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MindEdge and HRCI Study: 80% of HR Professionals Report Increased Staff Burnout During the Pandemic

MindEdge and HRCI Study: 80% of HR Professionals Report Increased Staff Burnout During the Pandemic

This second annual study also shows high levels of concern about increased employee turnover

BOSTON, MA (October 28, 2021) –

The global workforce has endured many effects of a prolonged pandemic. It has taken a heavy toll in terms of employee burnout and staff turnover, according to the latest collaborative survey from  MindEdge Learning and the HR Certification Institute (HRCI).

The online survey, HR in the Age of Workplace Uncertainty, polled 1,000 HRCI-certified Human Resources professionals. The survey reported that 80% of respondents observed an increase of employee burnout, with 37% citing a “major increase.”

The study found that many organizations recognize the need to reduce stress and counteract burnout in their employees: 62% of respondents said their organizations have already introduced workplace benefits to reduce stress, or plan to do so. This figure represents a 9% increase from the findings of our 2020 survey. Nonetheless, fully 38% of respondents say their organizations have not taken any steps to address the burnout issue.

Employee turnover is also a significant concern for these HR professionals. A majority (54%) of respondents indicate that turnover is higher than pre-pandemic, and only 8% share that turnover is lower. This issue was second-highest among respondents’ potential concerns about reopening their workplaces: one-of-five (19%) say their top concern about reopening is that “employee turnover may be very high.”

At the time of the survey, 51% of respondents’ organizations had already reopened, and 34% report that they had never closed. Among the 15% that had not yet reopened, 50% of respondents were still unsure of when they would return to in-person work.

The pandemic has ushered in a new era of flexible work arrangements

The pandemic has forced a large majority of organizations to implement hybrid work arrangements to either offer fully or partially remote work structures. This trend may continue into the future.

Sixty-three percent of respondents say their organizations instituted a remote work program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while more than a quarter (26%) already had a remote work program in place before the pandemic. Only 10% of respondents’ organizations do not have a remote program at all.

Looking to the future, organizations are divided on whether they will require employees to return to the office. Among organizations that have already reopened, only two-of-five (43%) are requiring employees to return to the office full-time, while 50% are offering remote options. Among those that have not yet reopened, only 25% of respondents say that all employees will have to return to in-person work.

Among organizations that have already reopened, 78% of respondents say their organizations have instituted a hybrid work schedule for at least some employees – including 21% who have placed all employees on a hybrid schedule. Hybrid work arrangements are most common in the Financial Services (92%) and Technology (85%) sectors; they are less prevalent in Education (72%) and Retail (65%).

Typical work arrangements reported among organizations that have implemented hybrid work models indicate that employees work, on average, two to three days per week in the office.

“These results indicate that both companies and employees need to be agile and prepared for diversified work structures,” said Frank Connolly, director of communications and research at MindEdge Learning. “The pandemic has fundamentally shifted the way that the world views the workplace. That’s why businesses need to be adaptable as work models evolve.”

Workplace safety and concerns about the Delta variant

As workplaces continue to reopen, HR professionals say they are most concerned about their employees’ physical well-being: fully 38% say their top concern about reopening is that employee health and safety may be at risk. High turnover is second on the list of concerns, at 19%.

Concerns about health and safety are most prevalent in the Financial Services (53%), Education (46%), and Retail (43%) sectors. By contrast, high turnover is the top concern in the Manufacturing (36%) sector.

The surging Delta variant has forced many businesses to scramble, as 36% of respondents say that the Delta surge affected their organizations’ plans to reopen. The Delta variant has had the greatest impact on reopening plans in the West (43%) and Northeast (40%).

Despite the threat posed by the Delta variant, the vast majority of survey respondents say they felt safe to return to in-person work. Among those who work at organizations that have already reopened, 81% say they felt safe when they returned to the office. For organizations that have remained closed, only 21% say they are concerned about having to return to the office before they feel it is safe to do so.

Employers have instituted safety measures to help protect in-person employees or are planning to do so. The most commonly implemented safety measures are mandatory masks (73%), limiting the number of people in conference rooms (72%) and mandatory social distancing (69%).

Remote recruiting and hiring remain a challenge

A majority (52%) of respondents say their organizations are currently hiring at a faster rate than before the pandemic; only 13% say they are hiring at a slower rate than before, or not hiring at all. Respondents in the Healthcare (63%) and Manufacturing (63%) sectors are most likely to report that their organizations are hiring at an increased rate.

Eighty-nine percent (89%) of HR professionals shared they are conducting HR functions remotely at least some of the time, including 33% who do so “all of the time.

Interviewing candidates remotely is an almost universal practice, with 92% of respondents saying they conduct remote interviews at least some of the time. Another 79% indicate they are onboarding new employees remotely at least some of the time.

Still, many respondents are finding aspects of “remote HR” to be challenging. Among respondents whose organizations are hiring, 66% say that recruiting is harder than before the pandemic. Another 40% say that they find remote onboarding to be harder than in-person onboarding. The only exception to this general pattern is remote interviewing: 64% of respondents say that remote interviews are at least as productive as in-person interviews, including 22% who say they are “more productive.”

“HR professionals continue to face challenges to traditional HR functions, including revamping workplace structures,” said Dr. Amy Dufrane, who is the CEO of HRCI. “Online access to learning programs and certifications provides the additional support and guidance to adapt and upskill while growing their HR careers.”

More employers have never trained employees how to work remotely

A recent report by McKinsey & Company found that skills training and professional development have surged during the pandemic. But ironically, this surge has not included training in how to work remotely: fully 61% of respondents say their organizations have not offered their employees any remote-work training. This figure is actually up slightly from last year’s report (57%).

Three-of-ten (28%) respondents say their organizations offer training in remote work to all employees. Another 11% say that remote-work training is available to managers and above.

About the Methodology

MindEdge and HRCI’s 2021 HR in the Age of Workplace Uncertainty survey was conducted online on September 9, 2021. The sample included 1,012 HR professionals in the United States who are 18years or older and hold one or more certifications from HRCI above the level of aPHR. The survey results have a margin of error of +/- 3.1%, at a 95% confidence level.

About MindEdge Learning

MindEdge’s mission is to improve the way the world learns. Since its founding in 1998 by Harvard and MIT educators, the company has served some 2.5 million learners. With a focus on digital-first learning resources — from academic courseware to professional development courses — MindEdge’s approach to best practices in online education focuses on learners’ needs across the spectrum of higher education, professional development, skills training, and continuing education. MindEdge is based in Waltham, Mass.


Media Contact:
Inkhouse (for MindEdge)