Burnout crisis and the hope of AI

Survey finds younger Canadian workers are struggling with stress and mental health

Burnout crisis and the hope of AI

The mental health of Canadian workers is facing unprecedented challenges, with younger employees bearing the brunt of burnout and stress. According to the latest TELUS Mental Health Index report, excessive workloads are a primary factor contributing to these issues, raising serious concerns about employee well-being and productivity.

"Burnout among workers under 40 is significantly higher," notes Paula Allen, global leader and vice president of research and client insights at TELUS Health. "We found that younger workers are three times more likely to experience burnout compared to their older peers."

The TELUS report highlights that nearly one-third of workers are struggling with motivation, a critical concern as Canada grapples with a nationwide productivity emergency declared by the Bank of Canada. Younger employees face heightened anxiety and stress, exacerbated by societal changes and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Understanding the burnout epidemic

The survey methodology employed by TELUS Health involves a representative sample of 3,000 Canadian workers who participate in an online questionnaire once or twice a month. This comprehensive approach allows researchers to assess mental health and well-being on a scale from zero to 100, with lower scores indicating poorer mental health. In addition to regular assessments, the survey explores specific issues such as burnout and the impact of artificial intelligence (AI).

"Our findings reveal that burnout is not just about excessive workloads," explains Allen. "It's also influenced by personal demands and the work environment. Younger workers are particularly vulnerable due to higher sensitivity to stress and feelings of isolation, especially those who started their careers during the pandemic without the usual support systems."

The report shows that nearly half of all workers feel overwhelmed by their workload, with younger employees disproportionately affected. This demographic also faces greater challenges in establishing trust and social connections, which are essential buffers against stress.

AI: A potential solution

Despite these challenges, there is a silver lining. The TELUS report indicates optimism about the role of AI in the workplace, with 33% of workers anticipating a positive impact on their industry. This sentiment is especially strong among younger workers and managers.

"We're seeing a significant number of employees, particularly younger ones, considering upgrading their AI-related skills," says Allen. "Nearly 17% of workers are looking to enhance their capabilities in this area. AI has the potential to streamline tasks and reduce the burden of repetitive work, which could alleviate some of the pressures contributing to burnout."

AI's potential benefits extend to various sectors, with nearly half of the respondents believing it will positively impact healthcare. However, Allen cautions that the integration of AI must be managed carefully to avoid exacerbating workloads.

"AI should be used to lighten the workload, not increase it," she emphasizes. "Employers need to ensure that the adoption of AI tools doesn't lead to higher quotas and accelerated work pace, which could negate its benefits for mental health."

Moving forward: Strategies for employers

To mitigate burnout and support employee well-being, the TELUS report suggests several strategies for employers:

  • Workload management: Prioritize tasks and allow employees more control over their schedules.
  • Recognition and support: Provide recognition and emphasize the value and purpose of employees' work.
  • Flexibility and counseling: Offer flexible work arrangements and support services, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), to help employees balance work and personal demands.

"Employers have a crucial role in managing these challenges," says Allen. "By offering flexibility, recognizing employees' efforts, and providing robust support systems, they can help reduce burnout and improve overall mental health. The integration of AI, if done thoughtfully, can also play a significant role in creating a healthier, more sustainable work environment."