BOSTON—Threats to employee wellbeing continue to intensify well over a year into the pandemic, as evidenced by a 21 percent rise in burnout and a 17 percent increase in somatic stress symptoms, a new meQuilibrium study found. The study examined changes in overall wellbeing among 5,474 meQuilibrium members from a broad range of industries representing managers and individual contributors.
“Employee wellbeing continues to be under threat 18 months into the pandemic,” says Brad Smith, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer, meQuilibrium. “Our data shows that workers continue to feel the cumulative mental health impacts of the crisis in the form of increased stress symptoms, burnout, and diminished motivation. We need to take action now to protect employee wellbeing before the clock runs out.”
The study also revealed a particularly large burnout risk increase among younger workers of 64 percent, which was nearly three times the increase for employees over 30 (22 percent). The increase in burnout symptoms is especially high among managers (+54 percent), hospitality (+48 percent), health care (+32 percent) and finance (30 percent) industry workers.
Men’s Stress Levels Growing Quickly
When it comes to gender differences, meQuilibrium found that although men and women are experiencing about the same rate of increase in burnout (+24 percent in women and +25 percent in men), men’s somatic stress levels are rising at a faster rate than women’s (+9 percent for men vs +3 percent for women).
No matter what job title, gender or industry, a key factor in wellbeing risk is employer support. Employees who felt strongly supported by their employers reported the highest levels of wellbeing and were less likely to report turnover intent.
However, the new data shows a noteworthy downturn in the extent to which employees felt well-supported by their employers. Just six months ago, 78 percent of employees felt well-supported, dropping down to 71 percent today. While the data uncovered a broad-based drop in employee perceptions of strong employer support, the drop was precipitously larger (+20 percent) among managers than among individual contributors. Burnout symptoms among employees who had poor employer support were twice as high as those who felt protected. In contrast, employees who felt strongly supported by their employer were:
- 91 percent more engaged with the company’s mission and vision;
- 66 percent more connected to their job;
- 52 percent less likely to be considering quitting their job; and
- 27 percent less worried about balancing work and family.
Managers and individual contributors who take an active part in self-care and resilience-building have better outcomes than those who do not. While the least engaged employees reported increases of 36 percent in somatic stress, there was no increase in somatic stress symptoms among the most engaged members who participated in digital resilience coaching and self-care.
“Employers who continue to place a premium on employee wellbeing and performance can moderate the negative effects of the pandemic on their people before they become overwhelmed,” explained Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder, meQuilibrium. “Together with the increase noted in manager burnout, the finding that managers feel less well supported strongly underscores the importance of companies making an extra effort to care for their managers.”
Methodology: meQuilibrium’s COVID-19 check-in study examined changes in overall wellbeing among a sample of 5,474 meQuilibrium members who completed a self-check in July 2021, compared with a previous self-check in December 2020. The sample is broadly representative of the meQuilibrium member population and includes employees from a wide range of industries representing both managers and individual contributors.