistent with previous research among formerly burned-out workers showing that supervisor support is a crucial determinant of a successful return to work. The researchers link the following policy advice to their study results.

“First, it appears that job crafting is a valuable instrument for workers with a history of burnout who are looking for sustainable re-employment. Arranging opportunities for feedback would be an example of a potent job crafting intervention,” said Sterkens.

“Second, following up on and encouraging the professional training of burned-out workers remains crucial because learning opportunities are positively related to mental health outcomes. All this, of course, within the constraints of recovery requirements,” added Stijn Baert, a professor in labour economics at Ghent University.

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