The pandemic is putting significant pressure on workers. More than half of the U.S. workforce is burned out, reports Eagle Hill Consulting, drawing from its recent survey of U.S. workers, and younger workers are feeling the most strain, at 62 percent. More than one-third of the workforce plans to leave their job in the next 12 months and 51 percent of those polled say the pandemic has triggered a re-evaluation of their personal priorities. The survey found that implementing a four-day work week and reducing workload would alleviate stress.

“Both employers and employees are near the breaking point. Employers are struggling to find workers, and employees are stressed at work,” says Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting. “Unfortunately, the workforce situation likely will worsen before it gets better, with one-third of the workforce planning to leave their jobs soon. The so-called Great Resignation means that employers must start a Great Re-Evaluation, re-thinking everything from their culture to how work gets done.”

The survey asked respondents if they are feeling burnout at work and 53 percent of working Americans said yes, with women at 56 percent and men slightly lower at 51 percent. Burnout is highest among younger workers (62 percent for those ages 18-34), followed by mid-career workers (58 percent for those ages 35-54), and lowest among older workers (33 percent for those age 55 and older).

As for what’s behind the burnout, employees say that their workload is the top culprit (52 percent), followed by a lack of communication (44 percent), juggling work and personal life (35 percent), time pressures (32 percent), a lack of clarity about expectations (27 percent), not feeling connected to their colleagues (25 percent), performance expectations (24 percent), not feeling connected to the company vision, culture and values (23 percent), and not feeling empowered (22 percent). When asked how to reduce burnout, 83 percent said a four-day work week would help; a response that was highest among women and younger workers. Other options included increased flexibility (84 percent), decreased workload (82 percent), better health and wellness (78 percent), reduced administrative burdens (76 percent), more on-site amenities (73 percent), working from home (67 percent), and the ability to relocate or work from multiple locations (58 percent).

One-third of employees indicate they plan to leave their organizations in the next 12 months, up from 26 percent in November 2020 and 29 percent in May 2021. The planned departure rates are even higher for younger workers (41 percent for 18- to 34-year-old workers), followed by mid-career workers (35 percent for 35- to 54-year-old workers), and at 20 percent for those age 55 and older.

“Employee burnout was simmering even before the pandemic and now it’s boiled over for more than half of workers,” says Jezior. “It’s simply an unsustainable situation for a business when burnout is rising and the labor shortage continues. This means leaders must fully understand what is working and what isn’t for employees, and then collaborate on specific solutions that will work for an organization’s business strategy and the workforce. It’s complicated because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, a four-day work week may work well for some businesses, but it’s impossible for others.”

The pandemic also triggered many employees to re-think their lives and careers. More than half (51 percent) say the pandemic has caused a re-evaluation of personal priorities, especially for younger workers (65 percent). Thirty-one percent of employees say the pandemic has them considering changing careers, with 34 percent considering changing employers and 21 percent thinking of changing where they live. When asked about how they value their employer, 66 percent of workers say they value their employer more since the start of the pandemic.

Jezior adds, “One bright spot in our research—two-thirds of workers say they value their employer more since the pandemic. Smart employers will dig in to find out exactly what employees value so they can leverage the positive to retain those employees.”