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Ideas and insights for today’s people-centered leaders.

Burnout

Burnout is the buzzword of summer 2021. After more than a year of higher workloads due to layoffs, hiring freezes, and The Great Resignation, employees are feeling the strain. That’s not to mention juggling added pressures, like managing at-home childcare and e-learning, with the requirements of a full-time job, and distressing world events including protests and climate disasters. 

In recent months, burnout has gotten so bad, some organizations have mandated their workers take time off. LinkedIn, Hootsuite, and Bumble all shuttered their doors for a week to give employees time to decompress and recuperate from chronic work-induced fatigue. Yet these efforts may be too few and far between: Resignation rates are spiking.

To better understand this alarming trend, we surveyed 1,000 full-time employees across the U.S. about their experiences with workplace burnout. Our findings revealed that burnout has become an epidemic in the U.S., with the vast majority (89%) of employees reporting they’ve experienced it over the past year. The report dives in further on the top 10 factors contributing to employees’ feelings of burnout and what employees say would alleviate this stress:

By uncovering the root causes of burnout, employers can better support their employees, reduce voluntary turnover, and improve employee engagement.

Burnout

The Burnout Epidemic

The World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by: 

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

A whopping 89% of employees said they’ve experienced occupational burnout over the past year. Of those, more than a quarter (27%) said they experience burnout “all of the time.” Beyond this being an issue of productivity and workplace wellness, it can be a significant driver of resignations.  More than two-thirds (70%) of employees would consider leaving their current company for a different one that offered comprehensive resources, benefits, support, and/or policies intended to reduce burnout.

Burnout

Younger generations in particular are taking on the brunt of higher workloads. Higher-ups may view employees newer to the workforce as needing to “earn their keep” and therefore, pile more work on their plates. Additionally, younger workers without dependents may have had to pick up the slack for older coworkers stuck juggling work and at-home childcare. Not surprisingly, younger generations report higher experiences of occupational burnout. 

Vacations alone aren’t enough to alleviate burnout

Time off work, often seen as the best way to recharge, isn’t enough to alleviate the chronic burnout the majority of employees are experiencing. While more than half (54%) of employees anticipate taking more time off this year compared to last year, one-third report they’re expected to check in on work while on vacation. Additionally, nearly half (49%) of employees said PTO only temporarily relieves their burnout. 

Employee sentiment toward PTO and burnout :

  • Taking time off alleviates my feelings of burnout for a significant period of time: 42%
  • Taking time off alleviates my feelings of burnout temporarily, but the prep work and catch-up work required to do so takes a toll: 49%
  • Taking time off does not alleviate my feelings of burnout: 10%

Supporting overworked and overwhelmed employees 

While giving employees a week off to recharge is a step in the right direction, addressing the burnout epidemic requires a more strategic, holistic approach. Our data indicates almost all employees struggle with burnout from time to time, so it’s crucial to have the right policies, processes, and technologies in place to support them. 

By engaging employees in conversations about their burnout and using workplace tools to gauge their stress levels, managers can help their direct reports cope and develop action plans for alleviating work-related fatigue. Most importantly, these strategies ensure employees don’t feel solely responsible for addressing a problem that is, in many instances, triggered by their work—not their own shortcomings. 

Alleviating burnout isn’t just good for your people, it’s good for your business. Organizations that don’t address burnout will see top talent leave for companies with better benefits and support, driving up turnover and recruitment costs. To learn more about the state of the burnout epidemic, including why employees aren’t comfortable talking to their manager about burnout and how to use people analytics to address employee burnout, download the report today.

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About the Author

People-centered ideas and insights by the editorial team at Visier.

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