Seizing and realizing the opportunity: A salutogenic perspective on rehabilitation after burnout

Pijpker, Roald; Vaandrager, Lenneke; Veen, Esther J.; Koelen, Maria A.


BACKGROUND:Most research on burnout has focused on its antecedents, correlates, and consequences. However, little empirical attention has been paid to what constitutes successful rehabilitation after burnout, especially among young employees. OBJECTIVE:The present study empirically examined resources supporting successful rehabilitation after burnout among young employees (between 18 and 35 years of age) from a salutogenic perspective. METHODS:Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used as a methodological framework to explain the experiences of young employees underlying their rehabilitation after burnout. RESULTS:The analysis showed that the rehabilitation process comprises four phases: 1) facing the crisis; 2) addressing the root causes; 3) seizing and achieving the opportunity; and 4) remaining at work. Essential overarching resources facilitating successful recovery after burnout included receiving social support from family, friends, and colleagues, as well as having a feeling of control over the rehabilitation process. Participants learned to be aware of potential pitfalls that could trigger burnout symptoms, while having confidence in their ability to prevent burnout from reoccurring. These continuous learning processes were experienced as a prerequisite to remain at work. CONCLUSIONS:Receiving social support and experiencing a feeling of control over the rehabilitation process appear to be key resources in facilitating a stable, meaningful return to work after burnout.