Don’t let pandemic-induced burnout claim your best employees

Employees have had it.

According to a recent survey by IBM, 25% of employees plan to leave their current employer in 2021. A March 12 article, published by the Society for Human Resource Management, raises that figure to more than 50%. According to a recent survey from HR consulting firm Elements Global Services, more than one-third of employees would be willing to switch jobs for a 10% raise.

The reasons?


Employers and employees stare at each other across a deep divide. Business owners and senior managers struggle to maintain viable organizations despite declining revenues and unexpected COVID-related expenses. Employees stressed by the hassles of working from home find themselves frustrated by how their company’s leaders have handled the pandemic. They don’t know whether a better job exists elsewhere, but they’re looking.

Further, according to a November 2020 survey of one thousand employees from the Washington, D.C.-based management consulting firm Eagle Hills Consulting, more than half of employees suffer from burnout brought on by their workloads and pandemic-related anxiety. These employees are four times more likely to leave their current employers than those not experiencing burnout.

[Related: The way that companies address employee stress now is going to be key to a successful 2021]

I talked with one local employer after his top producer gave notice. He said, “I knew he wasn’t happy, but who is? I don’t know what he expected. We gave him a year of full pay despite our revenue declining by a third. It wasn’t enough.”

What is enough?

As employees glimpse the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, they’re re-evaluating their priorities and asking for work life balance along with raises and career advancement. The IBM Institute for Business Value survey reported that 28 percent of the employees that intend on changing jobs in 2021 cited the desire for a more flexible work schedule and employer strategies aimed at employee well-being as key reasons.

What do employers need to realize?

Employers, lulled by the fact that employees hung on to their jobs during the pandemic, need to focus on retaining key employees if they want to bounce forward as the pandemic wanes. Unhappy, disengaged, burnt-out employees often view finding a new job as their best option.

Two strategies

Don’t let COVID-19 claim your best employees as collateral damage.

Find out how to keep employees motivated and productive by conducting “stay interviews” in which you ask employees questions such as “What is it you value in your job, that keeps you engaged and satisfied?” Stay interviews give you an opportunity to find out what will keep your employees working their hardest, and what might lead them to leave. You can’t fix problems you don’t know exist, but those problems can cost you if your employee already cruises job search platforms looking for new opportunities.

Stay interviews uncover what matters for each employee — is it a raise, decision-making autonomy, challenging work or another factor? You don’t want to guess at your employee’s motivations and reward your employee with a raise when what she or he craves is work/life balance or the chance to learn something new. Stay interviews show your employee you care.

Continue to retool your organization, business operations, and company culture. Are you trying to do too much with too few employees? Do you have the right employees? What technology changes do you need to make? What can you further streamline? Instead of bringing all employees back to their former worksites, do you need to consider a hybrid work model? According to Envoy’s April 13 survey, 47% of employees stated they would likely leave their employers unless offered a hybrid work-from-home, in-office model.

Accountability is key. For your organization to succeed, you need every employee on board and invested. Employee accountability requires an organization’s leaders to step up to the plate in all areas, starting with outlining a powerful vision of their organization’s future and showing that they value employees. When leaders communicate “here’s where we’re going and why” and understand and act to resolve their employee’s concerns, it shows employees that their best job option might be staying.

Have your employees “had it”? Act now—before they head for the doors.

Lynne Curry | Alaska Workplace

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Managing for Accountability”; “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully” and Curry is President of Communication Works Inc. Send your questions to her at or follow her on Twitter @lynnecurry10.