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‘Burnout’ crisis threatens post-pandemic workplaces, study finds

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A recent global survey found that 92 per cent of workers say they are experiencing burnout from stress related to their workplace and the impact Covid-19 is having on their work and their personal lives.

A solution to improve employees’ well-being, as well as productivity, innovation, retention and inclusion, researchers say, is access to remote work.

For women, who have been disproportionately impacted by job losses during the pandemic, these findings are very important.

The study, “Remote-Work Options can Boost Productivity and Curb Burnout”, surveyed nearly 7,500 employees across the globe and defines burnout as “the physical and psychological exhaustion that comes from prolonged stress with negative consequences, including mental distance from one’s job and feelings of professional inefficacy”. It is the first instalment of Catalyst’s “Equity in the Future of Work” research series.

Catalyst is a global non-profit organisation working with top firms to build better workplaces for women.

In the analysis, author Tara Van Bommel identifies three types of burnout: work burnout, Covid-19 work burnout and personal burnout.

Remote-work access curbed all three types of burnout regardless of group differences such as gender or child-caregiving status.

The data showed that when companies offer remote-work options –

including a flexible work location, distributed teams, and/or virtual work/telework/working from home – employees report a 26 per cent drop in workplace burnout compared to those who do not have access to remote work. Workplace burnout drops 43 per cent when employees have remote-work access and their managers demonstrate empathy, compared to people without remote-work access or empathic managers.

The study also found that people with remote-work access are 30 per cent less likely to look for another job in the next year compared to people who do not have remote-work access. Women with childcare responsibilities are 32 per cent less likely to leave their job when they have remote work access, compared to women with childcare responsibilities who do not have access to remote work.

Unsurprisingly, the report observes current, “always-on” expectations at work are unsustainable, and recommends the following solutions for organisations to help combat burnout:

• Create remote-work policies that detail expectations for employees, managers, and teams.

• Upskill managers on managing remote teams inclusively.

• Invest in schemes and stipends for employees who need additional childcare options.

• Normalise empathic listening through regular check-ins and other opportunities to share life and work experiences.


“Burnout leads to turnover, but that can be mitigated by intentional remote work policies and inclusive, empathic leadership,” said Lorraine Hariton, Catalyst president and CEO. “Effectively implemented, remote and flexible work options for employees ultimately help organisations have access to more talent and less turnover as well as increased innovation and productivity.”

Published : May 27, 2021

By : The Nation