Employee burnout has doubled since lockdown ended, research finds

Experts say organisational cultures that promote wellbeing need to start with senior leaders, as poll reveals access to flexible working is also lacking

Reports of burnout have more than doubled since the relaxing of lockdown restrictions earlier this year, research has found.

Analysis of employee reviews by Glassdoor found that mentions of burnout increased 128 per cent since May 2021, around the time that lockdown restrictions started to ease.

In addition, the website, which also polled 2,000 full-time UK employees, found that half (52 per cent) of workers reported that work regularly ate into their personal life, while a third (35 per cent) said they did not believe a healthy work-life balance was possible in their current role.

Lauren Thomas, economist at Glassdoor, said that despite an increased focus on wellbeing among employers since the start of the pandemic, these findings suggested firms were still “not fully meeting the needs of their workforce”.

This was echoed by Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, who said that as more people are expecting to work remotely in the long term, it was “really important that organisations have a strong culture of wellbeing which should start with senior leaders acting as role models”.

Management training was a key part of this, McCartney added, to ensure that people managers had the skills to have conversations about wellbeing, as well as set output-based objectives and clear work-life boundaries with their staff.

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The Glassdoor research also found there was increasing confusion among workers around what a good work-life balance looked like, with two-thirds (67 per cent) of workers polled saying what they wanted from this balance had changed since the start of the pandemic.

Similarly, almost half of workers (48 per cent) have taken action to improve the balance between their work and personal life during the pandemic, while two-thirds (66 per cent) of workers said they were keen to change their current work-life balance and were looking to their employers for new solutions.

Additionally, more than half (53 per cent) of those surveyed agreed that in order to improve their work-life balance, employers should work with employees and consider a range of initiatives; a third (32 per cent) said that they wanted choice in where they work; while a similar percentage (28 per cent) wanted to switch between work and personal activities throughout the day.

Others suggested that a reduced work week and generous paid time off were important for a healthy balance between home and work.

The poll found eight in 10 workers said that work-life balance was a key consideration when looking for their next role.

Emma Stewart, co-founder of Timewise, said as candidate shortages grow, employers need to start considering how to introduce flexible working patterns in order to attract and retain talent. This was particularly true for sectors such as retail and hospitality, where flexible working has traditionally been less common.

“The challenge for industries such as retail, hospitality and travel is to offer workers more input and control around when they work, not just where… whether [that means] giving more advance notice on shifts or predictability in hours, so they can plan life around that,” she said.

“The fall-out of the pandemic has led to blurred lines between work and home for many white-collar workers” added Stewart, “[but] for the millions in frontline roles the flexibility to choose where you work has not even been an option.”

The analysis of job reviews by Glassdoor found that the technology and finance sectors were the best for work-life balance, while the retail, hospitality and travel sectors ranked the lowest. 

Glassdoor, which compiled a ranking of companies based on their reviews, said the top-rated firms offer employees the ability to complete most work away from the office and all had a flat hierarchical structure. By contrast, the lowest-ranking industries offer less flexibility to employees, with many having fixed shift schedules and mostly in-person roles. 

Thomas added that the companies which performed well all offered a range of options for workers. “Whether it is the autonomy to set one's schedule, hybrid working policies or simply trust shown by management that work will be delivered without being tied to an office, it is clear that a healthy balance is best achieved when employees can individualise their approach to work,” she said.