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The Worst Industries for Burnout

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The Worst Industries for Burnout

Summary

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Although the burnout phenomenon was first identified in the 1970s, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns across America led to heightened levels of the syndrome, with the American Psychological Association reporting a substantial increase in both 2020 and 2021. Even with technology to streamline workflows, like a sales enablement tool or a call center software, burnout continued to be a consistent issue for employees and employers.

To find out which industries and states are most affected by burnout, we surveyed over 1,000 U.S. workers, to discover the extent of the impact it is having on workers in 2023.

Key Findings

  • Nearly three in four workers across the U.S. (73.65%) have suffered from burnout and the associated symptoms as a result of their current role
  • Heavy workload (43%), lack of resources (36.9%) and micro-management (36.6%) were the leading causes of work-related burnout.
  • Men are more likely to take action following burnout than their female counterparts–Over two-thirds (68.75%) of male workers have considered leaving their current role due to burnout, compared to over half (59%) of women.
  • Workers in the agriculture sector (84.38%) are the most likely to burn out, followed by those working in finance and insurance (82.50%) and information publishing and telecommunications (81.38%).
  • Workers between the ages of 18-24 are the most impacted by burnout, with 85% of workers in this age bracket suffering from burnout or one or more associated symptoms.
  • Interestingly, just one in eight (12.5%) of workers aged between 55-64 were unsure of the symptoms of burnout, but just over half of those in that age bracket (51.56%) claim to have been impacted by them, indicating they may feel uncomfortable discussing their stresses in the workplace.

Industries and employees with the biggest levels of workplace burnout

Our research found that nearly three in four workers across the U.S. (73.65%) have suffered from burnout and the associated symptoms as a result of their current role, with those working in agriculture being most impacted by work-related stress.

Other industries that see higher than average levels of burnout include those working in the finance and insurance sector (82.50%), information publishing and telecommunications (81.38%), and the public sector (80.49%).

RankIndustryPercentage of workers impacted by burnout symptoms in their current role
1Agriculture84.38%
2Financial activities and insurance82.50%
3Information publishing and telecommunications81.38%
4Public sector80.49%
5Professional and business services79.26%
6Education76.99%
7Leisure and hospitality76%
8Construction75.86%
9Manufacturing75.32%
10Wholesale and retail trade69.81%
11Transportation and utilities68.75%
12Healthcare67.31%

Overall, one in five (20.95%) claim to have suffered no symptoms of burnout from their current role, with workers in the transportation and utilities industry the least impacted by burnout (31.25%). Businesses in wholesale and retail trade (20.75%), construction (20.69%), and leisure and hospitality (20%) also saw high levels of workers not suffering from workplace stress.

Demographics most affected by burnout

Male workers were most likely to feel the impact of the symptoms of burnout (78.55%), compared to 67.03% of female workers. Gen Z workers were most likely to suffer from burnout (85.23%), followed by millennials (82.30%)–this is a stark difference to older generations, with just over half (51.56%) of workers in the 55-64 age bracket claiming to have experienced it.

Likelihood to suffer burnout, by age breakdown

Likelihood to suffer burnout, by age breakdown

Industries at most risk of staff attrition

While the research indicated that burnout is rising across all industries in the U.S., it seems that employers may be at risk of high levels of employee turnover as a result, with nearly two-thirds (64.25%) of those surveyed claiming they have considered leaving their current role as a result of burnout and the associated symptoms.

Men were most likely to consider handing in their notice as a result of the syndrome (68.75% compared to 59.07% of women), while the likelihood of losing an employee due to burnout increases dramatically the younger the workforce is.

Over three quarters (78.14%) of workers aged 18-24 have considered leaving as a result, dropping to 77.88% for 25-34 year olds and 52.41% for 35-44 year olds.

Likelihood to consider leaving a role as a result of burnout, by age breakdown

Likelihood to consider leaving a role as a result of burnout, by age breakdown

Employers working in the financial sector are most at risk of losing employers due to burnout, with four in five employees in this industry (81.67%) claiming they have considered leaving as a direct result of it.

Industries where employees are considering quitting due to burnout

The top 10 industries at risk of losing employees due to burnout, based on the percentage of workers who have considered leaving in the last 12 months, are:

Industry where employees are considering quitting due to burnout

Leading causes of burnout

When asked the main triggers and causes of burnout and associated symptoms, over two in five (43%) claimed heavy workload was the main trigger for workplace stress. Other triggers identified by the research were lack of resources (36.9%), micromanagement (36.6%), and toxic work environments (34.5%).

The top triggers of burnout, according to the research, are:

Leading causes of burnout

Leading causes of burnout by industry

RankIndustryMost common leading cause of burnout
1AgricultureLack of resources
2Financial activities and insuranceLack of resources
3Information publishing and telecommunicationsLack of resources
4Public sectorHeavy workload
5Professional and business servicesMicro-management
6EducationHeavy workload
7Leisure and hospitalityHeavy workload
8ConstructionToxic work environment
9ManufacturingHeavy workload
10Wholesale and retail tradeHeavy workload
11Transportation and utilitiesHeavy workload
12HealthcareToxic work environment

Micro-management was the leading cause of burnout amongst professional and business services, while those working in healthcare and construction were most affected by toxic work environments.

Leading symptoms of burnout

Of the respondents, 42.8% claimed that they've suffered from feeling tired and drained most of the time as a result of their role at work, along with nearly a third (32.6%) stating that in the past year they've felt detached. Other common symptoms include feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated (31.7%), having a cynical or negative outlook (27.4%) and self-doubt (27%). Shockingly, one in 25 (3.9%) of those surveyed admitted to alcohol or substance misuse in the last 12 months as a result of work.

The top 10 symptoms of burnout felt by employees in the last 12 months, according to the research, are:

Leading symptoms of burnout

Although feeling tired and drained most of the time was the leading burnout cause for employees across most industries, a few key industry differences were highlighted in the research. Procrastination and taking longer to get things done was the most common burnout symptom amongst public sector workers, while those in education were most likely to feel overwhelmed.

Workers in the agriculture sector were most likely to feel detached as a result of their current role, while excessive stress was the most common symptom for transportation and utility workers.

 Finally, feeling helpless was the most common burnout symptom for those in wholesale and retail trade, as well as professional and business services.

Worst months for burnout

Interestingly, it seems that burnout and its symptoms are most prominent in the Spring and Summer months. April, March, and June were the months that employees felt they were impacted by burnout and the associated symptoms, while one in 10 (10.4%) respondents claimed that they were affected all year long.

Leisure and hospitality was the only industry with the highest levels of burnout felt in winter months, with November chosen as the month they are most affected.

The worst months for burnout by sector are:

RankIndustryWorst month for burnout
1AgricultureApril
2Financial activities and insuranceApril
3Information publishing and telecommunicationsJuly
4Public sectorJune
5Professional and business servicesJuly
6EducationMarch
7Leisure and hospitalityNovember
8ConstructionJune
9ManufacturingApril
10Wholesale and retail tradeMay
11Transportation and utilitiesJuly
12HealthcareJune

Worryingly, one in seven (13.21%) of employees in the wholesale and retail trade feel they are impacted by burnout and the symptoms all year round, with this trend also common among transport and utilities (12.50%) and leisure and hospitality (12%).

Impact of proactive rest on burnout

Proactive rest, a workplace trend that allows employees to choose a flexible working pattern that works for them, along with the introduction of initiatives such as mandatory lunch breaks and four-day work weeks, are just one of the policies that have risen in popularity, due to businesses implementing them in order to increase productivity while reducing burnout. When asked about proactive rest, just over half of those surveyed claimed to actively practice it in their current role.

Interestingly, there are some stark differences in practicing proactive rest among industries, with agriculture (81.25%), financial activities and insurance (70.83%), and construction (68.97%) workers most likely to undertake it, compared to just 39% of those working in wholesale and retail trade.

Over half (52%) of workers in leisure and hospitality are unsure of what proactive rest is, followed by 39% of wholesale and retail trade workers and just over a third (35.40%) of those working in education.

The industries that practice proactive rest the most are:

RankIndustry% of employees that undertake proactive rest at work% of employees that are unsure of what proactive rest is
1Agriculture or related industries18.75%0%
2Financial activities and insurance19.17%10.00%
3Construction10.34%20.69%
4Manufacturing19.48%11.69%
5Professional and business services12.59%20.74%
6Healthcare23.08%14.10%
7Information publishing and telecommunications15.17%24.14%
8Education13.27%35.40%
9Public sector21.95%31.71%
10Leisure and hospitality4.00%52.00%
11Transportation and utilities25.00%31.25%
12Wholesale and retail trade20.75%39.62%

Job role also played a key part on how likely a worker was likely to undertake proactive rest, with business owners (80%) most likely to implement it as part of their current role. Levels of take-up reduced with each level of authority in the business, with two-thirds (65.79%) of workers at a C-Suite level, 57.95% at a managerial level, and 43.36% of those working in a junior role all implementing it as part of their working day. Just over half (52.53%) of freelancers or respondents that worked for themselves claimed to practice it.

The research found a direct link that workers that practiced proactive rest at work are the happiest at work–62% of workers who ranked their happiness at work at the highest level claimed they have tried it in their current role, compared to 19.66% of those who claimed they don't proactively rest at work.

Easing burnout for employees

When asked about potential changes that could be implemented by employers that could increase happiness levels at work, 44.4% of those surveyed claimed that a four-day working week would positively impact their happiness levels in their role, with a similar level of agreement for more vacation days (44.6%). Over a third (37.6%) felt more remote working options would increase their happiness levels in their current role. And with business software like VoIP phone systems available to support remote and hybrid work, that's a promising option for businesses trying to diminish burnout. 

Methodology

The survey was taken by a representative sample of 1,074 people living in the United States. Results were fielded from the 10th to the 13th of July 2023 using Amazon's survey platform: Mechanical Turk.

Respondent breakdown:

Gender%
Female44.13%
Male55.12%
Non-binary0.28%
Prefer not to say0.47%
Age%
18-248.19%
25-3442.09%
35-4428.96%
45-5412.85%
55-645.96%
65+1.96%

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