Study shows workers, particularly Gen Z, are stressed out

Almost 1 in 4 workers experienced burnout 4 or more times in the past year.
Workstress Panel

Asana Inc., a work management platform for teams, recently released its annual Anatomy of Work Index, an in-depth analysis into how people spend time at work. While hybrid and remote work trends have afforded greater flexibility for employees, most of their day — 58% — is still being lost to work coordination rather than the skilled, strategic jobs they’ve been hired to do.

More than two years of pandemic-era work has dramatically changed how employees spend their time. With greater ability to focus at home, individuals are dedicating 33% of their day to skilled work, a 27% increase year over year. However, time spent on strategy comprises less than 10% of their working day, a staggering 36% decrease from last year, reflecting the challenges organizations have in getting distributed teams on the same page to plan for the future.

With these upwards and downwards trends, it’s no surprise that employees’ own view of how and where they maximize their day has evolved. Workers ideally want a near equal split of time spent in the office (19 hours) and at home (20 hours) each week. More than ever, the office is being favored for collaborative-centric activities like onboarding, 1:1 meetings with their manager, and strategy sessions, while home is the preferred location for their skilled job.

Conducted by Global Web Index (GWI) on behalf of Asana, the Anatomy of Work Index 2022 surveyed the behaviors and attitudes of 10,624 knowledge workers across Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, the U.K., and the U.S., to understand what’s working — and what’s not — in the new era of organizational agility.

Moving forward (and backward) into the future of work

Today, the lines between work and life are blurrier than ever. Regardless of whether organizations choose an in-person, hybrid, or fully remote model, a lack of clarity, coupled with increasing digital distractions, are continuing to fuel challenges for workers around the world.

While employees are missing fewer deadlines — 15% versus 26% last year — they’re struggling to balance priorities and establish clear boundaries. For example, employees waste six working weeks each year on a combination of duplicated work and unnecessary meetings. With 37% saying that they don’t have a clear start or finish time to their working day — rising to 53% for Generation Z employees — there’s a need to implement consistent guidelines and processes to better manage both remote and in-person collaboration.

Additional global findings include:

  • Managers spend the most time every day on work coordination (62%) followed by the C-Suite (60%).
    • As an organization grows so does work about work. Employees at medium and large companies spend 59% of their day on it. That’s 5% more time than small businesses.
  • Too many meetings (24%) and uncertainty over what to prioritize (22%) are leading to missed deadlines.
  • Overall, workers are using slightly fewer apps per day (nine) than last year (10), but they still feel overwhelmed by them. Compared to one year ago:
    • 42% are spending more time on email;
    • 40% are spending more time on video calls;
    • 52% are multitasking more during virtual meetings; and
    • 56% feel they need to respond immediately to notifications.
  • Despite nearly half of employees (47%) finding it easier to concentrate at home, 41% feel more isolated when working remotely.

Between grappling with work about work and navigating never-ending pings and notifications, burnout remains a persistent challenge for global employees. While overall levels of burnout have improved slightly — decreasing from 71% to 63% — the problem is pervasive among younger workers with 84% of Gen Z reporting burnout in the last year. And with almost 25% of workers experiencing burnout four or more times, 42% experiencing burnout and imposter syndrome simultaneously, and 40% believing it’s an inevitable part of success, organizations need to do more to set clear boundaries and prioritize employee well-being.

Interestingly, one workplace element that may be stressing out Gen Z workers the most is outdated technology and legacy systems that older workers take for granted.

The research found that many offices still use old computers, telephone systems, and even fax machines, which confuses 49% of Gen Z staff and needs the help of their baby boomer generation colleagues over 55 years old.

In the study, more than eight in 10 Gen Z workers said they struggled with burnout in part because of frustrations caused by outdated technology slowing their work.

The researchers also found that 65% of Gen Z workers are tired of “laboriously” searching for information on legacy systems.

Only 53% of the baby boomer generation experienced the same disappointments and were comfortable dealing with such problems that they were used to in the “old days.”

“The unprecedented disruption of the pandemic has fundamentally shifted the way we live, including rethinking work and our relationship with it,” says Anne Raimondi, chief operating officer of Asana. “As we transition into the new era of agile work, it’s crucial for organizations to connect their teams around clarity of purpose and a shared sense of accomplishment to ensure employees feel seen, heard, and valued. In doing so, we can emerge from the burnout and bottlenecks of the past two years to chart a new path forward in the future of work.”

Despite the adaptations organizations have made since the onset of the pandemic, the survey findings illustrate the vast differences and opportunities to redefine work around the world:

  • Australian workers are the most likely to say better mentoring and training could alleviate burnout and imposter syndrome — 45% are experiencing both at the same time;
  • Despite French employees spending the most time in the office (27 hours) they’re also missing the most deadlines each week (25%);
  • Germany is spending the least time on work about work (53%), though time spent on strategy has also halved to 7% (versus 14% last year);
  • Japanese workers are spending the least time in unnecessary meetings compared to other markets (2 hours a week);
  • Singapore is spending the most time on work about work (69%) — rising year over year while work about work has decreased globally;
  • U.K. workers spend the least amount of time in the office per week (18 hours) and miss the fewest deadlines; and
  • Employees in the U.S. experienced burnout an average of 2.3 times in the past year — the highest globally.

The new era of the agile workplace

Today, organizations have a tremendous opportunity to reflect on the challenges of the past and the progress being made as they embrace the future of the agile workplace.

One in five workers say mental health resources and clarity on organizational goals would alleviate the impact of burnout and imposter syndrome. Additionally, employees say they could save 5.4 hours per week — equivalent to 6 working weeks (257 hours) a year — if processes were improved.

“In 2022 and beyond, leaders must constantly assess what their employee needs are and what sentiment on their team is like,” says Dr. Sahar Yousef, cognitive neuroscientist at UC Berkeley. “The companies who will thrive in the new era of agility will be the ones who continue to evolve and, as a result, attract and retain better talent because they listen and adjust accordingly. Organizations that don’t will be left in the dust.”

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