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Burnout in the Workplace & “The Great Resignation”

A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that nearly half of U.S. workers feel mentally and physically exhausted by the end of a workday.

The study highlights the psychological toll that COVID-19 has wrought on workers, as they struggle to balance continuity of work (either at the office or remotely), with the daily challenges presented by COVID: worries about children, elderly relatives, themselves…

The SHRM survey, conducted more than a year into the pandemic, shows that burnout and symptoms of depression persist. Of note, working women reported experiencing burnout at significantly higher rates than men, and employees who now work remotely often experience more depressive symptoms compared to those who don’t telework. You can see key findings from the report here.

Has this led to a new phenomenon, coined “The Great Resignation?” And are you losing good people because of this?

How can a company’s leadership combat employee burnout and avoid a “Great Resignation” (even when they may be experiencing the same feelings…after all, they are workers too!)?

Perhaps these suggestions would be helpful:

  • Offer mental health assistance to employees. Many employers have such programs in place, and should encourage their use;

  • Put in place some “flex days” whereby employees could opt to work longer hours (for instance) Monday – Thursday, then take Fridays off;

  • Conduct regular team meetings that open with a discussion on how everyone is doing, and regularly check in with individual team members to get a “pulse check”;

  • Reward efforts and successes! A little praise for jobs well done goes a long way to boosting a person’s morale. (Often we focus on what’s not done, and give little attention to what has been accomplished.)

In short, from the top down, we’re all suffering from the ambient fatigue of these extraordinary times that have disrupted our “normal” daily lives and routines. Leadership must recognize this, and work to find ways to create supportive workplaces that look beyond the job role and recognize that the person doing the job may be struggling … and perhaps even ready to resign.


Stan Davis is the Founding Principal of Standish Executive Search, a New England-based firm that advises business owners, executives and boards who are positioning their companies for accelerated growth, change or succession.

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