The Margin: Even bosses are burning out — almost 70% of C-suite executives ‘seriously considering quitting’ for their well-being

The Great Resignation has been sliding into the C-suite, too. 

Nearly 70% of company executives say they are “seriously considering quitting for a job that better supports their well-being,” according to a new report from Deloitte and market research firm Workplace Intelligence released Wednesday. And 56% have quit a job in the past because it was negatively affecting their well-being.

Such wellness behaviors include getting at least seven hours of sleep every night; having enough time for friends and family; moving and exercising each day; taking at least a 30-minute lunch break; using all of their vacation time; and more healthy habits highlighted in the report. 

The poll surveyed 2,100 employees and C-level executives in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia in February. And it found that C-suite executives and their employees, alike, have been struggling to prioritize their well-being, with 81% of the execs reporting that improving their wellness is more important than advancing their career right now — which is a notable gap over the employees reporting to them (68%) who would put their well-being over moving up in their field. 

A smaller proportion employees (57%) also reported having the luxury of “seriously” considering quitting to take another job that supports their wellness. The report notes this is likely because executives tend to be in a much stronger financial position than their employees, so they can better afford to look for job opportunities that suit their wellness needs. 

There’s also a startling gap between just how supportive the survey subjects believe that the C-suite has been during the COVID-19 pandemic. While 91% of executives think that their employees feel like their leaders care about them, only 56% of the workers said the same. This is a “notable gap” that the C-suite “must work to address,” the report said. 

What’s more, while 90% of the C-suite said they recognize how challenging the pandemic has been for workers, less than half of the employees (47%) said they believed that their executives have understood the difficulty. And only 53% of employees felt that their company execs were making the best decisions for their well-being during the pandemic, compared to 88% of the corporate leaders who believed their decision-making has been “exemplary.” 

One place where everyone is on the same page, however, is blaming the ever-blurring of work-life balance for their well-being getting out of whack. Most of the surveyed employees (83%) and executives (74%) said they were facing obstacles in improving their well-being, and the top two challenges that people cited overall were a heavy workload or stressful job (30%), as well as not having enough time to take care of themselves because they were working long hours (27%).

And this struggle has been echoed by other recent surveys. Another poll found that four in 10 U.S. workers are more burned out now than they were a year ago, particularly Gen Z professionals (47%), tech workers (44%) and women (43%). And workers with flexible schedules were feeling the pinch; 70% said they are putting in longer hours now than they were before the pandemic.

So workers are readier than ever to pack up and leave. M.I.T. researchers analyzed more than 1 million Glassdoor reviews about the largest U.S. employers, and found that a toxic culture is more than 10 times as powerful as compensation in driving workers out of an organization.  

“Even a whiff of toxicity will send employees running,” concluded one of the study authors. “Maybe they would have put up with it a couple of years ago; after the COVID-19 pandemic, they will not.” 

Indeed, the number of people who quit their jobs topped 4 million last summer — for the first time ever — and job openings are still high, while layoffs are low

Dispatches from a Pandemic: ‘We’re like rats in a cage’: Sick and tired of their jobs, American workers strive to regain their agency, their time — and their sanity

And: ‘One thing that human beings value above all else is our autonomy’: The gloves are off: Elon Musk is the latest CEO to tell workers to return to the office

Having company executives recognize the importance of their employees’ well-being as well as their own, and taking ownership of their work force’s wellness, is one way forward. And the Deloitte report found that most of the C-suite (95%) agreed that executives should be responsible for employees’ well-being, and 83% said they would become more responsible for their work force’s wellness over the next one to two years. Some have already taken steps in that direction; 20% of surveyed C-suite execs said they have banned after-hours emailing, and 35% said they send notes encouraging their employees to take time off and disconnect.

The C-suite could also be more transparent about their own well-being, Deloitte suggested. While 73% of executives claimed to share their well-being with their people, only 22% of employees agreed they actually did. 

And company executives could also use some support, they said. Almost half (48%) would like an executive training program that focuses on health matters, and 40% said they need more support from health experts within their companies. 

In the meantime, here are some signs you might be burned out, and ways to beat the burnout.

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