Majority of U.S. Workers Experiencing Burnout at Work

Majority of U.S. Workers Experiencing Burnout at Work

Our February 2021 Future of Benefits Pulse Survey reveals that burnout at work is high among U.S. employees, especially among women and younger generations.
Contributors
Adele Spallone
Adele Spallone, Head of Clinical Operations for Workers’ Compensation and Group Benefits at The Hartford
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a shared, unifying event on many levels. Nearly everyone has felt fear, frustration and the loss of normalcy. A year later, the latest research from The Hartford shows that most people have another common experience: burnout at work.
 
The Hartford’s 2021 Future of Benefits Pulse Survey found that 61% of U.S. workers are experiencing burnout at work. And the numbers are higher among women and younger generations:
 
  • 66% of women vs. 57% of men
  • 71% of those ages 18-34
  • 65% of those ages 35-54
  • 41% of those ages 55+

Burnout Is Impacting the Workforce


Burnout is impacting workers across the U.S., with women and younger employees being the most affected:

Employee burnout statistics
61%
of U.S. workers are experiencing burnout at work
burnout in women
66%
of women
workplace burnout statistics
57%
of men
71%
of those aged 18 to 34
65%
of those aged 35 to 54
41%
of those ages 55+

Source: The Hartford, "2021 Future of Benefits Pulse Survey"
“The level of burnout we are seeing in U.S. workers is alarming,” said Adele Spallone, head of clinical operations for The Hartford Workers’ Compensation and Group Benefits. “If not addressed, these feelings of burnout can lead to unexpected or more frequent absences from work, unhealthy coping mechanisms or even injury or illness.”
 

How People Are Coping with Stress, Anxiety and Burnout

The Hartford’s study found that many people are coping with their stress, anxiety or burnout in a variety of ways, ranging from watching TV and eating junk food to exercising or meditation. A small percentage have turned to drinking alcohol or using substances like marijuana or prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them. Only 10% of workers surveyed said they are working with a mental health professional to cope with their stress, anxiety and burnout.
 
“It was revealing to see that such a small number of employees are working with a mental health professional to cope,” Spallone said. “Some people might have some preconceived notions about seeing a counselor or a hesitancy to seek help. Continuing to talk about mental health openly in the workplace and checking in on how employees are feeling can help break down the stigma and encourage people to seek the help they might need.”
 
The top five coping activities that employees say they are doing for the first time or more frequently are:
 
  • Watch live or streaming TV or other entertainment content (48%)
  • Eat comfort or junk food (43%)
  • Sleep/nap (42%)
  • Physical exercise (39%)
  • Bake or cook (33%)

The Top 5 Coping Strategies


For many, managing burnout means seeking comfort and escape or embracing habits like:
how to deal with burnout at work
48%
Watching TV or other content
dealing with burnout at work
43%
Eating comfort or junk food
work burnout solutions
42%
Sleeping or napping
how to cope with burnout at work
39%
Engaging in exercise
how to treat work burnout
33%
Baking or cooking

Source: The Hartford, "2021 Future of Benefits Pulse Survey"
Other things people are doing for the first time or more frequently to help them cope include:
 
  • Read (32%)
  • Reach out to friends and family (31%)
  • Drink alcohol (29%)
  • Shop (27%)
  • Schedule Zoom/FaceTime video calls with friends or family (22%)
  • Start new hobbies (20%)
  • Meditation or mindfulness practice (17%)
  • Use a prescription antidepressant, anti-anxiety or other prescription medication (11%)
  • Work with a mental health professional (10%)
  • Use substances like marijuana and/or prescription drugs that were not prescribed to you (9%)
  • Participate in an online peer support group like a forum or social media community (5%)

Recognizing and Addressing Burnout as an Employer

According to Spallone, burnout can lead to people missing more days of work or, in some cases, lead to an injury or illness. Some signs of stress or burnout include employees who may stop socializing, have trouble sleeping or become more irritable.
 
Key to addressing these issues is first being able to recognize the signs and talking openly about mental health in the workplace, Spallone explained. Mental health education for mangers can help employees quickly get the support they need. One step is to make sure managers know where to point employees who are seeking help. That support can come in various forms, including:
 
  • Making employees more aware of the Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that are often available through an employer.
  • Referrals to community resources, such as those offered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or to community health and human services through the 211 network.

Flexibility and Understanding Can Help Reduce Burnout

Many workers today are still juggling their own work schedules with those of their children, who might still be learning from home. There is also little separation between work and home for those who continue to work remotely. Some employers have allowed for more flexibility, and this is something employees find to be meaningful. When asked in our survey what would be more meaningful at work, they said:
 
  • 35% - more flexibility in their schedule
  • 35% - additional paid time off
  • 30% - remote work options, especially in households with children (36% vs. 28%)

What Employees Want in the Workplace


When asked what would be most meaningful in their current employment situation, U.S. workers said:
how to prevent employee burnout
35%
More schedule flexibility
burnout time off work
35%
Additional paid time off
remote work burnout
30%
Remote work options

Source: The Hartford, "2021 Future of Benefits Pulse Survey"
“Whether it's offering more flexible work schedules for caretakers, rebalancing workloads or taking a fresh look at what benefits they offer, employers have a lot of opportunities to help their workforce manage their overall health and well-being and remain productive at work,” Spallone said.
 
Survey Methodology: Two waves of a national omnibus online platform were conducted among approximately 2,000 adults aged 18+ in the U.S., including 952 full-time and part-time employed respondents. Research was conducted Jan. 28-Feb. 1, 2021.
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