We often use the term “burnout” nearly every day in our lives – at work, at school, even at home. It doesn’t help that the pandemic has pushed many people to the brink of throwing in the towel. But experts revealed that we may have been using the term incorrectly. When we see the word “burnout,” we think of it as something intangible; we just know what it is but it has no definite feeling. There’s actually a scientific definition to the word, as well as three criteria to measure which is burnout and which isn’t.

University of California Psychology Professor Christina Maslach created the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) in 1981. This test clarifies burnout stages on three criteria: lack of energy, cynicism, and reduced efficacy. If someone garnered negative scores in all, he or she officially has burnout. Maslach’s co-author of “The Truth About Burnout” Michael Leiter said, “People use burnout as a synonym for tired, and they’re missing the point that there’s a world of difference between those two states.” Based on MBI results, the largest group of people experiencing burnout are those who aren’t fully engaged in what they do. For example, some employees report to work because they have to pay the bills, not because they enjoy their tasks.

Burnout is not black and white. Maslach and Leiter’s newer research showed three more profiles in between of the MBI test: overextended, ineffective, and disengaged. People who fall under these categories don’t have burnout but are already there. Oftentimes, though, burnout is not an individual problem, but the environment is causing that person to feel it. This is why MBI and other similar tests are valuable to determine burnout to prevent it from happening or to get rid of it. Now that you’re familiar with the scientific way of measuring burnout, care to take the test?