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Pre-pandemic working conditions contribute to mass burnout and fatigue


1 December 2020 at 8:00 am
Maggie Coggan
One in five NFP workers were not taking good care of themselves before the pandemic, new research shows  


Maggie Coggan | 1 December 2020 at 8:00 am


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Pre-pandemic working conditions contribute to mass burnout and fatigue
1 December 2020 at 8:00 am

One in five NFP workers were not taking good care of themselves before the pandemic, new research shows  

Burnout and fatigue among social sector workers has steadily risen during the pandemic, but an overwhelming number of workers believe their pre-COVID working conditions are partly to blame. 

The latest release of The Xfactor Collective’s RESET 2020 National Impact+Need research has revealed that nearly half of all workers surveyed are often or always stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed.  

While the pandemic has played a large part in this, 80 per cent reported that the pre-pandemic ways of working contributed. 

Wellbeing indicators from before COVID-19 found nearly one in five workers were not taking good care of themselves, 16 per cent felt their workload was unachievable, and one in 10 were overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed.

Julia Keady, the CEO of The Xfactor Collective, told Pro Bono News that the high levels of stress and burnout before the pandemic were unacceptable, but they were now entering urgent territory.  

“To me, the pre-pandemic level of self-sacrifice was not sustainable, nor was it acceptable, but it was tolerated as part of the job,” Keady said. 

“Now, we are into the 40 to 45 per cent area and that can be a runaway train if we’re not careful,” Keady said. 

She said that burnout could take years to fix, and needed to be kept an eye on.  

“If we burn out our people, we stand the risk of losing some of the best and brightest people on the planet, who get up everyday to make the world safer, more inclusive and more equitable. Losing these people is not negotiable,” she said. 

The survey found that 38 per cent of people are working longer hours, compared to 17 per cent in May 2020, with less volunteer support (23 per cent of organisations lost volunteers due to illness/caring responsibilities since June 2020), and less income (58 per cent have had a decline in revenue since June 2020).

Funded by Equity Trustees, this research follows the first part of the National Impact+Need Research Study, which looked at the early impacts of the pandemic on the sector. 

Jodi Kennedy, the general manager of trusts and philanthropy at Equity Trustees, said they were able to track the ongoing and evolving impacts of the pandemic against a June 2020 baseline, and it was clear that the sector was now at a “real tipping point”. 

“We have the opportunity to reconsider how we work, how we better support one another so that we can ensure we are there for those who need the sector’s support,” Kennedy said. 

Both of the RESET 2020 data sets are available for free for users in Seer data platform, with organisations able to extract tailored insights to use in funding and advocacy efforts in 2021. 


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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