The pandemic has upended the lives and wellbeing of nearly everyone, but Healthcare employees had the largest decrease in motivation (approx. 48%) of any industry and were least likely to say their employer was supportive, according to a new meQuilibrium study of 7,000 workers which compared changes in job stress, burnout, motivation and sleep between December 2019 and June 2020.

Tech industry employees had the most broadly negative changes of any industry, with double-digit increases in job stress (11%), disordered sleep (14%), burnout (23%), and an almost 40% drop in motivation. 

The study also found that Communications industry employees, despite largely supportive employers and limited front line exposure, experienced the largest increase in job stress (30%) and also experienced major decreases in motivation (approx. 33%). Finance/Insurance industry employees seem to have avoided COVID-19-related burnout but face significant challenges with motivation (about 32%) and sleep (11%). 

“The cumulative impact of the pandemic has been devastating to workers’ mental wellbeing,” says Brad Smith, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer, meQuilibrium. “The specific challenges employees face  differ dramatically by industry, age and gender, yet the overall trend clearly shows the tremendous strain of the pandemic in increased stress, burnout, diminished motivation, and the inability to remain consistently positive.” 

Wellbeing of Younger Workers and Working Women Hard Hit

The study also found that workers under 40 experienced a 23% increase in disordered sleep, versus an increase in sleep issues of only 1% in older workers. Motivation had a serious decline, with workers under 40 experiencing a decline of 45%, while workers over 40 suffered a 14% decline in motivation. There was also a 19% increase in the risk of burnout among the younger group, while the older group experienced a 3% decreased risk of burnout between December 2019 and June 2020.

Working women carry a high burden in the workplace, due to the many demands placed on them, and those responsibilities have increased during COVID-19. The study found that high job stress among women increased by nearly 20%, while job stress among men increased just 1.6%. In addition to job stress, the rate of decreased motivation was substantially higher among women (31%) than among men (21%).

Employer Support Serves As Critical Buffer

The study found that perceptions of employer support serve as a critical buffer against threats to employee wellbeing. The rate of increase in job stress among employees who feel unsupported by their employer was more than 10 times higher than those who feel strongly supported by their employer. Increases in symptoms of burnout, disordered sleep, and motivation difficulties were also all substantially higher among those who did not feel supported by an employer.

“Employer support for employee wellbeing can help reduce behavioral health risk, as well as improve engagement and commitment from employees,” said Smith. “Resilience is a crucial skill, as study participants with the highest resilience levels managed the negative effects of COVID-19 significantly better than those with low or moderate resilience.”