As technological advancements allow us to be connected to our work in ever-increasing ways, at ever-increasing times, a new problem is emerging that’s counter to productivity: employee burnout. Characterized by stressed, overwhelmed employees, burnout hurts your company and office culture in the long run. When employees are exhausted, emotionally spent and overworked, they’re not performing at their best. But new research from Kisi shows that preventing employee burnout has to go beyond that one draconian boss or understaffed team. In fact, risk factors for burnout could be baked into your city’s infrastructure and social norms.
Tons of factors contribute to the likelihood of employee burnout, including not just hours worked per week or available vacation days, but also commute time, access to mental health services, and the overall livability of the city.
The Most Overworked Cities
So where do your headquarters fall on the spectrum? You’d be surprised. According to 2019 employee burnout statistics, the most overworked city in the U.S. is Washington DC, while the least overworked city is San Diego. How do they differ? Researchers at Kisi scored each city on factors like time spent working each week, vacation days and parental leave policy, access to welfare services and healthcare, the city’s reported LGBTQ+ and gender equality score, reported happiness and freedom and desirability of the city.
Contributors to Burnout
Burnout is a multifaceted issue, with tons of environmental factors. It’s not just whether employees work too much, but whether they have access to resources that might help them destress, whether they can unwind after work or face a long commute, whether their city has public spaces for them to gather in and how the cultural norms support them.
When it comes to time off work, Barcelona tops the list with an average of 30.5 vacation days taken each year. In the United States, cities with the best reported work-life balance are San Diego, San Francisco, and Portland. While they score high for paid time off compared to other U.S. cities, vacation time in the U.S. still pales in comparison to that elsewhere, with the average employee taking only about 9 days a year.
Overall, Helinski, Finland received the best score for overall work-life balance, for high scores in parental leave and paid time off, a short average commute of only 26 minutes, high accessibility to mental health services, low stress, and air pollution, and widespread access to leisure activities. Munich, Germany is ranked as the least stressed city, while Oslo, Norway has the most comprehensive access to mental health services. In the U.S, Boston has the best mental health services, while Austin has the worst. Stress levels are generally high in U.S., particularly in cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia, and low in Seattle, Omaha, and Austin, among others. Los Angeles has staggeringly high levels of air pollution, with a score of 26 compared to other big cities like New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, which all have scores below 8.
So why does this matter? When your employees experience burnout, not only do they suffer, your company does too. Burnout makes employees more likely to take sick days, visit an emergency room, and look for a new job. As a manager, you can’t necessarily change how far your employee's commute, the level of air pollution they inhale, or the mandated number of vacation days. But there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of burnout.
You can help cut down on commute times by allowing your employees to work remotely once a week, or pay for the cost of their commute through public transportation passes. You can check in with your employees and gauge what their workload is, helping them delegate or adjust their schedule if need be. You can encourage employee wellness by bringing exercise or meditation classes to the office, offering corporate gym discounts, and encouraging employees to actually take lunch and leave the office at a reasonable time each night.
Burnout is a detriment not just to employees but to companies as a whole. And while there are a myriad of environmental factors out of the control of office managers, there are small scale steps to take that can have a big impact.