Burnout

By the Numbers: Employee Burnout, Workplace Discrimination, and the Great Resignation

Sometimes research emerges that sets a new high-water mark on a troubling trend — and it’s well worth paying attention to. That’s the case with the recent Work and Well-Being Survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) of 1,501 U.S. adult workers. Conducted in 2021, it remains extremely relevant to where we are now. 

The survey reveals a strong connection between stress, burnout, workplace discrimination, and the Great Resignation. If that sounds like a topic you should know more about, we heartily agree. We also think that the fact that the research was conducted outside an HR-centric organization actually makes it all the more valuable for those of us in HR — particularly leadership.

The Bottom Line of Burnout

Here’s the bottom line: employee burnout is undeniably high. It’s clearly a major factor in the Great Resignation. It’s also affecting employees unequally: discrimination is a thru-line there. We took a closer look at some of the survey’s most telling statistics to see how we’re doing. As you look for strategies to stave off employee departures and reduce workplace-related stress, these are numbers (and issues) you need to keep in mind.

Burnout is at an All-Time High, Regardless of Profession

  • 79% of employees across all professions reported work-related stress. 
  • Nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy at work. 
  • 36% reported cognitive weariness.
  • 32% reported emotional exhaustion
  • 44% reported physical fatigue — a 38% increase since 2019.

Burnout is a Key Factor in the Great Resignation

There’s a clear association between day-to-day workplace stress and the likelihood they will look for a new job somewhere else, and soon:

  • 71% reported feeling typically stressed out or tense during their workday.
  • Only 20% reported they didn’t feel that way.
  • Those who report feeling tense or stressed out during the workday are over 3X more likely to seek employment somewhere else in the next year.

Workplace Discrimination

It’s not only stressful, but employees are also sick and tired of it — and it’s making them seek employment elsewhere:

  • 68% of those who say they have experienced or witnessed discrimination in their current workplace plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 
  • Only 33% of those who say they did not experience or witness discrimination in their current workplace plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 

The Breakdown is Telling

Black and Hispanic:

  • 31% of Black and Hispanic employees say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year. 
  • 20% of White employees say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year. 
  • 58% of Hispanic and 57% of Black employees plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 
  • 37% of White employees plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 

LGBTQ+:

  • 32% of LGBTQ+ employees say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year.
  • 23% of non- LGBTQ+ employees say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year.
  • 56% of LGBTQ+ employees plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 
  • 43% of non-LGBTQ+ employees plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 

People with Disabilities:

  • 47% of people with disabilities say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year.
  • 19% of people without a disability say they have been the target of discrimination in their workplace in the last year.
  • 63% of people with disabilities plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 
  • 41% of people without a disability plan to look for a job outside of their organization in the next year. 

Women and Burnout

What’s not in here: how women are faring. Women’s experience with workplace burnout is its own topic, and we’ll be covering it. There are also plenty of other factors contributing to the soaring rates of workplace stress, from overwork to not enough paid leave, to low compensation to being left out of decision-making. Look for our coverage of those as well in the coming months. (In the meantime, please read here for more on the connection between employee responses to the pandemic and workplace stress — an uneasy and ongoing relationship. And for an interesting take on overcoming burnout pre-pandemic, check out this great #WorkTrends podcast we did with a public schools counselor turned go-to executive coach. — her wisdom still holds true.)

Final Thoughts

The numbers we’ve included here paint a clear picture — and as we look for a special sauce that will slow down voluntary quits, it’s time to get back to basics. The importance of an inclusive workplace where everyone feels like they belong is inarguable — and the APA’s stats should prompt a serious re-think. Once again, kudos to them for doing such a well-considered, diligent deep dive into this important workplace topic.