U.S. workers can’t keep their minds off work — especially if they’re higher-income, Pew study finds

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U.S. workers are having a hard time disconnecting from work, and that could be causing burnout, according to a new study by Pew Research Center.

The report, which interviewed more than 5,700 U.S. adults who are working full- or part-time about how the coronavirus pandemic affected their workplace and how they have adapted to remote work, revealed how some employees are not able to draw clear boundaries between work and home. 

While workplaces greatly vary by industry, location and occupation, which makes it “hard to generalize,” Kim Parker, director of social and demographics at Pew said, “these specific findings suggest that there is a significant share of workers who are feeling overworked and that is often correlated with job stress.”

“But it doesn’t necessarily mean people are unhappy at work,” she added.

Boundaries around responding to work calls and messages

More than half of U.S. workers said they respond to work emails or other messages outside of normal work hours, the Pew study found. 28% said that they do so “extremely often or often” and 27% said they do so “sometimes.” Only 33% said they rarely respond to work emails or messages outside of their hours.

Higher-income workers are more likely to have this problem of drawing boundaries between their work duties and their personal lives. 39% of workers with higher incomes reported doing so, versus 26% of middle-income workers, and 20% of lower-income workers.

The more educated workers are, the harder they find it to say no: 41% of workers with a postgraduate degree say they respond to messages outside of work hours extremely often or often, versus 31% of those with a bachelor’s, and 23% of those with some college or less education.

“Lower-income workers and those without a four-year college degree are more likely than those with middle and upper incomes and those with at least a bachelor’s degree to say they don’t receive emails or other messages from work outside of their work hours,” the authors added.

Not taking enough time off

U.S. workers were also limiting how much time they take off, despite having vacation days.

Among workers who said that their employer offers them paid time off for vacation, doctor’s visits, or other reasons, only 48% said they take all of the time off they get. Notably, 46% said they take less time off than they’re allowed.

Higher-income workers who had a bachelor’s degree or more were more likely to limit themselves: 51% of four-year college grads said they don’t take all their time off, versus 41% with less education.

Why do workers not take all the time off to which they’re entitled? 

“About half say they don’t feel they need to take more time off,” the authors said. 49% said they worried about falling behind at work if they took days off, and 43% say they would feel bad about their colleagues having to take on extra work.

Few, but a significant bunch, at 19%, said taking time off may hurt their chances for a promotion or advancement, and 16% said they were worried about losing their job if they took days off. 

“About one-in-ten (12%) say their manager or supervisor discourages them from taking time off,” the authors added.

But overall, “workers who say they don’t take all of their paid time off aren’t necessarily less satisfied with work,” Parker stressed. “But they are more likely than those who do take all their [paid time off] to say they find their job stressful. So, these things may be contributing to work stress but they’re not necessarily contributing to higher levels of dissatisfaction with work.”

Job satisfaction lower among certain groups

About half of workers in the U.S. said they are extremely or very satisfied with their job. 12% said they were not too or not at all satisfied with their job. 

Pew’s data suggests that younger, and lower-income workers felt the most unhappy at work. 

Adults younger than 30 were least likely to say they were extremely or very satisfied with their job overall at 44%, as compared to workers aged 65 and above, where 67% said they were satisfied.

Middle- and lower-income workers were also more likely to be unhappy at work, at 51% and 45% respectively, versus higher-income workers.

Read the full article here

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