The Impacts of COVID on Rising Burnout Rates

October 2020  marks over 7 months since news about the COVID-19 pandemic changed how many people work and live their lives. This pandemic arose during a time when employee stress levels and burnout rates were already on the rise. Employees and employers were in the midst of their personal and professional challenges, economic difficulties, and mounting workloads resulting in damagingly high-stress levels, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, and burnout. The pandemic both exacerbated and escalated those difficulties. In a recent Limeade Institute survey, “Workplaces in Crisis: Employee Care Missing the Mark,” 1,000 respondents were surveyed, 500 managerial positions, and 500 non-managerial positions. The results illuminate increasing concerns connected to COVID-19 related burnout rates. Interesting to also note is the gender gap difference revealed in some of the following statistics.

  • Pre-pandemic employee burnout rates were reported at 42% contrasted with a current reported burnout rate of 72% based on the results.
  • 38% of employees listed “struggling with burnout” as one of the most stressful aspects of their jobs since the outbreak of COVID-19.
  • 59% of managers reported working more hours since the pandemic’s start.
  • 72% reported they at least “sometimes” feel pressure to work when sick.
  • 55% of non-managerial workers felt their employers genuinely cared about their wellbeing.
  • 71% of managers said they at least “somewhat agree” that 1 on 1 meetings with their direct reports included a focus on wellbeing, while only 33% of non-managerial workers said the same.
  • 60% of male managers said they felt “extremely comfortable” requesting a wellbeing day off compared to 25% of female managers.
  • 11% of female managers reported “extremely positive” wellbeing during the pandemic compared to 42% of male managers.
  • 33% of female managers fear losing their job compared to 26% of male managers.

Stress is generally an adaptive response to challenges and difficulties. Still, the human central and peripheral nervous system’s health is only built to stay in an acute stress response for approximately 20-30 minutes before calming down. Chronic stress, stress-related illnesses (and deaths), and chronic burnout are in great part a result of these conditions becoming pervasive, unrelenting, and with minimal long-term resolution. The refrain continues to ring true that “during these unprecedented times,” it is also critical that employers take unprecedented action to include stress management programs, dialogue, workflows, and put rewards in place to allow a new and different way of working that places employee wellbeing front and center in both conversation and action. Dr. Laura Hamill, Chief People Officer and Chief Science Officer of the Limeade Institute, assessed that “Managers are trying to support their teams, but employees aren’t feeling the impact, suggesting a lack of bandwidth and training. Meanwhile, those same employees feel stuck in their jobs and women are disproportionately struggling. Organizations should read these findings as a call to action to take a closer look at their employee experience in a time when their people need it most.”

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