From burnout to worker empowerment: the curious case of post-COVID job market

Despite the financial crisis and layoffs, we’re now living in a candidate’s market. Employees verging on burnout seem to have learned their lesson during COVID. And today, they’re adamant that work-life balance should look differently from now on.

2020 was a great year for Bumble. The dating app tailored for women increased its revenue 40 percent year-to-year despite the pandemic, thanks to all those connection-hungry people stuck at home. In addition, Whitney Wolfe Herd’s company is a notoriously great place to work, holding an impressive 4.5 rating on Glassdoor

But despite all the Friday manicures, kombucha on tap, and holistic wellness benefits, Bumble employees were verging on burnout. 

“Verging” is important here: Wolfe Herd predicted that it might happen and decided to prevent it. And so she told all of her employees – that’s around 700 people – to take one paid week off. It was the founder’s way “to thank our team for their hard work and resilience,” and the employee tweets suggest how much they appreciated the gesture.

Let’s face it: if Bumble’s employees are about to experience burnout, the threat is very real for all of us. 

The post-COVID burnout pandemic

Covid-19 has a plethora of side effects that are not necessarily directly caused by the virus. Burnout seems to be one of them. 

Two thirds of workers believe that burnout is becoming more severe due to the pandemic. More than half of them are experiencing it in 2021. The rise is evident: in the same survey by Indeed conducted before COVID, only 43% indicated feeling burnt out. 

Indeed reports that somewhat counterintuitively, burnout seems to have affected those who work virtually more than those who are on-site. While virtual work is a job perk employees refuse to give up, it’s also one that causes trouble. Without an understanding employer and excellent self-organization skills, it’s rather difficult to unplug from work. Despite the time saved on commuting and preparation for work, 53 percent of employees are working longer hours, no longer knowing how to unplug. 

Besides, the financial concerns, lack of free time and paid time off also contribute to the increased burnout worries. 

Time to go

You’d think that a global pandemic, increased unemployment, and financial struggles would be enough to keep all those (even burnt out) employees from quitting their jobs. On the contrary, they’re ready to go. And some of them would rather stay unemployed. 

In one of this crisis’ most fascinating peculiarities, the US job market is now soaring with opportunities, but people don’t want them. Some people won’t risk their health going back to an unsafe workplace; some parents need to be home with their children, and some collect stimulus checks instead of working. Others have invested their time into reskilling and are no longer interested in their initial low-paying or unsafe jobs.

And so companies are trying to increase salaries, offer benefits, hire and train inexperienced employees, turning a financial crisis into what’s very much a candidates’ market. Now that’s an interesting turn of events. 

Moreover, one third of millennials plan to quit their jobs after the pandemic. When you look at employees overall, one quarter would like to say goodbye. They have more demands than before, and they’re not giving up the flexibility and control they’ve become accustomed to during COVID. One example for all: the employees of Apple are not having any of Tim Cook’s plans to get them back to the office. Not even for a couple of days a week. 

Apple employees vs. Tim Cook

“We would like to take the opportunity to communicate a growing concern among our colleagues,” they wrote in a letter. “That Apple’s remote/location-flexible work policy, and the communication around it, have already forced some of our colleagues to quit. Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple.” 

The workers ask the leadership to avoid one-size-fits-all solutions and instead let everyone figure out what works best for them. “For Inclusion and Diversity to work, we have to recognize how different we all are, and with those differences come different needs and different ways to thrive,” the Apple employees concluded. 

That request speaks volumes about what’s happening on the job market. All in all, post-COVID employees would rather quit or even be unemployed than to risk burnout and sacrifice the possibility to build a life on their own terms. At least as long as they have the leverage. 

Latest news and articles by GetForward.

Be at the dawn of change

Subscribe to our newsletter to keep in touch with the subjects that shape our future.