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Half of U.S. Workers Say Pandemic Triggered Change in Personal Priorities

November 18, 2021

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

More than half of the U.S. workforce is burnt out, with younger workers feeling the most strain, at 62%. As the workforce shortage continues and quit rates reach historic levels, more than one-third of the workforce plans to leave their job in the next 12 months. More than half of workers polled (51%) say the pandemic has triggered a re-evaluation of their personal priorities. Is this what has led to the great resignation?

These findings are from a workforce survey from Eagle Hill Consulting conducted by Ipsos from August 11-16, 2021. The 2021 Eagle Hill Consulting COVID-19 Workforce Burnout Survey included 1,010 respondents from a random sample of employees across the United States. The survey polled respondents on burnout and retention in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Both employers and employees are near the breaking point. Employers are struggling to find workers, and employees are stressed at work,” says Melissa Jezior, president and chief executive officer of Eagle Hill Consulting. “Unfortunately, the workforce situation likely will worsen before it gets better, with one-third of the workforce planning to leave their job soon. The so-called Great Resignation means that employers must start a Great Re-Evaluation, re-thinking everything from their culture to how work gets done.”

“Employee burnout was simmering even before the pandemic, and now it’s boiled over for more than half of workers. It’s simply an unsustainable situation for a business when burnout is rising and the labor shortage continues. This means leaders must fully understand what is working and what isn’t for employees, and then collaborate on specific solutions that will work for an organization’s business strategy and the workforce,” Jezior explained. “It’s complicated because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, a four-day work week may work well for some businesses, but it’s impossible for others.”

She added, “One bright spot in our research – two-thirds of workers say they value their employer more since the pandemic. Smart employers will dig in to find out exactly what employees value so they can leverage the positive to retain those employees.”

Survey key findings include:

  • Asked if they are feeling burnout out at work, 53% of working Americans said yes, with women at 56% and men slightly lower at 51%. Burnout is highest among younger workers (62% for those aged 18-34), followed by mid-career workers (58% for those aged 35-54), and lowest among older workers (33% for those 55 and older).
  • When asked about the causes of burnout, employees say that their workload is the top culprit (52%), followed by a lack of communication (44%), juggling work and personal life (35%), time pressures (32%), a lack of clarity about expectations (27%), not feeling connected to their colleagues (25%), performance expectations (24%), not feeling connected to the company vision, culture and values (23%), and not feeling empowered (22%).
  • When asked how to reduce burnout, 83% said a four-day work week would help, highest among women and younger workers. Other options included increased flexibility (84%), decreased workload (82%), better health and wellness (78%), reduced administrative burdens (76%), more on-site amenities (73%), working from home (67%), and the ability to relocate or work from multiple locations (58%).
  • One-third of employees indicate they plan to leave their organization in the next 12 months, up from 26%in November 2020 and 29%in May 2021. The planned departure rates are even higher for younger workers (41% for 18 to 34-year-old workers), followed by mid-career workers (35% for 35 to 54-year-old workers), and at 20%for those 55 and older.
  • The pandemic has triggered many employees to re-think their lives and careers. More than half (51%) say the pandemic has caused a re-evaluation of personal priorities, especially for younger workers (65%). 31% of employees say the pandemic has them considering changing careers, with 34% considering changing employers and 21% thinking of changing where they live.
  • When asked about how they value their employer, 66% of workers say they value their employer more since the start of the pandemic.

The survey reveals loud and clear that employers must remain flexible and be mindful of workloads and burnout. It also revealed the important role that employers play in their employees’ lives.  When done right, employees truly value their employer; when done wrong, they will leave.

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