Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

AUAS alum wins award for thesis on burnout

Fiere Bonnerman wrote his thesis following his own experiences with burnout

20 Feb 2020 13:25 | Communication

Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) alum Fiere Bonnerman has won the thesis prize of the Scientific Bureau for the Dutch Trade Union Movement (scriptieprijs van de vakbeweging) in the universities of applied sciences category with his research on burnout. Bonnerman received his Bachelor’s degree from the AUAS last year. According to the jury – chaired by University of Amsterdam (UvA) professor of Labour Law Paul de Beer – the thesis excelled not only in its originality but also in the ‘thorough way’ in which its conclusions were substantiated.

Bonnerman’s thesis raises the question of whether burnout is an occupational illness or an employee issue. He focused mainly on the views of employers’ organisations on burnout and its causes among employees in Dutch labour organisations.

Work-related stress

According to the jury of the prize, which is awarded annually by the Scientific Bureau for the Dutch Trade Union Movement, the effects of work-related stress and workload – and the different views on this – are “an interesting theme for the trade union in 2020.”

“Burnout symptoms have increased by 25% in ten years’ time. And it’s not just a problem among employees, with more and more students affected as well,” says Bonnerman, who speaks from experience.

Pressure to achieve

He spent three years studying Business Administration at the AUAS before taking a break from his studies to focus full-time working at the ASVA Student Union for a year. He first noticed symptoms at the end of that year. Bonnerman: “I, too, suffered from pressure to achieve, which partly explains why I was involved in so many activities alongside my studies. This is something you already find out as a student, during your internship for example, that it is important to be able to distinguish yourself in the job market.”

But because he still had to write his Bachelor’s thesis, he decided to try to make the best of a bad situation. He said he wanted to learn more about the underlying social mechanisms that lead to burnout symptoms.

Solve it yourself

“In exploring my research, I was particularly surprised by the big difference between theory and practice,” he says. “The literature on burnout states that it is an occupational problem and that the causes of burnout symptoms lie mainly in the work itself. But in practice, it is often the employees’ problem, and they have to solve it themselves or think that it’s their own fault.”

According to the jury, by analysing the views of employers’ organisations, the thesis shows that “the trade union can play an important role by responding to the communication strategy of employers’ organisations on important social issues such as burnout and sustainable employability.”

While writing his thesis, Bonnerman followed a pre-Master’s track in Sociology and Organisational Sciences. He is currently enrolled in the Master’s programme in Sociology at VU Amsterdam.