Burnout is a common phenomenon for employees around the world. Across the OECD, work-related stress is one of the leading causes of mental illness in the working-age population. Sweden is no exception. Despite having flexible work schedules, shorter work days and greater work-life balance compared to other countries, burnout and stress are still common.
According to the latest statistics from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, more than 40% of all those taking sick-leave in Sweden during 2020 did so because of an underlying psychological condition - the most common being stress-related mental illness, particularly amongst young adults aged 25-39.
The good news is that Sweden, unlike many other countries, actually recognizes that occupational burnout and work-related chronic stress are medical conditions that require treatment and time off work. In Sweden, burnout and chronic stress are official diagnoses which entitle you to sickness benefits, such as paid extended sick-leave.
Conditions like chronic stress and burnout generally require between one and six months of treatment and rest. Sweden believes that you should be able to take that time off work to recover without suffering financially. Rest and health (be it psychological or physical) are widely respected human rights and there are structures in place to ensure that they can be addressed and prioritized.
For starters, if you are diagnosed with clinical burnout or chronic stress and need to take a couple of months off work, you will not be left without income. The Swedish Social Insurance Agency will pay you approximately 80% of your salary for up to a year of time off for health reasons. Few welfare systems are as generous as the Swedish one on this front.
Giving people the financial freedom to take time off work to rest is an important part of addressing the problem of burnout in modern society. However, it is also essential that the services needed to treat burnout and stress are available.
In Sweden, treatments for people with burnout are heavily subsidized by the government in order to make them as widely accessible to as many people as possible. Individual therapy, for instance, can be accessed through the public healthcare system and requires no out-of-pocket spending. There are also group stress management courses that one can attend for very affordable prices. In other words, there is a support system for helping you get better.
Although having paid sick-leave and accessible treatments for conditions like burnout and stress is definitely a good thing, by far the best solution is prevention. As burnout is a condition that results from excessive work and stress, prevention requires addressing the work environment and work culture. In both areas Sweden is ahead in comparison to other countries. The long vacation times, parental leave policy, flexible schedules and a 40-hour workweek do help keep stress and burnout at bay.
Furthermore, the Swedish Work Environment Act requires employers to create a good work environment that protects both the mental and physical wellbeing of employees. The majority of employers take this responsibility very seriously and Swedish companies do tend to care about their employees’ wellbeing. Managers and colleagues are generally very open-minded and understanding. They will listen to you if you need support and will help you find solutions to reduce your work-load if you are feeling overwhelmed at work.
Sweden is by no means perfect when it comes to how workplaces and the government manage mental ill-health. There are still areas that could be improved to ensure employee well-being. Managers, for example, could be better trained to spot signs of overwhelm and exhaustion early to prevent burnout from developing in the first place. However, overall, Sweden is a very good place to be if you want a work environment where you have the freedom to prioritize your mental health.
Are you looking for a more understanding and humane work environment? Come to Sweden! Apply to Iknal Semikan today!