- Eighty-nine percent of workers who responded to a survey by workforce analytics company Visier said they experienced burnout in the past year. The breakdown of burnout intensity splits nearly into thirds, with 32% experiencing it “some of the time,” 30% experiencing it “most of the time” and 27% experiencing it “all of the time.” The condition hits younger workers harder, the report shows, with Generation Z and millennials reporting higher levels of burnout than Gen X and baby boomers. Women are also slightly more burnt out than men (91% vs. 86%).
- Workers reported a wide range of causes for their burnout, including factors related to workload (being asked to take on more work, having less time to complete work); office culture (toxic culture, lack of support, micromanagement); and world events (the COVID-19 pandemic, police killings and climate disasters). Vacation is only a temporary relief, most employees said, with one-third feeling pressure to “check in” during time off and half unable to fully disconnect. Preparing to take time off and catching up upon their return also “take a toll,” workers said.
- When asked what benefits would help alleviate burnout, workers most commonly wanted flexible work hours, mental health resources and support, paid sick days, a wellness program and a four-day workweek.
For Andrea Derler, principal, research and customer value at Visier, one of the most surprising findings of the study was that most employees (73%) believe alleviating burnout is their own responsibility.
“There are so many structural issues in organizations that cause burnout,” Derler told HR Dive. “Leaders in the organizations should feel more responsibility for taking accountability to help solve the problem.” The issue is due to a lack of data but also to something like an implicit bias, Derler said — a belief that if people are burned out, it’s their own problem and they should solve it.
Derler pointed to recent research out of Germany that showed upper leadership and managers tend to experience burnout less than lower-level employees. The reasons may be twofold: first, upper-level managers tend to have more control over their workload; second, with more years of experience, leaders tend to be more resilient and more used to unexpected change.
This research seems to align with Visier’s findings, in which younger generations reported higher levels of burnout than older generations. Derler said higher burnout levels among younger employees could also be due to their higher representation in service industry and retail jobs, but noted Visier’s data did not drill down to this level of detail. Service industry workers have been under particular stress during the pandemic, with quit rates at an all-time high and businesses like grocery stores and retail shops desperate to fill roles.
To begin triaging burnout, Derler said companies should gather data to understand where the burnout is happening and how it is manifesting. Burnout can look very different depending on the organization and the person experiencing it, Derler said. After data has been gathered, start with the leaders. Find training and coaching to educate them and empower them to get involved. “Help them understand that they can be part of the solution,” she said.
Open discussion — and a culture of openness, transparency and acceptance — is crucial for managing burnout. “If it’s about increased workloads … that’s something we can talk about, we can really bring this out into the open,” Derler said. Hootsuite, which has increased its focus on mental health benefits, told HR Dive recently that talking about mental health and wellness was the first and biggest step toward creating a mentally healthy work environment.
As for vacations, companies can create an expectation and culture that employees don’t check in and don’t work on their time off, as that contributes to vacations’ lack of restorativeness. Hootsuite and other companies that have implemented companywide weeks or days off have done so in part to create a culture around time off and reduce or eliminate workplace disruptions during that time. Companies like Carta have even instituted minimum time off, requiring employees to take at least 15 days off annually.
For companies that care to do so, plenty can be done to effectively combat burnout. But buy-in from leadership, investment in mental health resources and commitment to cultural change are essential.