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Threats to Employee Wellbeing Intensify as Pandemic Wears On

Workers continue to feel the cumulative mental health impacts of the crisis in the form of increased stress symptoms, burnout, and diminished motivation.
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Threats to employee wellbeing continue to intensify well over a year into the pandemic, as evidenced by a 21 percent rise in burnout and a 17 percent increase in somatic stress symptoms, a new meQuilibrium study found. The study examined changes in overall wellbeing among 5,474 meQuilibrium members from a broad range of industries representing managers and individual contributors.

“Employee wellbeing continues to be under threat 18 months into the pandemic,” says Brad Smith, Ph.D., chief science officer for meQuilibrium. “Our data shows that workers continue to feel the cumulative mental health impacts of the crisis in the form of increased stress symptoms, burnout, and diminished motivation. We need to take action now to protect employee wellbeing before the clock runs out.”

The study also revealed a particularly large (64 percent) burnout risk increase among younger workers, which was nearly three times the increase for employees over 30 (22 percent). The increase in burnout symptoms is especially high among managers (+54 percent) and hospitality (+48 percent), health care (+32 percent), and finance (30 percent) industry workers.

When it comes to gender differences, meQuilibrium found that although men and women are experiencing about the same rate of increase in burnout (+24 percent in women and +25 percent in men), men’s somatic stress levels are rising at a faster rate than women’s (+9 percent for men vs +3 percent for women). 

No matter what job title, gender, or industry, a key factor in wellbeing risk is employer support. Employees who felt strongly supported by their employers reported the highest levels of wellbeing and were less likely to report turnover intent.

However, the new data shows a noteworthy downturn in the extent to which employees felt well-supported by their employers. Just six months ago, 78 percent of employees felt well-supported, dropping down to 71 percent today. While the data uncovered a broad-based drop in employee perceptions of strong employer support, the drop was precipitously larger (+20 percent) among managers than among individual contributors. Burnout symptoms among employees who had poor employer support were twice as high as those who felt protected.

In contrast, employees who felt strongly supported by their employer were:

  • 91 percent more engaged with the company’s mission and vision 
  • 66 percent more connected to their job 
  • 52 percent less likely to be considering quitting their job 
  • 27 percent less worried about balancing work and family

Managers and individual contributors who take an active part in self-care and resilience-building have better outcomes than those who do not. While the least engaged employees reported increases of 36 percent in somatic stress, there was no increase in somatic stress symptoms among the most engaged members who participated in digital resilience coaching and self-care.

“Employers who continue to place a premium on employee wellbeing and performance can moderate the negative effects of the pandemic on their people before they become overwhelmed,” says Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder, meQuilibrium. “Together with the increase noted in manager burnout, the finding that managers feel less well supported strongly underscores the importance of companies making an extra effort to care for their managers.”

About The Author

Julie is the co-founder of Well Defined and a longtime influencer and advocate in the wellness world. Along with her work at Well Defined, she is an executive recruiter and marketing specialist for Hutchinson Consulting. She is also a consultant and content strategist for numerous wellness brands. She is the former editor-in-chief and publisher of American Spa and was named a 2019 Folio Top Woman in Media in the Industry Trailblazers category and a 2018 winner of ISPA’s Innovate Award. She is also a seasoned journalist, specializing in spa, travel, health, fitness, wellness, sustainability, and beauty. She has been published in Departures,, E! Online,, Insider’s Guide to Spas, Luxury Travel Advisor, Marin Magazine, Ocean Home, Smart Meetings, Spa Asia, and Travel Agent.