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Women, Younger Workers More Likely to Suffer Burnout or Job Loss During Pandemic

  • Two reports from Gallup highlight disparities in how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted workers
  • Gap between women and men widens on burnout, with women significantly more likely to experience burnout
  • Younger workers more likely than older ones to experience career disruptions, stress, and other fallout during the pandemic

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Women and younger workers have been more likely to suffer stress, burnout, and other negative mental effects during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recent reports by Gallup.

One report found a widening gap between women and men over feelings of burnout. Another determined that workers under the age of 40 were more likely to experience career disruptions, stress, anger, and other fallout due to the pandemic.

Gallup says employers should be aware of these trends in order to better support their employees and identify potential risks, such as workers who are more likely to depart.

Women’s burnout

In 2019, men and women were separated by only three percentage points when in the shares reporting that they always or often felt burnt out at work. Thirty percent of women polled in this year said they felt this way, as did 27 percent of men.

Between March and December of 2020, the months encompassing the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the gap spread to 12 points. Thirty-four percent of women employees said they were always or often burned out at work, along with 22 percent of men.

Gallup noted how the share of men reporting severe burnout actually fell below pre-pandemic levels, although it rose back to 26 percent in 2021. Conversely, the share of women reporting severe burnout remained at 34 percent in 2021.

The survey found that women with hybrid work arrangements were more likely to be experiencing burnout than those working fully on-site or those with fully remote work arrangements. Gallup suggests that this could mean that women are being tasked with more of the stressful work of coordinating team schedules and activities when working a hybrid schedule.

Women were also more likely to say they were burned out if they were in an individual contributor or project manager role, and showed greater concern than men about potentially contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. Gallup also found that the gender gap was just as wide with women who did not have minor children in the household as it was with those who did.

Young workers

Meanwhile, Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce report finds that workers under the age of 40 were more likely than older employees to be struggling at work during the pandemic. A larger share of these workers reported a negative life impact, lost pay, and fewer working hours.

The divide was particularly apparent for temporary or permanent job losses. Fifty-seven percent of younger workers said they had temporarily stopped working during the pandemic, compared to 47 percent of older workers. Thirty-six percent had lost a job or business, compared to 27 percent of older workers. Gallup suggests that this trend might be attributed in part to younger people being more likely to be involved in entry-level or part-time work.

Negative emotions were elevated across all ages, but slightly higher for younger workers. Forty-four percent of younger workers said they were more stressed during the pandemic, two points higher than older workers; 26 percent said they were experiencing more anger, four points higher than younger workers.

In addition, younger workers had lower employee engagement and were less likely to report their well-being as “thriving.”

Employer takeaways

Burnout creates several risks for employers, including the increased likelihood that an employee will need to make an emergency room visit, take sick time, or quit. Gallup says employers should also be aware that younger employees are placing more importance on a company’s support for a workers’ well-being when considering whether to take or keep a job.

Gallup recommends that employers assess their company to determine where burnout risks are highest. There are several potential contributors driving burnout, including a perception of unfair treatment, excessive workloads, unreasonable time demands, and lack of support from managers. Workers experiencing burnout may seem more exhausted, less productive, and more disengaged from their work.

To address employee well-being, Gallup recommends that employers have discussions with employees about their expectations as well as an individual worker’s needs. It says this discussion should extend to include an employee’s financial, social, and health needs.

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