Harvard Business Review recently conducted a study about burnout during COVID-19 and how greatly people all over the world have been affected by it.
Warning: Some submissions include topics of verbal assault, workplace abuse, and racial bullying — read at your own discretion.
“In March 2020, I caught COVID-19, and the company I work for decided to start working from home indefinitely for all employees. By June 2020, we laid off employees and I had to take on the roles of three laid-off employees on top of my current role. In September 2020, we made the decision to end our office lease (since working from home appeared to be the new normal) — I was the only one with the ability to drive my car into the office, so I had to pack up a 30-person office alone.”
“I work at a hospital as a supervisor over registration and bed control. When COVID hit, all of the extra registration responsibilities associated with it fell on my department, like registering employees for COVID tests and placing COVID patients into beds. All the help that’s come in has been for clinical staff, which of course is much needed, but nobody thinks about us. Our workload just keeps growing and I have to stretch my work hours and my staff thinner and thinner with no help, as we’re on a hiring freeze.”
“I’m an Amazon delivery driver — when COVID-19 first hit, my workload somewhat increased, but was manageable. But since October 2020, I’ve been getting double the amount of work or more, and I’m expected to do 10-hour shifts in six hours. Mind you, I don’t get any breaks or lunch, so I’m always pretty much running to each stop for six to seven hours. I come home all sore and just eat and sleep, and on my days off, I’m too exhausted to do anything.”
“As a teacher, this has been a year like no other. I am grateful to still have a job, but the expectations that have been placed on us are as though people have forgotten we are humans and we have a breaking point, too. Between the stress of the high-risk exposure at school to the high expectations for both online and in-person learning, the demands from parents and guardians are just too much. More expectations are continually added with little prep time given, and little to no consideration for the stress this adds onto us.”
“I am a registered nurse, and in the past nine months, we’ve had COVID patients on our floor. Some days we’re running a patient straight to the ICU across the hall, hoping they don’t die before we can intubate them. I have worked so many shifts and have been so tired. I have held too many patients’ hands while they died alone. Some days I would just get home and cry in the shower for an hour.”
“My husband and I had our first child in June 2020. There were no visitors allowed at the hospital, so we announced the birth of our son through calls and text messages. There was no one to help us once we got home, no one to bring us dinner, and no one to help us clean up — everyone was afraid of transmitting something to us or our baby, so our close community of friends and family started to disappear. When my maternity leave was over, my 4-month-old son and I had to figure out how to make it work since I was able to work from home.”
“I’m an occupational psychologist — there have been numerous moves between working from home and working in the office, so it has been difficult for my team to adjust accordingly. The final move back to the office felt like pure chaos because case numbers continued to increase, and everyone was experiencing anxiety related to potential exposure. As a psychologist supporting these employees, it was harder than I thought it’d be — we were trying to balance our own fears and anxiety while supporting others.”
“I was on the remodel team for Walmart before my position was cut due to COVID. During this pandemic, associates have taken more time off, hours have been cut, and morale has hit an all-time low. There were so many days when I worked overtime to help stores clear out their backrooms because freight was piling up. Then, I had to deal with customers yelling and cursing at me because our stores started closing early, and wearing masks inside the store became mandatory.”
“I work in a funeral home and crematorium, and sometimes it feels like the work just never ends. Winter is already known to have high death rates, but between that and COVID, we have gone weeks at a time running our crematory non-stop while still being totally out of space to shelter our decedents. Everyone is constantly exhausted and the weekends are never enough time to recover, so we’re all just worn out and over it.”
“I probably have it easier than other essential workers, but I gotta say, it’s harder working for a grocery store than people realize. Customers have such little respect for us — they refuse to wear a mask, they don’t want to wait in line, and they throw a fit when we’re out of something. It just never feels safe. In a way, I’m grateful my routine didn’t change since the pandemic started, but it was already easy to crave a vacation.”
“Burnout is very real in the lives of the healthcare workers who aren’t working in the COVID units. Our management was working from home while making major changes, so it felt like we were left on our own without feeling seen or appreciated. Working with a fragile population of humans requires a good work and life balance, and COVID completely took that away.”
“I work as an emergency manager, and the demand for our career field has been far too much this year. Many of us are salaried with no option for overtime, and on top of the pandemic, we’ve had to manage all other emergencies this year. Civil unrest, hurricanes, tornados, winter storms, and IT system hackers. Our organizations are stretched too thin to recognize the systematic burnout, so we are all just slowly dying together with no end in sight.”
“Parenting is hard right now. Keeping a 3-year-old entertained and safe all day is exhausting on its own, but try to do a day’s work at the same time and it’s almost impossible. I find myself wanting to quit my job because I can’t do it all, but I love my job and I worked hard to get there, and I’d be unhappy as a stay-at-home parent (plus I can’t afford it).”
“I work in broadcast news, and have been working in-person in the newsroom during the entire pandemic — I’m *exhausted.* Our phones were ringing off the hook in the beginning from viewers, yelling at us for answers we didn’t have. The guidelines from the state were changing every hour, and it was nearly impossible to keep up. I didn’t sleep all the way through the night for months — I’d wake up in a blind panic. Most of our station is working from home, which creates extra work for those of us still in the office.”
“My whole company transitioned to working from home at the start of the pandemic. People made it clear that I had to be available for video meetings from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. without respecting any kind of boundaries like I’d normally have in the office. I live alone in a small apartment, so they were making my entire home feel like my workplace where they can barge in at any point. I was jumping at every ping on Teams, then a close family member died, and I was told I’d ‘get over it faster’ because I was several hundred miles away.”
“Pharmacy staff have been forgotten about this year. We were on the frontlines of the medication shortages that began last year, and in many places, we had to restrict everyone to a certain quantity of meds to help ease the strain on suppliers. We got yelled at, spat at, and racial slurs were thrown at us (especially to my Asian co-workers). We didn’t receive any sort of physical barriers until the fall of 2020. We have people who were exposed to COVID-19 come into our pharmacies for medical attention because they’re scared to go to the hospital.”
“I work in a university doing reception and admin, and the pandemic has made my job utterly horrendous and destroyed my mental health. The amount of abuse we get from parents ringing up to complain that their child isn’t getting ‘what they pay for’ is a LOT to cope with, and we have no support from management whatsoever (despite repeatedly asking for advice and information). I’m screamed at by someone’s dad nearly every day, and have been since last year. I’ve also been threatened with physical violence, and have been repeatedly called stupid or accused of being purposely difficult.”
And “I’m an essential employee and during the first few weeks of lockdown we got extra pay from the company and customers were extra generous. After a year in, pay is now gone, and people keep quitting because they don’t want to risk being exposed. Being overworked and underpaid isn’t new for me, but the pandemic has obviously made things harder. I feel like essential employees went through our own type of isolation — half the world is making whipped coffee and sourdough bread, while the rest of us are still working.”
Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.