Employee Burnout Epidemic?

I’ve been researching and writing about “burnout” (physical fatigue, mental exhaustion, and feelings of languishing) for more than 20 years. – and I’ve never seen the situation as bad as it is today.

I’ve also been researching and writing about the opposite of burnout – known as “vigor” (physical energy, mental acuity, and emotional well-being) – and natural ways to improve how we feel and perform.

Burnout statistics hit all-time highs during the pandemic – as workers shouldered more and more responsibilities (working from home, kids schooling from home, lack of distinction between work/home life, uncertainty about health/economy/etc) – it was a lot.

However, now that we’re firmly “post-pandemic” – we’re seeing burnout continuing to rise – especially as employers attempt to herd workers back into the office. As recent surveys suggest, many employees are resisting a return to “normal” in the name of good health.

A new report from consulting firm Deloitte surveyed more than 3,000 workers from the C-suite to managers to frontline workers – and found some very disturbing stats about the state of workplace well-being.

The bottom line is that most of us have work lives that are making us sick – mentally and physically.

Some key findings…

  • In 2023, only 63% of workers rated their physical health positively.
  • Up to 40% say a toxic work environment is harming their physical, mental, or social health. 
  • Only about a third reported improved health from last year, across all categories.
  • Just 42% say they have enough time for friends and family.
  • Only 48% engage in daily physical activity, while 55% get under seven hours of sleep.
  • 74% have difficulty taking time off or disconnecting from work.
  • Unfortunately, a majority of executives are clearly out of the loop – believing that employee well-being is actually improving, with 77% citing better mental health for their organization.

Investments in workforce wellness have the potential to deliver outsized returns – but the short-sighted vision of many executives often make it difficult to implement meaningful programs (hint: chair massages, step challenges, and meditation apps won’t cut it).

Luckily, there are a few brave companies that are forging ahead. For example, Exos (performance enhancement company) launched a “burnout rehab” program that has been shown to reduce stress by 70%. Both Headspace and Calm have developed meditation and mindfulness tools to support HR teams. Connected device leaders, Whoop (stress recovery band) and Oura (sleep ring), have entered workplace wellness as well (I use – and love – both of these devices to support my own mental and physical well-being).

Beating Burnout?

Holistic approaches are in high demand – and are really the only way to effectively solve the problem.

As we’ve been doing with our Certified Mental Wellness Coach program (CMWC) – training people to think more holistically about how to improve body/mind performance – some of the big guys are getting into the act, with BetterUp, Journey, and Liberate using digital coaching to build more resilient teams. Bitewell recently raised $4M for its corporate “food-as-medicine” offering. And Enthea added $2M in December to make psychedelic therapy a workplace benefit. The Global Wellness Institute has identified health coaching as one of the most important wellness trends over the past few years.

The CMWC focuses on the new science of the Microbiome-Gut-Heart-Brain-Axis to improve mental well-being and physical performance. Numerous lifestyle interventions such as nutrition, movement, sleep, supplements, mindset, social connections, spending time outside, and exposure to water (blue therapy), plants (green therapy), and sun (yellow therapy).

The bottom line is that ~60% of workers are ready to leave their jobs because their mental and physical health is suffering – but that also means that ~60% of workers are also looking for a company that prioritizes their well-being. Most workplaces need a radical revamp that emphasizes work-life balance – that can create benefits for worker well-being as well as corporate productivity/profits. This also a creates a lucrative opportunity for coaches that can enable that shift.

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About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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