Pandemic Burnout, Part Two: Addressing the “Great Resignation”

    Posted by TASC Large Markets on Oct 20, 2021 12:22:24 PM

    In April 2021, four million Americans quit their jobs.1 That represents the highest one-month “quit rate” since 2000, when the government began tracking the statistic.2 It’s no coincidence that the phenomenon known as the “Great Resignation” began a year into the pandemic, when COVID-19 burnout set in. The question is, what are the implications for the future of employee mental health, engagement and retention now that the delta variant has once again pushed an “end” to the pandemic beyond our view?


    Burnout was a problem pre-pandemic

    While a stressful and emotionally destabilizing pandemic unquestionably played a major role in the Great Resignation, some of the forces that caused it were at work before any of us had heard of COVID-19. For example, in 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized “burnout” as an occupational health issue.3 Already by that point, three in ten employees were reporting severe stress, anxiety or depression.4

    Flash forward to the end of 2020, when 76% of American workers said they felt burned out, and nearly 40% said COVID-19 negatively affected their energy level at work.5

    The Great Resignation Isn’t over

    The Great Resignation began not long afterwards—and it’s far from over. After a record-setting April, record numbers of workers also quit their jobs in June and July 2021.6 According to Gallup, nearly half (48%) of working Americans are actively job searching or keeping an eye out for new job opportunities.7 (Another report claims that 95% of workers are thinking about changing jobs.8) Somewhat surprisingly, the demographic with the biggest interest in leaving their jobs isn’t workers 25 and under, despite the fact that they have struggled emotionally during the pandemic. Instead, businesses are seeing slightly older persons in managerial roles giving their resignation notices—perhaps, some experts think, because of the stress and difficulty of trying to manage throughout more than a year of the pandemic.9

    In part one of this two-part series, we addressed the ways in which COVID-19 and the emergence of the delta variant have contributed to a deterioration of mental health among American workers. Now, let’s look at how you can manage the stress, burnout, and decreased mental health that threaten both your employees and your organization’s success.

    What to do about the burnout crisis

    Destigmatizing mental health is key. It’s important for leadership to go on the record as proponents of mental wellness, and for employees at every level of the organization to feel free to acknowledge their challenges. Fear of judgment might be the reason why only a little more than half of employees who report moderate depression (57%)—and less than half of those who report severe depression (40%)—receive treatment.10 One way to address the stigma and prevent burnout is by giving people time off specifically for mental and emotional wellness. Nike, LinkedIn, and other companies have already initiated official mental health breaks of one week.11 Meanwhile, Microsoft is adding five days off for wellbeing.12 The idea is to destigmatize and give real legitimacy to “mental health days.”

    Providing access to care is the other key component. As of early July 2021, 20% of those who said they needed counseling for anxiety or depression (or both) were unable find that help.13 However, employers are responding. A June 2021 survey found that 47% of employers were going to make increasing mental health services a top priority in the next six months, and approximately two-thirds said they recognized that including access to mental health solutions should be a top priority of their overall employee health plan.14 Some companies are offering to cover more visits (or more frequent visits) with a mental health professional or offering mental health care with little or no out-of-pocket expense for employees. Others are providing free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression. Other options include providing employees with the tools to conduct mental health self-assessments.

    Mental wellness is tied to family and finances

    To maintain a mentally healthy and engaged workforce, your benefits need to address physical health challenges, family challenges, and financial challenges. One way to reach out to employee families is by giving them access to mental health and wellness resources. Also, focus on family-related benefits like childcare or dependent care. And don’t forget about financial wellness benefits, since insecurity over money has been a key contributor to stress and burnout during the pandemic.

    Preach and practice mental wellness

    Preach your organization’s commitment to mental wellness. And then practice what you preach. Continue, where possible, to show flexibility about work schedules. Model a hard stop to work hours and support downtime for lunch and for physical activity that helps support mental wellness. Recognize that remote employees continue to have collaboration challenges. Foster connectedness among workers and maintain remote worker engagement by making sure they have professional development opportunities similar to those offered to onsite workers. Be flexible when tying job performance metrics to compensation and other rewards, since external factors may be affecting how employees perform.

    Get help offering help

    The Great Resignation has added a new urgency to the need for better mental wellness in the workplace. Don’t let your lack of expertise on the subject prevent you from acting. If you want to learn more, here are a few places to start:

    The American Psychiatric Association’s Center for Workplace Mental Health: (,

    The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mental Health Resources:

    The CDC’s guide to Employee Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic:

    Editor’s Note: TASC offers an Employee Achievement / Award Account, Wellness Reimbursement Arrangement, a Wellness Rewards Account, a Pet Insurance Reimbursement Account and a Pet Care Reimbursement Account from more than 50 benefit offerings that can be configured into custom plans that meet employee needs – where they are in life.


    1. “Another 4 million workers quit for the 4th month in a row….,” Business Insider, September 2021:
    2. Ibid.
    3. “The future of work in here, employee burnout needs to go,” CNBC, September 2021:
    4. “Employers must take bold action to address the current mental health crisis,” Willis Towers Watson, August 2020:
    5. “Post-Pandemic Burnout Spurs The ‘Great Resignation’ Among Workers,” Forbes, July 2020:
    6. “Another 4 million workers quit for the 4th month in a row….,” Business Insider, September 2021:
    7. “How to Eliminate Burnout and Retain Top Talent,” Gallup, August 2021:
    8. “Looking to avoid the Great Resignation? The key could be in your benefits package,” Benefits Pro, September 2021:
    9. “What Fueled Manager Resignations During the Pandemic?” SHRM, September 2021:
    10. “Mental Health in the Workplace,” CDC, 2021:
    11. ”Why more companies like Nike are closing their offices for a mental health break,” Fortune, September 2021:
    12. “Nike closes offices for a week to give employees a mental health break,” The Oregonian, August 2021:
    13. “The implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Abuse,” KFF, February 2021:
    14. ”COVID-19 and employee mental health: What employers can do,” JD Supra, April 2021: