American Workers Are Feeling the Burnout

The Need for a Recharge

It’s been more than half a year since the coronavirus pandemic set in across the United States. Many people are feeling exhausted after months of Zoom meetings, parenting their kids while working, and being stuck in the same place. A recent study by Mental Health America showed that 75% of workers are experiencing burnout and 40% say this feeling is directly related to the pandemic.

Mental health experts, business leaders, and economists agree that this collective fatigue at work could have far-reaching consequences this fall and heading into 2021. As Deidre Paknad, CEO and co-founder Workboard, a work management software company noted, “If your team enters 2021 exhausted and end-of-rope from 2020, they won’t have the urgency, creativity and resilience you need to have a strong year.”

The Lack of Vacations and Breaks During the Day

Even in ordinary years, many American workers underuse their vacation days. In 2019, the average worker earned 23.7 days of paid time off, but only used 17.2 of those days. This year, people are taking even less time off for a variety of reasons. A number of people do not feel safe traveling or visiting family. Many, concerned about job security and financial stability, feel that taking time off is risky.

Additionally, people are taking fewer breaks during the day while working from home. Workers are not commuting and virtual meetings are often scheduled back-to-back, because there is no need to walk to different physical locations. Though transition periods during the day sometimes cause hassle, they also allow space for people to reflect and recharge. The absence of this time during the day is contributing to many feeling mentally drained.

Companies Look for Solutions

A number of companies are recognizing the risk of burnout and are trying to respond. Some are blocking off unstructured, meeting-free time to give employees the ability to catch up on their own work or to tend to needs at home. Microsoft (MSFT) is adding a “virtual commute” feature to its Teams offerings, which will give people the opportunity to set goals in the morning and reflect at the end of the day. Many employers are also urging workers to take time off. In an August survey, 40% of employees said their bosses have encouraged them to take PTO, up from 25% in May.

Companies are going to great lengths to protect their employees’ physical well being by keeping them safe from COVID-19 infections at home. Data shows that workplaces also need to make a concerted effort to support workers’ mental health during what has been an exhausting and anxiety-provoking time for many.

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