Interview on burnout: Human working conditions to be created

Dr. Wolfgang Hien (Photo: DASA / Kampert)

Dr. Wolfgang Hien (Photo: DASA / Kampert)

5 questions to Dr. Wolfgang Hien on reasons for burnout and ways of preventing employees from it. Dr. Wolfgang Hien was department head for health protection in the national board of the German Trade Union Alliance (DGB) and today manages a research office for labour, health, and biography.

CIM: What has to change in the job world so that psychological illnesses and burnout at least diminish?
Dr. Wolfgang Hien: More human working conditions have to be created. Beginning with the working hours. Do some people for example have to always be on-call?  Should we not strengthen the autonomy of the individual, in the true sense of the term, so that each person can better recognise his or her inner limits and thus not overexert himself or herself? In my opinion this is one of the greatest dangers that we face today. Due to the extreme hecticness, often triggered by what happens on the market, people are not able to bethink of their limits and are therefore constantly overstepping them.

Does deceleration always mean hiring more employees?
For me, deceleration always means that a firm should not be allowed to set its objectives too high. 25 percent profit, as Mr. Ackermann would like to see for his bank, is in my opinion a completely exaggerated goal. It leads of course to even more hecticness, to increasingly less time for individual employees.

How can employees contribute to deceleration?
Blue collar and white collar workers should not only be oriented to the 14th monthly salary payment, but also be satisfied with just 13. As an individual I too can create a new understanding for a good and authentic life which not always obeys the principles of “faster” and “more”.

Why do many employees not feel appreciated?
The culture of recognition in the workplace and in the general public sphere has to be redefined, so that people are recognised for the way they truly are, for how they are authentically. The idea is not just to recognise superior performance and deem everyone else as merely underachievers. Much more important is to recognise all people with their special, specific qualities.

You also call for everyday solidarity among other demands. How do we achieve this?
Employers have to give up their orientation towards control and loss of solidarity, they have to create free spaces, in which employees themselves – since it is their responsibility – can build up everyday solidarity. Public relations work by the trade unions and professional associations seems to me important here.