Workers don’t quit good jobs; they quit bad work environments. During 2019, the incidences of stress and burnout in the workplace escalated. And the state of work cultures declined. The trend should be the other way around. What’s wrong with this picture?
The Rise Of Job Stress And Burnout
A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job. Burned-out employees were 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job. Even if they stay, they typically have 13% lower confidence in their performance and are half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their managers.
Ginger, the leader in on-demand behavioral health, released the 2019 Workforce Attitudes Towards Behavior Health Report, which revealed the following results:
- 81% say stress impacts their work negatively, manifesting in a range of symptoms from fatigue and anxiety to physical ailments and missed work.
- 48% have cried at work, and 50% have missed at least one day of work.
- 81% report barriers to using behavioral health services; including the limited number of providers covered by their plans, lack of time to get help, confusing program options and stigma.
- 85% note that behavioral health benefits are a consideration when evaluating a new job opportunity.
The Downward Spiral Of The American Work Culture
It’s clear that American workers don’t quit good jobs; they leave bad work cultures because they want to be treated humanely. The Work Confidence Survey of 1,016 American workers from Skye Learning found that 23% report a negative workplace culture, 14% cite bad relationships with the boss, and 38% say they lack time for their personal lives. The survey showed that the workforce majority has job burnout, widespread reliance on side jobs (1/3) and declining confidence in job security.
A Gallup poll showed that 45% of U.S. workers experienced some form of discrimination or harassment in the past year. A whopping 70% of the American workforce (85% worldwide) say they hate their jobs, usually because of a toxic boss. Other studies show that wage earners are leaving jobs where they’re afraid to talk to their bosses about mental illness challenges.
A new 2019 Monster.com survey found that nearly 94% out of 2,081 employees say they had been bullied. That’s a huge increase (19%) in the last eleven years. Over half (51.1%) in the Monster.com survey say they were bullied by a boss or manager. The ways the respondents describe being bullied are aggressive email tones (23.3%), coworkers’ negative gossip (20.2%) and someone yelling at them (17.8%).
At Nulab, Danielle Bramley, Media Relations Associate, and her research team studied over 1,000 people to explore conflicts in the workplace and the most effective ways to resolve them. A total of 88% cite that coworker conflicts impact their stress levels and over 70% say conflict impacts job concentration and productivity. The behaviors causing the greatest numbers of workplace conflicts are having an attitude (68.2%), being disrespectful to others (56.1%) and having others do their job (45.4%). A total of 82% of workers report conflict with a coworker getting hostile at least once. And 1 in 5 cite conflict as a major impetus on their desire to find another job.
The American Psychological Association found that 75% of the workforce say their bosses are the most stressful part of their jobs. And other studies showed that a toxic boss is the top reason employees leave their positions. Workers report that they don’t trust their supervisors enough to reveal personal information because of the stigma of mental illness. They fear bosses might treat them differently, question their ability to function in their position, discriminate against them or pass them over for promotions and pay raises.
A study released in September 2019 by Mavenlink, the leading provider of cloud-based software for the modern services organization, found that burnout and pay are the top threats to retention. Atomik Research, who conducted the survey of 1002 full-time employees, found that 46% of workers across generations plan to change jobs in the upcoming year for better pay. Nearly one third of 18- to 24-year-olds plan to change jobs due to burnout and lack of flexibility. Employees under the age of 44 say they wish they had better management or more flexibility. Older generations believe they would be more productive with more efficient, targeted, structured meetings or fewer meetings. Among all age groups, 62% agree that a work-life balance is the most important element of a successful work culture.
Trends For 2020
I spoke with Tom Fowler, President at Polar. He told me that there’s a trend in new technology to prevent burnout: “Assaults on the autonomic nervous system impact how well we perform at a high level across all domains, especially when it comes to mental sharpness, decision making, irritability and more. But many busy executives don’t have full control over their schedules and factors like late nights at the office, long travel days, rich dinners, staying hydrated and entertaining clients.” That’s where a unique measurement solution like Nightly Recharge comes in. The device measures daily stressors on your body as well as the quality of your sleep to show how well you recover from the demands of the previous day and how hard you should (or shouldn’t) push yourself each morning, Fowler said.
But when all is said and done, Dr. Reetu Sandhu, Manager at Limeade Institute–which conducts research, establishes market points of views and keeps a pulse on the latest employee well-being and engagement research and trends—says work performance doesn’t have to come at the expense of mental and physical health and wellness. Dr. Sandhu told me it’s about creating a humane work environment: “Since mental health is a core part of who we are as human beings, employers who want to care for their employees can’t ignore mental health. We also know there is a connection between work and well-being. Work can be a source of purpose, passion and energy—or it can sometimes be a source of stress, anxiety and exhaustion. These experiences can either have positive or negative influences on our mental health—and our overall well-being. Similarly, our mental health can impact how we think, feel and perform at work.”
A growing body of research proves that company culture drives real business results. Glassdoor released a survey showing that three in four adults would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job. In its Job & Hiring Trends for 2020, Glassdoor insists that a strong company culture will come first. They conclude that companies can no longer just talk the talk but must walk the walk. Companies with better cultures tend to perform better financially, attract talent more easily and have more satisfied customers.
The American workforce is becoming more dissatisfied with the state of their work environments and are unwilling to settle for jobs that compromise their mental health wellness. Not only will this discontent not go away, it’s only going to grow until business leaders do more to humanize work cultures. Companies that continue to ignore the 2019 statistics will become a revolving door, making it difficult for them to attract and retain talented employees who can find a mentally healthier and more attractive work culture. Dr. Sandhu said Limeade Institute has the data to support this trend: “Our research shows that when employees feel cared for, there is a chain reaction of positive outcomes both for employees and for companies.” Sandhu shared their findings from people who feel cared for by their companies:
- 60% plan to stay at their company for three or more years (as opposed to only 7% of those who don’t feel cared for)
- 95% say they feel included in their organization (compared to 14% of those who don’t feel cared for)
- 91% say they’re likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work (compared to 9% of those who don’t feel cared for)
Hopefully, in the upcoming year, the current trend will reverse itself more in line with Dr. Sandhu’s and Limeade’s findings, and we will have a decline in employee stress and burnout and the toxic treatment of workers along with an upswing in more humane work environments. When employees are supported in bringing their best self to work, they’re more likely to put their best work forward. Once that happens, it will be a brighter year for workers, businesses and everyone concerned.