While the length of a workday returned to historical levels post-pandemic, workload balance remained a challenge for many who have difficulty unplugging. As organizations recalibrated, employee work habits continued apace.
While this stability is a win for business resilience, the workload distribution may not be sustainable for employee well-being and may prevent individuals and teams from doing their best work.
The Productivity Lab wanted to understand:
Key findings include:
There is an immediate opportunity to rebalance work and increase healthy work habits
Based on 2021 activity data, employees were categorized as overutilized, healthy or underutilized. Ideally, 80% of employees should fall into the healthy category, however, only 62% do currently. While there are immediate opportunities for improvement in workload balance, the data distribution and consistency throughout the year suggests stability and resilience to the ongoing unknowns of the modern work experiences.
However, leaders must combat complacency and aim to increase the number of healthy employees. Responsive and predictive adaptability will help mitigate and prevent burnout for a more balanced experience across the organization.
Employees with healthy work habits do not deviate from these habits for more than two days at a time
Employees with healthy work habits spend no more than two days in a row overutilized before returning to their more typical behavior. Employees who spent the majority of the year overutilized, on the other hand, experienced overutilization for 6 consecutive days before shifting to a healthier state.
This negative 6-day streak is the only scenario that extends beyond a typical 5-day work week, posing substantial burnout threats on the overutilized employee.
On average, underutilization is contained to one day occurrences for overutilized and healthy employees. In moderation, strategic underutilization can aid in recovering and re-energizing employees after extended periods of overutilization. As another imbalance, ﬁve consecutive days of underutilization for underutilized employees could be a sign of ongoing disengagement, miscommunication, or gaps in knowledge or skills.
Employees at the greatest risk of hours-based burnout spend more than 75% of the year in an overutilized state
The high recurrence of overutilized days among overutilized employees suggests this phenomenon is largely endemic to the same group of individuals, with 79% of their days being spent operating above the healthy zone. However, this behavior does not always correlate with high quality work or high performance and could inﬂuence others and create unhealthy expectations.
While the percentage of healthy days for healthy employees (67%) could ideally be higher (80%), the distribution of utilization by day for healthy employees is commensurate with short-term, manageable moments of overutilization that may occur during periods such as busy seasons, major project deadlines or product launches.
Other resources found similar results in their research on Workload Balance & Utilization Levels
- In June 2021, 74% of employees said they experienced burnout on the job at least sometimes. — Gallup
- Perhaps most eye-opening, 37% reported experiencing burnout “often” or “extremely often.” — YMCA WorkWell
When an employee is within +/- X% the threshold of their productive hours/day goal.
When an employee is more than X% the threshold over their productive hours/day goal.
When an employee is within +/- X% the threshold of their productive hrs/day goal.
When an employee is less than X% the threshold under their productive hours/day goal.
YMCA WorkWell. (2021). YMCA WorkWell Workplace Wellbeing Report: Insights to Impact.https://www.ymcaworkwell.com/insights-to-impact-2021
Pendell, R. (2022, January 1). 7 Gallup Workplace Insights: What We Learned in 2021. Gallup.https://www.gallup.com/workplace/358346/gallup-workplace-insights-learned-2021.aspx
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