After a year and a half as a supply chain manager, Jill Shaffer was feeling burned out.
The 49-year-old had been putting in 50 hours a week at her job in the cannabis industry, working a typical eight-hour day in the office only to spend her evenings at home catching up on emails and texts. She began to question her position when she noticed her physical and mental health deteriorating.
“It was just a lot of exhaustion. Not really caring about much else other than my job. My eating habits were terrible. I gained like 50 pounds in the last year and a half,” she told USA TODAY. “It just got to the point where I was like, OK, enough. I have to do something about this.”
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Shaffer is among a growing number of workers coping with an overwhelming amount of stress.
Global burnout rates were up 8% between May and August, according to a new report from Slack’s Future Forum consortium. The number of burned-out employees is especially prevalent in the U.S., where more than 2 in 5 workers say they’re burned out.
The Future Forum report noted that a lack of flexible work and ballooning stress among executives are some of the factors contributing to burnout.
“We’re seeing some pretty major shifts, some of which is related to the kind of growing stress that’s on executives,” said Brian Elliott, executive leader of Future Forum. “That’s actually causing some of the ripple effects that we’re seeing, particularly around burnout.”
What is burnout?
Burnout, a syndrome caused by chronic workplace stress, can lead to feelings of exhaustion, increased mental distance from a job and reduced professional efficacy, according to the World Health Organization.
It’s a growing challenge in the workplace, especially among women, younger workers and middle managers, according to Future Forum’s August survey of more than 10,700 workers in six countries.
The report found women are 32% more likely to experience burnout than men, and employees under the age of 30 are 29% more likely to experience burnout than their older counterparts.
While women may feel more burned out because they tend to juggle more responsibilities at home, Elliott said younger workers are likely experiencing more stress due to issues with the broader economy.Research shows they tend to suffer the highest increases in unemployment rates during recessions.
As for middle managers like Shaffer, burnout risks are exceptionally high at 43%, compared to 37% for senior management, 40% for individual contributors and 32% for executives.
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“One way to think about it almost is that middle managers themselves are the rope in the game of tug-of-war between what executives want and what teams want,” Elliott said.
‘I couldn’t function’
As stress levels in the office rise, so does turnover. Future Forum found people who are burned out are three times more likely to look for a new job in the coming year.
These employees are more likely to go after positions with flexible work. The report found that 94% of desk workers want schedule flexibility and 80% want location flexibility.
That holds true for Emily Muhoberac, 30, a former startup chief operating officer who said burnout pushed her to move on from a company she helped grow from the ground up.
Muhoberac said after weathering the first few tough months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company went straight into an acquisition. The pressures at work began to mount, and Muhoberac said she felt as though she didn’t get a chance to catch her breath between the two major events as she put in 60-plus-hour weeks.
She said the burnout kicked off a downward spiral that eventually revived her binge eating disorder.
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“The pressure started to build to where emotionally, I couldn’t function,” she said. “I was going home and eating as much ice cream as I could get my hands on and then repeating the same cycle for the last year until it got to the point where I realized that I became suicidal. I just didn’t want to do any of it anymore and it didn’t feel worth it.”
Muhoberac has already interviewed for a couple of jobs but says she’s in no rush to move into her next role. She’d rather take the time to recuperate and find the right fit.
For her, that’s a job with a four-day workweek that is fully remote.
“Only just now, as I’m moving out of my role, as I’m really figuring out what’s next, do I really feel like I’m a human being,” she said. “(I need a job that) prioritizes my well-being over the well-being of the business.”
You can follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter @bailey_schulz and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter here for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday.