In January 2020, weeks before social distancing and lockdowns became the norm, O.C. Tanner released a report on employee burnout. The survey, which included responses from 20,088 workers in 15 countries, found that 79 per cent of the respondents were suffering from some degree of it.

Then COVID-19 hit, and things got worse. A year later, O.C. Tanner said nearly 58 per cent of workers believed the pandemic elevated job-related anxiety even more. This was especially true in the early days of the lockdowns when schools, daycares, and other support systems closed, forcing caregivers to perform double, and sometimes triple, duties.

Before the pandemic work stress was, for the most part, considered part of the package. Many of us had it but we soldiered on, because that’s what everyone else was doing, and that’s what the workers who came before us did.

But for many, COVID has served as a time of reflection. Some employees have expressed a desire to work from home indefinitely, while others have spent the past 16 months reassessing their priorities. Employers seem to be taking note, and some are making big moves to keep their people engaged and committed.

Here’s an example: Date-and-friend-finder app Bumble said it recently gave its 700 employees a ‘burnout break,’ which took place from June 21 to the 25th. The goal, the company says, was to give its workforce a period where they could be “completely offline.” Employees have also have another week of leave they can take at a later date.

It’s the latest in a growing list of big-name employers who are attempting to alleviate the stress and anxiety that comes from being hyper connected. LinkedIn gave its 15,900 people a paid week off in April, Mozilla did the same thing earlier this month, and Hubspot employees are currently enjoying a paid burnout break.

It’s an interesting turn of events, especially coming from American organizations. Historically, vacation has been frowned upon by employers and employees alike.

A January 2020 survey commissioned by Neuvana, a self-described neuroscience and wellness company, found nearly half of the 1000+ respondents believed a work vacation causes more stress than it’s worth.

“Sadly, 48 per cent say taking time off for vacation causes more work-related stress than it’s worth, with 23 per cent unable to completely disconnect from work while on vacation,” reads an excerpt from the findings.

“For many, taking time off presents an array of challenges such as falling behind at work (23 per cent), the amount of work to get done prior to leaving (21 per cent), and getting work covered by colleagues (19 per cent).”

But that was the Before Times, and we’ve yet to see how the workforce responds to mental health issues and the growing demand for work-life boundaries in the post-pandemic world. 

Little by little, we’re getting a clearer picture of how the world plans to move past the pandemic. We’ll be here watching and reporting on those changes as they happen.