Workplace stress is rampant and resignations have risen; employers are trying 4-day workweeks, mandatory vacation days, and other new ways of working.
December 21. 2021 - The Wall Street Journal wrote an article (https://www.wsj.com/articles/worker-burnout-resignations-pandemic-stress--11640099198?st=5wshwynwno77gyh) about the dire state of workers' mental health.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, U.S. companies saw a massive increase in resignations. From January to October 2021, a record of 39 million employees quit their jobs. The leasing driver for this mass exodus is employee burnout, more than 75 percent of the 1,800 interviewed employees cited stress and burnout as big challenges to well-being at work, up from 55 percent only 6 months earlier. Half said workload-related pressure was harming their mental health.
Companies are trying to stop employees from leaving and boost morale with new programs, such as extra vacation days, flexible work schedules, blackout meeting hours, even 4 day work weeks. People reported being unable to even get the simplest tasks done, their brains are foggy. One person stated that he couldn’t divide 50 by 25 without a calculator.
American working hours increased over the past two decades, 16% of workers reported that they work more than 60 hours per week, up from 12% in 2011. But working hours are not the only culprit, the increase of collaboration software such as Slack and Microsoft Teams overflow employees with notifications. From our own research we discovered that these constant micro-interruptions force us to “multitask”, which is not possible for the human brain, instead we constantly switch task. This task-switching increases errors and drains out focus and energy, it often makes us angry, frustrated, and cynical. The use of such software has more than doubled between February 2020 and 2021. Another issue is the work density, many employees do not have enough time to process information because they have to jump from Zoom call to Zoom call without breaks. Ben Wigert responsible for workplace-management research at Gallup said that the greatest determinant of worker burnout isn’t the number of hours worked, but the factors such as unmanageable workloads, unclear communication, and lack of company/manager support.
Managers hoped that hybrid working would yield happier employees, but work-from-home days often became loaded with Zoom calls, and employees had to do their work outside of regular office hours.
Since the pandemic, some companies have been more understanding, flexible, and empathetic. Gallup's research shows that such efforts help cushion against higher rates of burnout.
Gallup polling shows an increase in stress and anxiety levels from before the pandemic to how. The percentage of American workers describing themselves as very often or always burned out rose from 23% in 2016 to 28% in 2019, where it remains today. Burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 300% more likely to actively seek a new job.