Survey: Burnout Key Reason Employees Left Jobs During Pandemic

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

October 19, 2021

A significant percentage of employees said burnout was the main reason they left their job to find other work. The findings, released in a survey report by LimeAde, identified key drivers that led many employees to quit from late 2020 into early 2021, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Limeade surveyed 1,000 full-time US workers who started a new job in 2021. To qualify, the employees had to work at companies with 500 or more employees and have been working for at least three months with their new organization.

Burnout led the list of reasons for leaving a job. Burnout is defined by the World Health Organization as a syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. The condition is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, increased mental distance from or negativity about one's job, and reduced professional efficacy.

Lack of flexibility, discrimination and not feeling valued also were cited as major issues. The top reasons for leaving a job, according to the Limeade study were:

  • Burnout: 40%
  • Company organizational changes: 34%
  • Lack of flexibility: 20%
  • Instances of discrimination: 20%
  • Contributions and ideas not valued: 20%
  • Insufficient benefits: 19%
  • Well-being not supported by the company: 16%

Another noteworthy finding was that 28% of the employees who quit did not have another job already lined up. That percentage increased to 56% for employees in the food service and hospitality industry.

The study also reported that the ability to work remotely and other forms of workplace flexibility attracted them to their current positions. The top reasons given were:

  • Ability to work remotely according to personal preference: 40%
  • Better compensation: 37%
  • Better management: 31%
  • Better company reputation: 29%
  • Better work-life balance: 26%
  • Flexible work schedule: 24%

Employers can keep these findings in mind as they look for ways to retain employees during the current tight labor market. The report recommends taking steps to identify and resolve issues that can lead to employee burnout, rethinking when and how to return employees to the workspace keeping employee wellbeing in mind and cultivating a workplace culture that prioritizes employee care and takes in employee feedback.