Over four million American workers quit their jobs each month in 2022, and 70% of the C-suite with the weight of the world—or at least the company—on their shoulders considered quitting to search for a job that responded to their mental health and well-being. A recent survey from Slack found burnout is on the rise globally, most significantly in the U.S., where 43% of middle managers reported burnout—more than any other worker group. Three major findings reflected workplace trends:
Trend # 1. Executives reported record-low experience and sentiment scores. Executives’ sentiment and experience scores dropped to record lows as leaders struggle to navigate shifting work models.
- Over the past year, executive scores for overall satisfaction have dropped 15%.
- Executives now report 20% worse work-life balance and 40% more work-related stress and anxiety.
Trend # 2. Burnout is on the rise. Burnout rose to 40% this quarter globally—an eight percent rise from May—with the most significant increase in the U.S., where 43% of desk workers report feeling burned out.
- There was a notable gender gap between women and men on the issue of burnout with female workers showing 32% more burnout than their male counterparts.
- Younger workers were more likely to experience burnout, with 49% of 18-to-29-year-olds saying they feel burned out compared with just 38% of workers age 30 and older.
Trend # 3. Employees with flexibility showed higher scores for productivity, connection and company culture.
- Workers with full schedule flexibility reported 29% higher productivity and 53% greater ability to focus than workers with no ability to shift their schedule.
- Remote and hybrid workers were more likely to feel connected to their direct manager and their company’s values and equally or more likely to feel connected to their immediate teams as fully in-office workers were.
- Flexible remote work policies were cited as the number one factor that has improved company culture over the past two years.
Addressing Manager Burnout And Employee Well-Being
As burnout rises, particularly among managers, research from Top Workplaces Research Lab shows leaders are ready to tackle this challenge, with 68% ranking mental health concerns and employee well-being as a top priority. “We’ve all been dealing with massive amounts of stress over the past three years sparked by the pandemic, so even as we’ve returned to a ‘new normal’, many of us are still processing the emotional weight of previous years,” Lisa Black, director of data science at Energage told me. “A recent study by Top Workplaces found that 38% of employees feel overwhelmed at work, and for managers who’ve had to work through their own stress while supporting their employees it can be an even greater load to bear.”
Black emphasized the importance of acknowledging how long-term stress has impacted employees and managers over the years and give grace to those circumstances. “Managers and employees should see work partners as people first and allow flexibility with each other’s situations whenever possible,” she explained. By meeting co-workers where they are and discussing a plan to move forward, managers and employees alike demonstrate their empathic abilities and help alleviate stressors that might have otherwise led to burnout.Having a conversation about life once in a while allows employees and managers to vent and air grievances. These conversations don’t have to get too deep, but opening up the floor to honest discussion helps employees and managers express pent-up frustrations which allows everyone to move forward with a clearer mindset.”
Uncovering What Employees Want With Regard To Flexible Work
Nearly three years since Covid-19 sparked the need for widespread remote work, flexibility is more important than ever to employees, whether it’s working from home, flexible work schedules or even a compressed work week. Employees that can focus on the quality and completion of their work, and less on where and exactly when the work gets done, are less likely to search for a new job, on top of being more creative, motivated and having better work-life balance.
“Setting clear boundaries and having consistent employer/employee communication is key when it comes to accommodating flexible work,” Black notes. The physical blend of home and work life has triggered employees to re-think their relationship with work, and more people are asking themselves ‘How do I want work to fit into my life?’ as opposed to ‘How can I fit my life around work?’. Since every job doesn’t have the flexibility for an employee to choose where and when they get their work done, it’s important that employees communicate with leadership about their schedule preferences and for managers to be prepared to facilitate these conversations. A discussion about which parts of the work schedule are flexible or not can go a long way to ensure employees feel supported to also prioritize their home life responsibilities.”
Making “People-First Culture” A Reality
Leaders that leverage HR data will turn “people-first culture” from a lofty ideal into a reality. CHROs increasingly recognize the need to gather, analyze and act on employee data to make more informed decisions. Acting on data is especially important for organizations to “walk the walk” of creating a people-first culture, and with the start of a new year fast approaching, employee surveys provide important benchmarks for where a company’s culture currently stands. However, administering a survey is the easy part—knowing what to do next is where things get tricky.
“Using HR data to make a people-first culture a reality comes down to prioritizing employee listening as a strategic mechanism to drive business success,” Greg Barnett, chief people scientist at Energage told me. “Companies who are willing to ask their employees for input and put that feedback into action will build stronger trust by showing they validate employees’ opinions.”
Barnett pointed out that during Covid-19, companies who used HR data in the form of employee listening did a much better job of managing the crisis. “As the crisis began to ease, Top Workplaces data showed a direct relationship between decreases in employee engagement and declines in employees communication, effective meetings and cooperation,” he said. “Companies with an effective employee listening strategy are better informed and can take action more aggressively to prevent employees from losing enthusiasm and ultimately seeking other job opportunities.”
He added that when it comes to topics of performance, burn-out, well-being or psychological safety, HR data can be used to identify early signs of problems and proactively build more reliable models to pinpoint turnover intentions or performance issues sooner. “Companies can only begin to make effective changes after they identify their core problems,” he said. “HR data allows them to identify, evaluate and eventually implement changes which lead to a more productive and motivated workforce.”