Caregiving and Job Responsibilities Linked to Employee Mental Health Problems

BOSTON, March 11, 2021—It’s been a full year since the pandemic started and many of us have experienced anxiety, stress and difficulty sleeping. For some, the pandemic has taken a serious toll on our mental health. Among the hardest hit were workers who took on additional work or caregiving responsibilities, a new meQuilibrium study of 7,500 members found.

meQuilibrium study shows serious decline in worker wellbeing as we enter the second year of pandemic.

A quarter of survey respondents reported that they had taken on new job responsibilities during the pandemic and among those workers, job stress was more than four times higher and feelings of burnout more than doubled. Disturbingly, there was more than a four-fold decrease in motivation compared to members who had not taken on additional job responsibilities.

“While new work assignments and roles are commonplace, what’s different today is that it adds another layer of stress onto employees whose wellbeing has already been diminished,” says Andrew Shatté, PhD, Chief Knowledge Officer and co-founder, meQuilibrium. “Employees are also challenged by new caregiving responsibilities at home—taking care of children, virtual schooling, and more. This can also impact wellbeing and motivation and many people don’t have the ability to adapt.”

Nearly 1 in 5 workers took on a new caregiving role due to the pandemic, according to the meQuilibrium study. These caregivers reported a 6X increase in health worries, 16% increase in burnout, 2X increase in work stress and nearly a 2X decrease in motivation. Thirty-seven percent of men caregivers and 47% of women caregivers had trouble finding time for self-care. Women—already at the forefront of balancing work and family challenges—were 40% more likely than men to report taking on a new role as caregiver.

“We are at a crucial moment in the pandemic when it comes to employee mental health,” says Dr. Shatté. “While hope is on the horizon, we are still observing a continued slide in well-being and motivation, and a decreasing ability to handle self-care.”

The study found:

  • Those who had poor emotion control had a 73% decrease in motivation.
  • Workers with low energy showed an 82% increase in physical symptoms of stress, a 92% decrease in motivation, and a 61% increase in job worries.
  • Workers who were not engaged had a 112% increase in burnout symptoms.
  • In particular, improving key resilience factors helps to inoculate workers from the worst of the pandemic’s impacts. The study found that members who improved their resilience skills—emotional control, energy and engagement—had small decreases or showed improvements in wellbeing during the second half of the pandemic.

“The three E’s–Emotion control, Energy and Engagement are crucial resilience skills,” explains Dr. Shatté. “We know that employees are struggling. But, if HR leaders make resilience a priority, we can move the needle and reverse the dip in worker wellbeing.”

The full meQuilibrium study can be found here.

Methodology: Approximately 7,000 members participated in meQuilibrium’s COVID-19 check-in during June and 7,500 participated in December 2020. The check-in examined worker wellbeing and the impact of additional work ad caregiving responsibilities on employee mental health.

About meQuilibrium
meQuilibrium is the #1 digital solution for building resilience at scale for Fortune 500 global enterprises, helping businesses innovate and navigate uncertain times. meQuilibrium harnesses the science of resilience, AI, predictive analytics and neuroscience to help businesses build workforce wellbeing and potential.

Andrew Shatté, PhD, Chief Knowledge Officer, meQuilibrium, is available for an interview. If you use any of this material, please use this link.