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U.S. employees are happy, but burnt out

Sharon Florentine | July 20, 2015
In the U.S. and Canada, workers seem conditioned to accept a new workplace reality: They're always on, always available and tasked with fulfilling the demand to do more with less.

U.S. employees are happy, but burnt out

In the U.S. and Canada, workers seem conditioned to accept a new workplace reality: They're always on, always available and tasked with fulfilling the demand to do more with less. According to the Staples Advantage Index -- a new report from research and advisory firm WorkplaceTrends.com and Staples Advantage, the B2B arm of office products retailer Staples -- 86 percent of the 2,602 U.S. and Canadian workers surveyed say they are happy at work and motivated to rise within their current organization. However more than half -- 53 percent -- also report they are overworked and burned out.

While the large percentage of those happy at work is encouraging for businesses, the number of workers burned-out is a warning to employers, says Dan Schawbel, founder of WorkplaceTrends.com and the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm.

"With the rise of the mobile workforce and the resulting always-on work culture, it's not a surprise that employees are feeling overworked and burnt out. While many are still happy at work, we wondered if it's because they're truly inspired and motivated, or simply conditioned to this new reality? Either way, employers need to adjust to win the war for talent and optimize productivity, engagement and loyalty with employees, or else their talent will look elsewhere," Schawbel says.

What causes burnout?

Employees are working longer days with about a quarter of them regularly work after the standard workday is over. Furthermore, about four out of 10 work on weekends at least once a month, according to the survey. While on the job, respondents say breaks are becoming rare as well -- about half of employees feel like they cannot get up for a break at all, and just under half eat lunch at their desk, according to the Index.

"North American workers are always on; they're flipping open their laptops late at night, they're checking email on their phone on a Saturday -- but that's not something they're really feeling negative about. Lots of respondents say they're overworked, and they're really happy. It might seem counterintuitive, but that's really telling. They've been able to take advantage of the new definition of work that isn't confined to an office or a cubicle," says Neil Ringel, executive vice president, Staples Advantage, North America.

Survey respondents say the driving force behind the always on work culture is the need for employees to complete work they don't have time to do during the day (35 percent), followed by a desire to get ahead for the following day (22 percent). A drive to advance in the organization plays a role as well, with nearly two-thirds of respondents seeing themselves as managers in the next five years, according to the survey. All of these factors together are a recipe for burnout and for attrition, says Schawbel, and can be bad news for employers.

 

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