A $299-a-month app gave me access to a therapist and psychiatrist to fight pandemic burnout. Here’s what it was like to get help through my phone.

mental health millennial
  • Freelancer Julie Peck felt herself slipping into pandemic-induced burnout, so she sought help.
  • She chose Brightside, an app by a former 23andMe executive that combines psychiatry with therapy.
  • Although she was able to easily get medication that worked, the service had its downsides.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Back in May, I started noticing I was having some issues. I have highly managed bipolar disorder, so I’m no stranger to “issues” – but this was clearly different.

At first, I had trouble completing assignments for work. Then, I lost interest in my favorite Netflix binges and found myself rereading the same paragraphs over and over again in books.

I wanted to see people. I was exhausted all the time and often stared out the window, longing for a change of scenery.

It was easy enough to diagnose: The pandemic-related burnout that had affected 75% of employed people had landed on my doorstep.

The effects of this situation were different from the average depressive episode: My near-constant consumption of COVID-19-related news was clearly bogging me down, as was my irritation related to how my community was handling its response to the pandemic.

These were new and unusual factors and far beyond my control. Now they were affecting my work, my personal well-being, and my relationships with my loved ones.

Read more: I paid $150 to try the popular weight-loss app backed by investors like Tony Xu and Scooter Braun. It taught me better eating habits, but keeping the weight off was harder than expected.

I needed help, and with my busy schedule, I decided to take advantage of one of the many online services available to work at shaking my dark feelings.

If there’s one good thing to come out of the pandemic, it’s the proliferation of options available for mental healthcare online, although access to care for marginalized communities and those who can’t afford to pay for it still lags behind.

After evaluating the surplus of offerings available, I elected to go with Brightside

Brad Kittredge, a former 23andMe executive, told the San Francisco Business Times that he founded Brightside Health in 2017 after witnessing his father’s battle with depression and wondering why the US healthcare system wasn’t more helpful.

screenshot of the Brightside app
The Brightside options to message your provider.

Kittredge got together with Mimi Winsberg, a former in-house psychiatrist at Facebook and now Brightside’s chief marketing officer, who created the basic tool that later became one of the backbones of the Brightside experience.

The company’s stated commitment is to deliver the kind of care it’d want its family members to have, and as of May, the company has secured more than $31 million in funding toward this goal, including a $24 million Series A round from ACME Capital.

For me, the main selling point was its offer to combine psychiatry with therapy

I’ve been in treatment for mental-health issues since the 1990s, so I’ve seen quite a few of these apps. It never really seems like they have a good, coherent grasp on the need to integrate psychiatry with therapy (but then again, neither does the outside world). It appeared that Brightside might be working toward a truly integrated approach, which is why I decided to give it a try.

The app matches you with a medical doctor, who will assess the need for prescription medication, as well as a therapist to develop a “personalized treatment plan.” You can choose a medication-only subscription plan, a therapy-only plan, or a plan that includes both, and charges are as low as $45 per month.

screenshot of the Brightside app
The Brightside interface.

I chose a subscription plan that blended both medication and therapy for $299 per month, with the first month discounted to $199. I’m now in my third month with the service.

One terrific value of this service that’s embedded within it and very well hidden is that all medications prescribed by its providers are $15 – and believe me, for some mental-health-related medications, that could represent a significant savings. Just one of the medications I take is $300 a month without using the GoodRx card.

Also, while I sought treatment for pandemic burnout, Brightside boasts that it treats anxiety and depression in a “full spectrum of related conditions” ranging from panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder to postpartum depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Some online services won’t accept those with diagnoses of bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, for reasons of which I am unsure.

After signing up, I went through a lengthy intake questionnaire that assessed my personal health and my mental-health background, and what I was looking to achieve

The questionnaire asked for general information such as my height and weight, as well as for mental-health-specific information such as what medications I was taking and what treatment modalities I’d tried before. It concluded by asking for specific outcomes I’d like to get from my treatment.

The algorithm then gave me a score on both my depression and anxiety, and those scores were displayed on my homepage, along with my medication and therapy assignment. The score doesn’t appear to be standardized to the DSM-5, just the company’s own particular scoring system that gives it the ability to track your progress. From the user’s side, having everything on one dashboard is convenient.

Based on the questionnaire, I was matched with a psychiatrist and a licensed clinical social worker, both of whom were licensed to practice in my state.

My appointment to see the doctor was within 36 hours of the time that I signed up for the service

My appointment with the therapist was within 48 hours. I was pleased with this response time and hopeful about getting some relief.

screenshot of the Brightside app
Julie Peck’s path on Brightside.

When I met with the doctor, he was understanding about my situation and demonstrated a knowledge of the extensive information I’d already entered into my chart through Brightside’s intake questionnaire.

He went through the medications I’d entered into my questionnaire to ensure that he fully understood what I was already taking and asked my opinion about how each was working. He was warm and personable, and he empathized with me about the feelings I was experiencing.

He asked me how I would feel about him prescribing a medication that I had taken once before, to add to my medication routine. I told him I’d be happy to try it.

I decided to have the prescription filled at the CVS down the street from me, as opposed to having it filled via Brightside’s mail-delivery pharmacy, and that was the end of our interaction.

Since we spoke in the evening, I was able to pick up my prescription the next morning. For some reason, I was a little suspicious about whether the prescription would actually be at the pharmacy, but I picked it up without any hitches.

I talked with the therapist via Zoom

She listened to me discuss my symptoms and what I wanted to get out of therapy. She also let me know that Brightside’s methods are based on cognitive behavioral therapy, and she outlined the therapeutic program, which is structured around 10 interactive lessons, a self-guided, computer-based program that you progress through at your own pace.

At the end of our session, she told me that our next meetup would be in a month, which was a surprise to me. I’d previously read “unlimited access to caring providers” on Brightside’s homepage, and I envisioned that I’d more or less have an always-on Zoom connection with my therapist – not so, I was learning.

To be fair, the text messaging with my therapist was, in fact, pretty much always on. And it doesn’t say anywhere on the Brightside site that you’ll be able to contact your Brightside providers via video chat whenever you feel like it.

But be forewarned that the service is self-directed – which is, incidentally, in line with the price – so if you’re looking for something to deliver more of an up-close-and-personal experience, this isn’t it.

I think technology is the way of the future when it comes to delivering mental healthcare. It cuts through barriers of cost and accessibility. But in a lot of ways, we’re just not there yet.

As a case in point, I got a note from my therapist shortly before billing was to go out for the second month of my subscription to Brightside that she would no longer be with the service. It was a lovely note, but this is a red flag for me: As with choosing a hairdresser, you don’t want to chair-hop from therapist to therapist, even if it’s online.

Subscribing to Brightside was definitely worth it to snap me out of my burnout for the psychiatrist appointment alone

The appointment was quick and easy, and it produced a prescription that has been successful in providing relief.

Whether I’ll continue with the subscription for the medication management alone or discontinue it and leave that function to my primary-care provider remains to be seen.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Plastic surgeons say they’re more booked up than ever, as demand for procedures like Brazilian butt lifts break records

A peach with marks on its sides with a green upwards trending arrow on a pale yellow gridded background.
Plastic surgeons said high demand for Brazilian butt lifts (or “BBLs”) has resulted in a record number of cosmetic surgery appointments.

  • Plastic surgeons across the country told Insider they are seeing record numbers of patients.
  • Demand for butt augmentation has increased, per the The Aesthetic Society.
  • Brazilian butt lifts, or BBLs, have gained attention on social media like TikTok.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dr. Carlos Burnett, a plastic surgeon in New Jersey, has appointments booked every day until March 2022.

Burnett said he previously considered his practice busy if he was booked two or more months in advance, even as he services the upscale Westfield, New Jersey, neighborhood. The plastic surgeon said he had not expected the huge spike in surgery bookings after spending months without work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You don’t want to jinx yourself, but it’s something that I’ve not seen in 25 years of practice,” Burnett said regarding the high demand for cosmetic surgeries.

Burnett is one of several plastic surgeons who told Insider they are seeing record numbers of patients make appointments for butt augmentation and other procedures as pandemic restrictions lifted this spring.

New Jersey-based plastic surgeon Dr. Carlos Burnett in office wearing mask and gloves
Dr. Carlos Burnett

Facial procedures and Botox saw an unexpected spike in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the American Society of Plastic Surgeons dubbed the “Zoom boom” after more people spent time staring at themselves on video calls.

Demand for plastic surgery has extended into 2021, according to The Aesthetic Society president Dr. William P. Adams, driven by a high demand for butt augmentation procedures.

In 2020, surgeons performed 40,000 butt augmentation procedures that brought in $140 million worth of revenue, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The number of butt augmentation surgeries – also called Brazilian butt lifts or “BBLs” – increased by 90.3% between 2015 to 2019.

Adams attributed the significant growth of butt augmentation procedures’ popularity to celebrity trends and social media. One TikTok purporting to show butt augmentation patients crowding in an airport line has 3.2 million views.

The surgery’s new popularity has even led to a meme: the “BBL effect.” Coined by TikTok creator Antoni Bumba, the BBL effect is the unbothered confidence of those who have elected to bolster their buttocks.

New York City-based plastic surgeon Dr. Norman Rowe said he’s seen a record number of patients inquiring about a BBL. A year ago, Rowe said he got a phone call asking for butt augmentation consultation around three to four times per week; now, he gets multiple calls asking about butt lifts everyday.

Like Burnett, Rowe said his schedule is booked for the next calendar year. His procedure numbers are 30% to 35% higher than last year.

Read more: A record 167 firms spent millions of dollars lobbying on cannabis as Amazon, investment banks, and tobacco companies race for a piece of the growing weed industry

Burnett said he believes demand is up as more of his patients opt to spend their disposable income on plastic surgery than vacations or expensive jewelry. Average national costs for butt augmentation dropped from $5,507 in 2018 to $3,329 in 2020, making the procedure slightly more accessible beyond just the rich and famous, Burnett added.

Brazilian butt lifts have also become safer to perform when done by board-certified plastic surgeons, according to Dr. Mark Mofid, a California-based plastic surgeon and author of the 2017 paper “Report on Mortality from Gluteal Fat Grafting.”

Plastic surgeon Dr. Norman Rowe sits in his New York City office.
Dr. Norman Rowe

Mofid and his team at the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation found gluteal fat grafting, or the process of transferring stomach fat to the butt, had a “significantly higher” mortality rate than other cosmetic procedures because surgeons would more regularly inject fat into deep muscle and use smaller surgical instruments.

Since Mofid’s paper came out, board certified surgeons have adopted safer methods of performing butt augmentation procedures. Mofid and the doctors quoted in this article said the procedure is safer than in the past, but cautioned prospective patients to find a board-certified doctor who can perform the operation in a hospital and who stays up-to-date with latest safety research.

Mofid added he’s now the busiest he’s ever been in his career. Despite the heavy workload, each plastic surgeon told Insider they don’t feel burned out because they are passionate about their work.

“Am I working harder than I was two years ago? Yeah,” Rowe said. “Would I trade places with anybody? Not a chance in hell. I love what I do.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

How does work… well, work? Here are the 5 things every employee making a career change in 2021 should know

7 people sit around a table with their laptops and notebooks working
Employees and job seekers will have to look at the workforce from a new perspective to navigate recent changes.

  • Growing rates of burnout have transformed company culture and resulted in a “Great Resignation.”
  • Preferences between in-person and remote work continue to dictate employment decisions.
  • This page will help you decide if it’s time to get a new job and how to apply.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Work from home was supposed to be temporary.

But in the past 15 months, we’ve lived through a pandemic and a global recession, which led to mass burnout and a spike in voluntary resignations. This new normal means hybrid offices and awkward first encounters with coworkers.

One of the many changes 2021 has brought to the US job market – 9.2 million job openings. Job seekers have the advantage while on the hunt, but they need to know how to use it.

Navigating all the changes in our “work life” over the last year would make anyone’s head spin.

Here are five things any worker who feels they are struggling with should know when trying to excel in their career.

Remote work eliminated work-life balance, but some companies are looking to compensate

Mental Health
The pandemic did not just eliminate in-person socialization but also divisions between the home and office.

The pandemic transformed our living rooms into our office spaces – not the healthiest change for those who already struggled with taking their work home with them.

Burnout has left 61% of Americans feeling at least somewhat burnout and more than 80% have reported that COVID-19 has been a source of change in their lives. With the pandemic causing undue stress on everyone, an unhealthy office culture only adds to the pressure.

Employers need to lead the way in implementing wellness techniques that teach their employees how to care for themselves, take their PTO, and take advantage of flexible work environments.

Read more:

Americans don’t take nearly enough vacation days – and experts say it’s because companies think about PTO all wrong

A day off work and ‘Zoom-free Fridays’ aren’t going to cut it. Here’s how to really tackle burnout.

The Great American Burnout is just beginning. Here are 5 ways managers can prevent the wave from hitting their teams.

A few small changes can make you happier at a job you don’t like, experts say

Burnout rates are rising. Zoom-free Fridays and $250,000 bonuses are the tip of the iceberg. Cisco is solving the problem by going deeper into its culture.

LinkedIn’s new VP of flex work shares 3 steps any company can use to create a hybrid work plan for all employees

If the last year has taught you anything, it’s that you have the freedom to leave

A orange sign with pink balloons reads "now hiring."
Workers are leaving their jobs in search of better pay and benefits.

For workers whose companies have failed to help prevent employee burnout, the pandemic has helped them realize one thing – it’s time to quit.

As millions willingly choose to walk away from their jobs, in what economists have coined the “Great Resignation,” some industries have been hit harder than others. In May, 5.3 million people voluntarily left their jobs.

Low pay and unreasonable working conditions across the retail, hospitality, and fast food businesses have created a crisis of, “rage quitting.” While it may feel good to walk out without notice, sometimes it is better to salvage professional connections.

Telling an employer you’re leaving is never easy, but it’s important to be candid.

Read More:

Americans say the pandemic is changing their personalities – and managers need to take notice or risk losing people

Employees are quitting their jobs in record numbers. Here’s how to tell if you’re losing people for the right reasons.

Now may be the best time to switch jobs – and make more money

A workplace expert shares the exact steps you should take to quit your job without burning bridges

Expert advice to guide you in the job hunt

Whether it be because of recession or resignation, a lot of candidates are on the job hunt.

Searching for a new role can be intimidating, but job seekers should always start by identifying which industries are hiring and what connections they have within them. After finding the job posting of your dreams it’s all about perfecting your résumé, cover letter, and interview techniques.

Never underestimate the need to customize your application for every job posting – learn from the experts about how to stand out as the pool of job seekers grows.

Read More:

Use this email template from a LinkedIn career expert to network and find a new job

No college degree? No problem. How to land a stable, high-paying job on certificates and trainings alone.

Job seekers have all the power right now. Here are 7 questions you should definitely ask in your next job interview.

Headed to a job interview? These are the red flags to look for that indicate a company’s culture won’t be right for you

5 questions companies are asking in interviews right now and how to answer, according to a career expert

What Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jack Dorsey, and 52 other top executives ask job candidates during interviews

Tips and tricks to help you land a coveted remote job

Work from home
“Work from home” has become “work from anywhere” and many employees want the change to stick.

As lockdown dragged on, people were eager to return to in-person socialization, but the same can’t be said for in-person work.

Freelancers and remote workers were quick to open their inboxes to provide their years of expertise to “conventional workers” who had to quickly set up home offices and adjust to Zoom meetings. And some vacation hotspots welcomed remote workers to bring their laptops and soak up the sun and WiFi.

For those who have been sold on remote work, staying at a company that is committed to providing flexibility is a priority. While many companies – such as Apple, Indeed, and Airbnb – have extended their work from home policies through much of 2021, finding a company that is committed to the practice permanently can be difficult. And the demand is high.

To set yourself up for success, learn what companies are hiring remote workers, how to talk to your boss about working from home, and what can make you stand out when applying for a remote job.

Read More:

This chart shows the type of jobs that are still working from home

The city with the most high-paying jobs isn’t a city – it’s remote work. Here are 6 steps to landing a WFH role you love.

Use this template from a career coach to revamp your résumé and land a remote job anywhere in the world

How can I tell a hiring manager that I want to be fully remote?

For those who plan to return to the office, new challenges are arising

A male-presenting and female-presenting coworkers bump elbows while walking past each other in an office.
As offices reopen across the country, in-person office culture slowly returns.

Some employees are eager and nervous to see their coworkers face to face.

But spending over a year using your bed as a midday nap spot makes the transition to a populated office space even more difficult – especially if you’ve never even met your team.

While the change to working in an office again can be intimidating, for some workers it may be exactly what they need to get a break from hectic households and reconnect with their passions.

Read More:

Should you work from home or the office? An HR chief outlines her 3-step framework

7 couples confess how WFH changed their romantic relationships, how they handled unexpected tensions, and what happens now

Feeling burned out? It might be time to return to the office.

Meeting your colleagues IRL for the first time? Here are 6 ways to squash the anxiety and make a good impression.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Capitol Hill staffers divulge how low salaries shape their lives: taking second jobs, skipping groceries, seeking low income housing

Capitol Hill staffers
Congressional staffers sample entries at the annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition on Capitol Hill on April 09, 2019. Some staffers scout for free food at Hill events to save money.

  • 8 Capitol Hill staffers shared with Insider how they budget their monthly salaries.
  • Some staffers’ salaries were so low, they qualified for income-assisted housing.
  • This story is part of Insider’s continuing coverage of Capitol Hill as a workplace.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

They may walk the halls of Congress in neatly-pressed suits and help their bosses write important legislation, but their bank accounts tell a different story.

Entire paychecks eaten by day care expenses. Vending-machine ice cream for dinner. Hundreds of dollars going to a decade’s worth of credit-card debt. Relying on income-assisted housing to keep a roof over their head.

These are the real-life budgets of Capitol Hill staffers, who are paid starting in the $20,000s to work demanding jobs in one of the most expensive cities in the country.

As part of our coverage of Capitol Hill workplace issues, Insider asked current and former congressional staffers about how far their paychecks got them in Washington, DC. We received an outpouring of responses from staffers at all levels who felt compelled to speak up about what they considered a practice that hinders diversity, favors hires from privileged backgrounds, and drives talented minds to lobbying shops.

Their salaries ranged from $30,000 to $85,000 – but even the staffer on the higher end confessed that his entire paycheck gets eaten by childcare. You can read the full story here:

Be sure to check out Insider’s additional reporting on Capitol Hill workplace issues:

Do you have a tip about Capitol Hill workplace issues to share? Bad bosses, toxic offices, or questionable behavior toward congressional staffers? Email hillsalarydiaries@insider.com, or message 1-202-567-7343 on Signal, and we’ll keep you anonymous.

Read the original article on Business Insider

3 ways leaders can help ease workplace stress and avoid employee burnout

Employees who feel they can bring their whole selves to work perform the best.

  • Reports of burnout, stress, and loneliness levels are high as employees continue working from home.
  • Improving these conditions and rebuilding psychological safety will require leaders to step up.
  • Show gratitude for your employees, check-in frequently, and build resilience into the workforce.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The crisis is subsiding, but its wounds run deep. For all the heroic efforts of employees to keep companies operating, the past 16-plus months have left a powerful psychological scar.

A recent Workhuman survey of more than 3,000 US workers reveals a workforce in trouble. The data shows 48% of employees agree they’ve experienced burnout, 61% feel elevated stress levels, and 32% agree that they’ve felt lonely at work.

The emotional toll has been greater for working parents (especially mothers). Observed differences in stress and burnout levels between men and women appear to be related to caregiving responsibilities as well as the disproportionate loss of jobs among women.

Early in the crisis, for example, mothers with young children decreased their work hours four to five times more than fathers. The survey, which asked seven questions related to psychological safety, also discovered that non-White employees experienced lower levels than their White co-workers.

Read more: I manage money for ultra-high net worth clients and experienced burnout early in my career. Here are 4 things I did to recover and improve my quality of life.

The impact of psychological safety

Google’s People Operations team found that the number one driver of successful teams is psychological safety, an environment where people feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of one another.

When people feel safe, they will innovate, cooperate, and show up as their full selves at work, which are critical qualities in today’s agile environment. Conversely, lack of psychological safety in the workforce is corrosive; it endangers all plans to return to the “next normal.”

Rebuilding psychological safety after a crisis requires leaders to speak candidly about the toll employees have suffered, and show the way forward with a more human-centered approach to managing:

1. Say “thank you” more often

“Recognition builds lasting connections between people,” said Workhuman CEO Eric Mosley. “Great leaders instinctively know that the more human connection in a company, the better it performs.”

It’s easy to see why receiving a “thank you” makes an employee feel appreciated. What’s less obvious is that showing appreciation for someone’s efforts improves the positive feelings for the giver as well. Mutual recognition and gratitude help people take off their emotional armor. When employees do that, they feel safer as well as more connected.

2. Check in with employees more frequently

People who check in with their manager at least once a week experience higher psychological safety than those who check in less frequently, and yet only 29% of respondents in the Workhuman survey said they check in with their manager every week.

IBM is taking the lead on changing that statistic, emphasizing more frequent feedback for everyone. CHRO Nickle LaMoreaux, who spoke with Workhuman co-founder and CEO Eric Mosley, cites it as one of IBM’s four priorities, saying, “Feedback is as important as growth, innovation, and inclusivity, because you can’t have those first three elements without feedback.”

3. Build resilience into your culture

While you might not be able to prevent the next crisis from happening, you can take steps now to build resilience into the workforce, enabling people to deal well with external stressors.

For example, psychological safety can become part of your hybrid workplace design as you return to the office. You can consider formalizing appreciation and thank-yous with a data-rich social recognition system. You can strengthen diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts by helping managers understand and mitigate unconscious biases.

Imagine how much time and resources would be salvaged if your organization moves the needle on psychological safety. If all employees, and especially underrepresented groups, feel more comfortable sharing ideas and bringing their whole selves to contribute, the “next normal” won’t just be a recovery from the crisis but a fresh start. There will never be a better time than now to build psychological safety into your culture.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Capitol Hill staffers get real about budgeting on low pay: skipping groceries, surviving on vending machine ice cream and spending entire paychecks on childcare

Capitol Hill staffers
Congressional staffers sample entries at the annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition on Capitol Hill on April 09, 2019. Some staffers scout for free food at Hill events to save money.

  • 8 Capitol Hill staffers shared with Insider how they budget their monthly salaries.
  • Some staffers’ salaries were so low, they qualified for income-assisted housing.
  • This story is part of Insider’s continuing coverage of Capitol Hill as a workplace.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

They may walk the halls of Congress in neatly-pressed suits and help their bosses write important legislation, but their bank accounts tell a different story.

Entire paychecks eaten by day care expenses. Vending-machine ice cream for dinner. Hundreds of dollars going to a decade’s worth of credit-card debt. Relying on income-assisted housing to keep a roof over their head.

These are the real-life budgets of Capitol Hill staffers, who are paid starting in the $20,000s to work demanding jobs in one of the most expensive cities in the country.

As part of our coverage of Capitol Hill workplace issues, Insider asked current and former congressional staffers about how far their paychecks got them in Washington, DC. We received an outpouring of responses from staffers at all levels who felt compelled to speak up about what they considered a practice that hinders diversity, favors hires from privileged backgrounds, and drives talented minds to lobbying shops.

Their salaries ranged from $30,000 to $85,000 – but even the staffer on the higher end confessed that his entire paycheck gets eaten by childcare. You can read the full story here:

Be sure to check out Insider’s additional reporting on Capitol Hill workplace issues:

Do you have a tip about Capitol Hill workplace issues to share? Bad bosses, toxic offices, or questionable behavior toward congressional staffers? Email hillsalarydiaries@insider.com, or message 1-202-567-7343 on Signal, and we’ll keep you anonymous.

Read the original article on Business Insider

America’s top business leaders are trying to solve the country’s burnout crisis. But workers say they aren’t doing enough.

work career stress unemployment boss manager office pile papers
American workers are burning out, according to new Insider research.

  • Fortune 500 executives increased mental-health benefits during the pandemic.
  • Burnout experts say their new benefits are a step in the right direction.
  • But workers say companies need to address workplace cultures to really stop burnout.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

From its consultants and investment bankers to diversity executives and lawyers, many in America’s workforce are running on empty.

In a recent Insider survey of 1,000 workers, over 60% of respondents said they were experiencing burnout. The data supported separate findings. Employees on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder reported higher rates of burnout than their senior colleagues.

In response, CEOs have tried just about everything: Goldman Sachs offered analysts fat bonuses, Citi launched “Zoom-free” Fridays, and countless other companies offered meditation apps and more paid time off.

Executives at major retailers, banks, food-service companies, and professional-service firms told Insider they promised to permanently keep many of the benefits they added during the pandemic and continue educating employees about mental-health services. But business experts who study burnout, as well as exhausted workers, say it’s not enough.

“Being generous, I’d give corporate leaders a C grade,” Kelley Bonner, a consultant who helps Fortune 500 companies address burnout, said.

“Zoom-free Fridays and more PTO is great,” she said. “However, if you don’t have a strategy for how you’re going to make your workplace psychologically safe, a space for innovation absent of toxic behaviors, then you’re never going to get it.”

It’s not that executives don’t care. Nearly 80% of employers surveyed in a recent McKinsey report said they were concerned about employee mental health, and about 66% reported concern about substance-use disorder. But for the lower-level workers who feel burnout most intensely, it’s that C-suite executives aren’t thinking holistically – they’re troubleshooting when what’s needed is a full reset.

The employees Insider spoke with said that their workloads and goals were too ambitious to afford taking vacation, that their managers set an unhealthy example by working long hours, that they felt disengaged because their colleagues talked to them disrespectfully, and that mental health was seen as a nice-to-have rather than a business imperative.

As the corporate world returns to pre-pandemic life, both workers and management consultants say now is the time for senior leaders to redefine work in America – before worker productivity drops and more people take leaves of absence, quit, or worse.

Executives make promising first steps

To be sure, executives have been struggling with burnout, too. And they’ve been rolling out new benefits and policies to help.

Mike Fenlon, PwC’s chief people officer, spent many weeks during the pandemic working late nights coordinating office closures, making decisions about business travel, and adding benefits policies. He said back-to-back Zoom meetings at his desk brought on a sense of mental fatigue. On top of that, he was busy helping his three children manage their homework schedules.

“I’ve appreciated being able to work from home, but at the same time, it’s house arrest,” Fenlon said. “At the beginning of the pandemic, it really was around-the-clock work.”

With Fenlon’s help, PwC doubled the amount of money allotted for employees to pay for backup care to $2,000. It also began offering discounts for childcare services, and, like Citi, rolled out “Zoom-free” workdays.

Other executives took similar measures after seeing their colleagues struggling with work-life balance.

IBM introduced four additional weeks of flexible paid emergency leave that could be used in increments of hours or days, or in a single monthlong stretch, and added emergency backup eldercare and childcare options. Hershey expanded its telemedicine services to include mental-health sessions and increased its Employee Assistance Program (EAP) support from five visits to 10 visits a year. Chipotle expanded in-person, phone, or virtual mental-health therapy to all of its employees through its EAP program.

The financial giant Ally conducted daily wellness surveys to see how employees were doing and made adjustments to its benefits based on the findings. Wells Fargo executives emphasized the availability of the company’s EAP program that offers 24/7 mental-health support for employees and their household family members. HP educated human-resources managers about the signs of mental-health challenges.

Chris Scalia, Hershey’s chief human-resources officer, talked about his journey dealing with anxiety during the pandemic in a company-wide virtual meeting.

“It hit a chord,” he said. “For a senior leader to openly share personal, private challenges and the importance of my family, colleagues, and seeking help – it opened a new level of dialogue and vulnerability across Hershey.”

The breaking point

Unfortunately, those experiences haven’t necessarily been trickling down to the tens or hundreds of thousands of employees at large companies. For many of them, burnout remains an isolating, fearful experience. All the employees Insider talked to spoke on the condition anonymity for fear of retaliation, disciplinary action, or termination. Their identities are known to Insider.

A 27-year-old woman at a top national media company hasn’t told her boss that she’s burned out because she doesn’t want to appear weak to her managers, she said. She often works 12-hour days writing scripts and editing videos.

“I am completely exhausted, no matter how much sleep I get,” she said.

The very idea of work brings her to tears, she added. Recently, after she received assignments on top of an unrelenting long list of must-do tasks, she said she felt physically and mentally depleted.

“I just pulled out my kitchen chair, sighed, and began to sob. And I mean sob,” the media employee said. “I don’t think many leaders are talking about or thinking about mental health.”

She is one of the many American workers who say they are struggling with burnout. And she, like other workers, doesn’t want to let her bosses down, so she works around-the-clock, she said.

In Insider’s survey, one-third of respondents reported a lack of boundaries between their work and personal life.

I am completely exhausted, no matter how much sleep I get.

A 30-year-old employee at a staffing firm in New York has been exceptionally busy over the past year. Her job has been to help staff medical professionals to treat the surge of COVID-19 patients. She’s had only one day off a week. Often, she has no days off, she said.

“Burnout is absolutely a problem,” she added.

The staffing-firm employee is about to give her two weeks’ notice at her job because she doesn’t think her work-life balance is sustainable, she said. She added that she felt torn between working late to the evening every night and passing off her work to other coworkers who are equally overworked.

“I want to have a family, and I just don’t see myself being able to do that with this job,” she said.

At certain companies, talking to a manager about feeling overworked is met with judgement.

Amy, who didn’t want her last name published out of concern that her former employer wouldn’t give her a reference for job opportunities, worked in billing for a major New York City hospital until January. The 30-year-old said she quit because she was so drained.

According to Amy, the hospital implemented a schedule during the pandemic that allowed workers to work from home 50% of the time and in the office 50% of the time. But if upper management felt you weren’t productive enough, your work-from-home privileges were revoked, she said.

“The breaking point for me was when they wouldn’t give us time to go to doctor’s appointments. And if they did, they demanded notes,” she said. “It was too much.”

A chance to redefine work in America

When it comes to fighting burnout, benefits alone won’t get companies very far, Bonner, the consultant, said. She added that firms needed to spend less time and money on the next new perk and instead spend more time on the employee experience, which includes rethinking people’s workloads and schedules and addressing how employees feel about the workplace as a whole.

“Before you even get people to buy in to do the little things that improve your work culture, you have to really tackle those large elephants in the room,” Bonner said. “Is there discrimination and diversity issues in that company? Do employees know how to communicate with each other? Or is there a toxic work environment of microaggressions and uncivil behavior?”

Leaders, she added, should not only keep the benefits they added during the pandemic but also need to increase the number of conversations they’re having with the company’s head of diversity. “If certain workers feel invisible, they’re going to remain burned out,” Bonner said.

Corporate executives also need to chip away at harmful workplace norms by leading by example, said Vanessa Bohns, a Cornell University professor and the author of “You Have More Influence Than You Think.”

“If the boss responds to work emails at 10 p.m. on a Saturday or never takes a vacation,” she said, “all the PTO benefits in the world won’t make employees feel comfortable taking advantage of them.”

Workers seem to agree. According to the 27-year-old media-company employee, additional time off is necessary but not sufficient.

“They’ll say ‘don’t forget to take your PTO’ in an email, and I know I can call a number for therapy,” she said. “But some workers don’t feel they can realistically take PTO, or they work in toxic workplace environments.”

She said C-suite leaders needed to have more conversations with rank-and-file employees – sometimes “three or four levels beneath them” – to see how they’re feeling or gather information through surveys.

“In order to get results you’ve never had, you need to do things you’ve never done before,” she said.

And above all else, multiple workers said, executives need to encourage midlevel supervisors to take more responsibility when it comes to preventing burnout.

“Otherwise,” she said, “this cycle will just continue.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

After a year of navigating COVID, American workers are among the most stressed-out in the world, a new poll shows

Employee Burnout
  • Workers worldwide reported increased worry, stress, anger and sadness in 2020 in a new Gallup poll.
  • Fifty-seven percent of US and Canadian workers had high daily stress, above the 43% world average.
  • In the US and Canada, employed women and workers under 40 reported more stress than their peers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After a grueling year of work amid a pandemic, American workers are some of the most stressed in the world, according to a new Gallup poll.

Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report” found that workers in the US and Canada reported the highest levels of daily stress in the world last year, with 57% percent of US and Canadian workers experiencing high day-to-day stress.

Between the two countries, Canadian workers reported greater daily stress and worry than their US counterparts.

Globally, a record 43% of workers reported a lot of daily stress last year, which is up from 38% feeling in 2019, raising concerns about burnout after a particularly difficult year at work.

US and Canadian workers were also the most stressed in the world in pre-pandemic 2019, according to Gallup.

As work-life boundaries collapsed with the growth of remote work, and essential workers faced the constant threat of contracting the coronavirus on the job, employees around the world reported feeling higher worry, stress, anger and sadness in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Western Europe was an outlier, with workers there reporting less stress and anger in 2020 than in 2019.

Forty-five percent of all people polled, both working and not, said their lives were affected “a lot” by the pandemic. Of the workers, half said they got less money than usual from their employers or businesses because of the pandemic. Also due to COVID-19, 49% of employees worked fewer hours, and 53% temporarily stopped working. Just under one-third of workers worldwide lost their job or business due to the pandemic.

In the US and Canada, working women and employees under 40 experienced higher daily stress than their peers.

Sixty-two percent of female employees in the US and Canada reported feeling stress a lot of the day, compared to 52% of their male counterparts. This difference highlights the tendency for childcare and household duties to fall to women. This affected many women when schools closed during the pandemic, leaving them with the responsibility of caring of children stuck at home for remote learning while still needing to tend to their own remote work.

Gallup reported that this trend of working women experiencing high stress is “nearly universal” around the world.

Meanwhile, 64% of US and Canadian workers under 40 reported experiencing stress a lot of the day, compared with 51% of their global counterparts over 40. Gallup said childcare may again be a cause of the gap; younger workers, after all, may have had to take care of younger children, who often require more attention than older children, in the pandemic.

Gallup said another reason for the generational divide could be that older adults may have more of “a ‘this too shall pass’ mindset from previous life experiences that made them more psychologically resilient in crisis.” In addition, because younger workers have generally been in the workforce for less time, they may have seen the pandemic as a greater threat to their careers than older workers did.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Confessions of caregiver burnout: 5 women dealing with childcare and family needs reveal how the pandemic pushed them to a breaking point

Collage of Myka Harris, Shara Ruffin, Susan Foosness, Lidia Bonilla, and Jolene Delisle
Jolene Delisle, Lidia Bonilla, Shara Ruffin, Myka Harris, and Susan Foosness.

One morning in fall 2020, Myka Harris reached a breaking point.

As a small-business owner and single mom of a 5-year-old, she’d spent the first six months of the pandemic dedicating all her time to childcare and work needs. From staying on top of her son’s schooling to doing everything to buoy her business – a wellness center called Highbrow Hippie in Venice, California – she found herself exhausted and running on empty.

“I remember one morning just bursting into tears, lying on the ground, and crying,” Harris said, “because I just felt so overwhelmed and so alone.”

Like Harris, many Americans have taken on extra caregiving responsibilities while balancing their work in the pandemic, adding stress during an unprecedented situation. A new Insider survey of roughly 1,000 Americans found that this extra care was leading some of them, especially women, to feel stressed out and exhausted.

Women were more likely than men to report feeling at least somewhat burned out during the pandemic: 68% of women compared with 55% of men. So were parents who’d had to adapt to virtual schooling, care for a sick relative, or take on extra childcare duties.

These added responsibilities during a time of crisis have affected the mental health of working Americans and led some to leave their jobs.

An analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the National Women’s Law Center found that 863,000 women 20 and over left the labor force in September, the second-biggest decline during the pandemic after April 2020. By the end of the year, almost 2.1 million fewer women were working than before the pandemic, the analysis found.

Women gained 314,000 jobs in May. If the US continues to add this many jobs for women a month, it would take about 13 months to reach the pre-pandemic level, the NWLC said.

The Census Bureau found in August that working moms were more likely to take on most childcare and homeschooling duties during school closures. In its Household Pulse Survey in mid-July, 32.1% of women ages 25 to 44 said they were not working because of childcare needs, compared with 12.1% of men.

Though caregiver burnout is not new, Paula Davis, the founder of the Stress & Resilience Institute, told Insider that there’s no doubt that remote work, added care, or homeschooling had “contributed to a higher sense of burnout among people.”

“You’re talking about somebody having to almost try and do two full-time roles at the same time, and it’s virtually impossible to do both of those roles well,” Davis said. “So it’s going to be very, very exhausting for people.”

Insider spoke with Davis and five caregivers to learn more about how added care responsibilities during the pandemic had contributed to feelings of burnout.

“You’re having the two [parents] play many roles in one, which, for me, was beyond exhausting and really left me depleted.”

Shara Ruffin
Shara Ruffin.

Shara Ruffin, 35, is a licensed clinical social worker in Philadelphia who has a 6-year-old son and two soon-to-be stepdaughters. She helps others in social work pass their master’s, bachelor’s, and clinical licensing exams. Before creating her business, Journey to Licensure, she was studying for her own exam to become a licensed clinical social worker.

Ruffin was preparing to take the exam for the second time at the end of March 2020. As Philadelphia closed businesses, her contractual job at a long-term structured residential facility ended, and exam centers closed.

She began to worry more about her career and her three children who were now doing remote learning.

“My son had sometimes between 10 to 14 assignments to do,” Ruffin said. “Sometimes I would get so burned out that I just couldn’t do them. So they would pile up for, like, a day or two, and then we would knock them out.”

Ruffin said she felt as if she were “drowning in responsibilities.” She shared duties with her partner, but being at home led her to take on more of the care responsibilities. Both Ruffin and her fiancé were feeling exhausted.

“You’re having the two [parents] play many roles in one, which, for me, was beyond exhausting and really left me depleted,” Ruffin said.

When she needed a break, she would sometimes go next door to her son’s godmother’s house or to her mom’s place just for a moment alone.

Life now is completely different from 2020, Ruffin said. While balancing caregiving duties and studying “in a small, cramped apartment,” she passed her exam in November.

She said she wasn’t really feeling burned out now. Her children aren’t always at home, as her soon-to-be stepdaughters are with their mothers. Her son was recently doing remote learning at his godmother’s house or Ruffin’s mother’s place.

Ruffin, who was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at 21, was able to get a therapist to help with her mental health after applying for state health insurance last June. She finished therapy in December.

“All the things that you would normally do to kind of get support and nurture yourself I wasn’t doing for the last year.”

Susan Foosness and her son.
Susan Foosness and her son.

Susan Foosness, 40, is the associate vice president of value-based care at Quartet Health. She and her husband took their 4-year-old son out of childcare in Durham, North Carolina, in part to make spots available for children of essential workers who might not be able to take time off work.

Balancing work with caregiving duties and concerns about her family and her mom’s health during a pandemic began to affect her. She said that multitasking made her feel as if she couldn’t produce the best-quality work.

“I end up just not doing great at work, not being a great mom, feeling guilty about that, and that all just kind of spiraled into this sense of burnout,” Foosness said.

For months she felt a sense of dread about the future and thought to herself that this way of living was not sustainable. These multiple roles took a toll on her last summer when she realized that the US wasn’t really opening up and that her son wouldn’t be going back to childcare in the fall.

Sometimes in between work Foosness would drive half an hour to visit her mom in an assisted-living facility during visitation hours — only 30 minutes, outside, with masks and social distancing.

To help with childcare, Foosness’ mother-in-law has for over a year watched Foosness’ son for 2 1/2 days a week. Foosness and her husband each take one day to be “on call” for watching their son. Her son is going back to daycare later this month.

Now with vaccines rolling out and more things open, she feels that she and her family can do more to help with burnout, such as spending time with friends and other family members, she said.

“All the things that you would normally do to kind of get support and nurture yourself I wasn’t doing for the last year,” she said, “and now there is sort of light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Even if I take a nap or go to bed earlier, I’m still tired in the morning or my mind is racing in the middle of the night.”

Burnout   Business Insider   Lidia Bonilla
Lidia Bonilla.

Lidia Bonilla, 42, is an entrepreneur and relationship coach who spent the early months of the pandemic in her Brooklyn apartment. She stayed in close touch with her 81-year-old father, who was living in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and experiencing health issues.

After doctors told Bonilla that her father shouldn’t be living alone anymore, she moved to Santo Domingo in January to be his caretaker. Less than a month later, he was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, Bonilla has been by his side at home and at the hospital, all while trying to run her business remotely.

Bonilla said that navigating the medical system during the pandemic had been “nerve-wracking” and “emotionally exhausting.” For two weeks while her father was hospitalized with sepsis, Bonilla spent each night by his bedside. The day before speaking with Insider, she’d spent nine hours with her father, who’d been in the emergency room for dehydration.

As her parents are divorced and other close relatives aren’t available to help, Bonilla struggled with the duty of being her father’s caretaker, she said.

“For a while, I was resentful that I was here by myself doing this — why is this all my responsibility?” she said. “I don’t feel rested, even if I take a nap or go to bed earlier, I’m still tired in the morning or my mind is racing in the middle of the night, distracted and longing to cope.”

She recently hired a nurse to help take care of her dad, and on Saturdays she takes time for herself to go to the beach or meet up with friends. Still, she said she felt frustrated about being unable to do more for her father, while feeling as if she’s not doing enough for herself and her work.

Bonilla told Insider that though her father’s health was slowly stabilizing, she didn’t think she’d be able to leave his side anytime soon. She said she planned to stay in Santo Domingo, running her business remotely for the foreseeable future and keeping her life in New York on hold.

“I just felt so overwhelmed and so alone. You start to realize you just need a break.”

Myka Harris and her son.
Myka Harris and her son.

Myka Harris, 46, is the cofounder of Highbrow Hippie, a lifestyle brand and wellness center in Venice, California. Harris’ business, a hair salon and community space, was closed quickly in March 2020. Her 5-year-old son’s school also closed suddenly, and Harris spent the next three months with him at home.

“Trying to navigate your own stress and uncertainty while also managing a young child’s is challenging,” Harris told Insider. “I had to entertain, feed, and be with a child all day, where there’s no room for where he can entertain himself because he’s so young.”

Harris said she’d start her days early to work and research grants and loans for her business, enter “mom mode” during the day, and work again in the evening after her son went to bed.

Assuming the role of her son’s teacher was also time-consuming.

“Asking him to be focused and engaged was challenging. Mine is not one of those — he’s a very body-active child,” Harris said. “It became a battle every morning.”

After wrestling with virtual school, Harris transitioned her son to homeschooling and, later, a backyard pod with a few other families. In addition to her work, it was tough to stay on top of California’s ever-changing rules about whether her business could reopen; she said it made her feel constantly tired, sad, and uninspired.

“I remember one morning just bursting into tears, lying on the ground, and crying,” she said, “because I just felt so overwhelmed and so alone. You start to realize you just need a break.”

Harris said she’d strengthened her self-care routine with regular morning yoga and meditation and hired a nanny for a few hours several days a week to have her own time for reading, going to the park, and hiking.

“As we’ve reopened and more is happening, I’m more thoughtful about what I do and don’t want to do with my time,” Harris told Insider. “The pandemic showed me that self-care is not a luxury that we want to do, but it’s something we need to do.”

“I barely slept. I gained weight. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically.”

Jolene Delisle_28
Jolene Delisle.

Jolene Delisle (who preferred not to share her age) is the founder of The Working Assembly, a brand agency. She said the past year had been a series of highs and lows.

When her 25-person New York office was forced to close in March 2020, Delisle had to initiate layoffs, furloughs, and hiring and pay-raise freezes. Her 3-year-old’s preschool closed, and the babysitter for her 1-year-old contracted COVID-19.

“It felt like the world was crashing down,” Delisle told Insider.

Delisle and her husband, who also works at the agency, spent the next six months balancing caregiving duties for their kids while working from home.

“We’d wake up at 6 a.m. to work for two hours, trade off childcare during the day, then after they went to sleep at 7:30 I worked until 2 in the morning,” she said.

Even in the fall when business picked back up and they began hiring again, Delisle was still very stressed, she said.

“I barely slept. I gained weight. I wasn’t taking care of myself physically,” she said. “I couldn’t even see any light at the end of the tunnel. It felt like every good thing, even little milestones of my kids turning 2 and 4, felt like more of an emotional burden for me. I couldn’t even register or process what was happening.”

At the start of the new year, Delisle said, she made an effort to prioritize herself by going to therapy, working out with a virtual trainer, and going offline one day a week. “Those things have really brought me back into being a normal person,” she told Insider.

After getting vaccinated in late April, Delisle finally had “a moment where I actually breathed for the first time,” she said.

Caregivers should keep an eye on the balance between their resources and their demands.

paula davis
Paula Davis is the founder and CEO of the Stress & Resilience Institute.

Paula Davis described an equation with demands (including work or caregiving, or things that require energy) and resources (things like spending time with people or traveling).

“Burnout is more likely when your demands exceed your resources,” Davis said.

She added that a lot of the resources people used to balance these demands weren’t available during the pandemic.

Several of the caregivers told Insider they’d explored self-care practices such as exercise and meditation. Davis said that while these activities could be great mental-health and well-being strategies, “when we’re talking about burnout, we’re talking about something that is a workplace-culture issue.”

“And so frontline strategies like that are a really good first step,” Davis said, “but they’re not nearly enough to prevent burnout.”

Have you had your own experience with burnout that you’d like to speak about with Insider? Email Madison Hoff at mhoff@insider.com and Laura Casado at lcasado@insider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Workers are ‘rage quitting’ their jobs as a tightening labor market forces employers to take note of unfavorable conditions and low pay

Cursor hovering over a "RAGE QUIT" option in a dropdown menu representing mass job quitting during the COVID-19 pandemic
Are we seeing the rise of rage-quitting at work?

  • The waning days of the pandemic have prompted plenty of work-related reflection.
  • The result is a pent-up feeling that’s prompting some to walk off jobs in frustration.
  • But is the advent of “rage quitting” really a positive thing for employees? Experts aren’t sure.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Kendra wasn’t usually one to get mad, especially not on the job. She’d joined Dollar General in 2019, as a longtime homemaker hoping for a change of pace. She loved chatting with the regulars who filed into her small-town location. She was meticulous about all the little tasks that went into keeping the store clean, organized, and running smoothly. Kendra had even worked her way up to the role of key-holder, the store employee responsible for opening and closing.

But then came the pandemic, and Kendra began to watch the stress start to “roll downhill.” The headwaters of the strain seemed to be visits, announcements, or corrections from regional and district management. The negativity seemed to submerge Kendra’s store manager, who became overwhelmed and less communicative toward her team. Soon, Kendra herself would find herself drowning in an increasingly fraught work environment.

“By the time you get down to that lowly stay-at-home mom that just wanted a part-time job – who is earning less than a hundred dollars a week because she’s making $7.25 an hour and only working 10 hours a week – it’s not worth it,” Kendra told Insider.

She says she’s not the “type of person” who acts out of anger. Yet, in the springtime of 2021, Kendra rage-quit her job.

Kendra isn’t the Dollar General worker’s real name. After verifying her employment records, Insider is protecting Kendra’s identity because she is concerned about getting her ex-boss in trouble with management. She said her manager is a “good person” who is simply under pressure.

On her last shift, Kendra says she could tell her store manager was displeased with something. During the pandemic, Kendra said she felt like she was constantly dealing with passive-aggressive and snide remarks, instead of clear direction.

“It’s like, if I’ve done something wrong, just tell me, you don’t have to be mean about it,” Kendra said. “Just tell me.”

The manager declined to share what the problem was, and the conversation got heated. So Kendra walked out, and never went back.

The phenomenon of rage-quitting is as old as work itself. Some people prefer to end things with a bang, not a whimper. So things like bridge-burning, walking off sans a two weeks’ notice, or even making a scene are nothing new when leaving a workplace. But the American workforce seems to be primed for rage-quitting at the moment – especially hourly workers in low-wage occupations like retail, which make up a giant portion of the workforce. In fact, hourly workers made up 58.1% of the US workforce in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Recently, multiple Dollar General employees at a store in Maine walked off the job after posting notes decrying the company’s work culture and pay. Similar incidents have occurred at Chipotle, Hardee’s, and Wendy’s around the country. Meanwhile, employers are complaining of a tight labor market, in some cases accusing unemployment benefits of luring potential workers away.

But there’s also evidence that many hourly wage-earners are simply fed up with their jobs. A study from the human resources assessment platform Traitify found that one in four respondents were at least “somewhat” less happy with their job than they were a year ago.

Gigs in industries like retail have long been denounced over low pay and high stress. But will the boiled-over rage of workers fresh off a life-altering pandemic – and any resulting labor shortage – finally prompt a major shift in working conditions?

‘So done with that job’

The pandemic itself had an outsized influence on worker’s decision-making. In some cases, workers who spoke with Insider cited the coronavirus as a primary reason for their unhappiness on the job, and their ultimate departure.

That was the reasoning behind Crista’s choice to depart from their job at PetSmart. Crista is also a member of the labor rights group United for Respect.

“I was really concerned about bringing COVID home from my place of work,” they told Insider.

Those fears grew as they watched managers and coworkers continuously flout mask requirements within the stores, even as COVID-19 deaths spiked. Crista says they found the work environment “callous.”

“It’s definitely hard to report stuff to the boss when the boss is breaking the rules, too,” they said.

Crista lives with their mother, who is 62. Their decision to quit was informed less by “rage” than by a deep dread over potentially infecting their loved one. Still, it amounted to a hasty departure. Crista can even pinpoint “the exact moment” they realized they needed to leave.

“My coworker was talking about how masks are so inconvenient to wear,” they said. “And she said, ‘If any of y’all get COVID from me, then sorry, not sorry.’ So she literally was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t care if you get sick, I just don’t want to wear my mask.'”

After thinking it over at home, they decided the “amount of pay” wasn’t worth the “lack of safety.” They called into work to put in their two weeks notice.

“The team lead said, ‘Just write it down on a piece of paper and don’t say anything about why,'” they said.

“I found it very strange and concerning that they would rather not hear why someone found a company to be a bad fit, especially during a global pandemic,” Crista said.

Crista says they went in to hand-deliver the note, but couldn’t find a manager. They left after situating the letter on a doorknob, and never received another call from PetSmart.

“PetSmart should know that there’s a huge disconnect between the corporate policies that have been put in place versus what their management and their staff actually do at their stores,” they said. “And that there needs to be some oversight and enforcement.”

In a statement sent to Insider, a PetSmart spokesperson said that the company remains committed to measures like “enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols, face covering requirements for associates and customers, daily health screening for associates, and many other steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our teams and pet parents, and since the beginning of the pandemic, we have continuously directed our stores to adapt business practices to meet or exceed all applicable health and safety guidance, as well as other best practices for retail store operations,” the spokesperson said. “Additionally, we have significantly invested in personal protective equipment, including cloth face coverings, KN-95 masks and gloves for associates, cleaning supplies, physical barriers in our stores, and other items to protect our associates and customers.”

Insider also spoke with Helena, a former employee at a fast-fashion retailer. Insider verified her work history and is using a pseudonym to protect her identity over concerns about retaliation.

Helena says she had a number of relatives died from COVID-19, and she was often stressed about her boss taking the side of maskless shoppers over her own team.

“I was like, you know what, this company and the employees here just don’t care about anything other than the bottom line,” she said.

But things came to a head after Helena took a moment to check her phone at work, looking for updates on a relative who had just had a stroke.

“My manager went on the walkie-talkie for everyone to hear, saying, ‘Do me a favor and put your phone in your locker,” Helena said. “This was right after the mass shooting where the employees couldn’t even call home because they were made to put their phones in their lockers.”

During the April FedEx hub shooting in Indianapolis, workers trapped inside the facility were unable to call or text loved ones because of the shipping giant’s policy against cellphones at work.

The next day, the manager sent a long text out to the store workers about staying off their phones while on the job.

“This company furloughed us at the beginning of the pandemic,” Helena said, thinking to herself: “Why are you working so hard for them? They pay you $10 an hour and you have to do way more work. They don’t care about you.”

Helena had always given two weeks’ notice before leaving a job, so she penned a resignation letter and went to work her next shift. At closing, she found herself getting yelled at by her manager once more, as she tried to deliver her two weeks’ notice.

“I was just so done with that job,” she said.

She decided to just not show up the following day.

“When they texted me to ask me where I was, I told them I was revoking my two weeks’ notice,” she told Insider. “It felt so good to know that I would never have to work there again.”

Gypsy Noonan, another United for Respect member, thought about quitting Walmart many times. She was often assigned as the sole cashier in the store, a task which she found incredibly stressful. Noonan says that work-related stress ended up causing her seizures. But she ultimately managed to hold off until she was offered a new opportunity. She gave her two weeks’ notice, but then found herself assigned to work the cash registers alone, once more.

She requested backup from her team lead, and from other coworkers. Everyone refused.

“At this point, it’s like a light bulb went off and I was like, I’m not doing this. I don’t have to do this. I refuse to let myself be abused by the system. And I walked out the next day”

‘Just trying to survive’

Some experts say that the spate of rage-quitting could signal a sea change for hourly workers. Quincy Valencia, the vice president of product innovation at hiring platform Hourly by AMS.

She began her career in big box retail management where she said “you enjoyed your workers, and the best ones you wanted to keep, but if someone quit, it was not a big deal. There were 10 people waiting to take that job.”

Now, Valencia said that attitude “boggles” her mind.

“A bad experience with the cashier is going to ensure that a customer doesn’t come back,” she said. “Nobody cares who your financial analyst is. And yet these industries have always taken more time and more care in trying to hire the right people into those [corporate] roles, than in hiring the people who are upfront.”

She said that there’s a “twisted mentality” around hiring hourly workers, in particular. Namely, jobs like working as a cook at a fast-food joint or a clerk in a grocery store are seen as a “rite of passage” for high schoolers, a frequently touted myth.

“Even now, the debate is going on about how these workers shouldn’t make $15 an hour, because these should be for high school students,” she said. “I would counter that this is sort of off-topic. So what, you can abuse them because they’re not raising a family?”

Valencia said that this attitude “cannot” continue to pervade the talent acquisition community.

“This category of worker – particularly in retail – has driven our economy over the past, especially here through this pandemic,” she said. “And now there’s a big mismatch right now between job availability and applicants for those jobs.”

But still, that doesn’t mean that going through with rage-quitting will empower workers on an individual basis. Laurie Ruettimann, a human resources expert with a focus on fixing work, told Insider that she’s concerned about the long-term implications for rage-quitters forced to find a new job on the fly.

“Why would you give up your known crappy job for an unknown, potentially crappy job?” she told Insider. “There is this tendency – especially when we’ve been sheltering in place for so long – like, ‘I’ve just got to get the hell out of here.’ But that instinct to just flee is always the wrong instinct.”

Ruettimann said that employees considering rage-quitting on the spot should try to give themselves “permission to take this process slowly” and to focus on gathering information on truly promising new opportunities before resorting to drastic measures.

For her part, Kendra, the former Dollar General worker, says that she doesn’t feel good about quitting out of anger. For now, she is enjoying spending more time with her husband, who she rarely used to see because of all the night shifts she worked. She also feels that there was no reason for her to continue subjecting herself to a high-stress environment for so little pay.

“I feel bad about it,” she said. “But in this country, everyone’s making money except for the ones actually doing the work.”

Kendra tries to avoid driving by her old Dollar General. The sight of the distinctive black-and-yellow sign makes her sad, thinking about all the workers “just trying to survive.”

Read the original article on Business Insider