Grant Thornton survey: Half of employees note mental health as top cause of burnout


—53% of respondents indicated mental and emotional stress as a top reason for burnout

—38% named benefits as a reason they stay at their current organization

—51% prefer to work onsite 4-5 days a week

—42% said that face-to-face collaboration would entice them to go to the office


CHICAGO — Grant Thornton LLP, one of America’s largest audit, tax and advisory firms, has released its third survey in a series exploring the latest trends in employee attitudes, desires and concerns. The firm’s 2023 State of Work in America survey engaged 5,000 full-time employees of U.S. companies, and its findings revealed the mental and emotional toll the national economic environment has taken on workers.  


According to the survey, which was fielded in the first quarter of 2023, well over half (61%) of survey respondents have experienced burnout in the past year. When asked the cause of burnout at work, 53% of respondents indicated mental and emotional stress as the top reason. Long hours (42%), workload (42%) and people shortages (41%) followed closely behind as other top causes of burnout.


The survey also polled employees about their well-being and how it has changed in the past 12 months. Just over a quarter (26%) of respondents noted a worsening state of financial well-being, while another 25% cited worsening of mental well-being. Additionally, 21% of survey respondents explained their physical well-being worsened over the past year.


“Mental and physical well-being concerns are top of mind for employees,” said Angela Nalwa, People & Organization practice leader and managing director at Grant Thornton. “When an organization embraces a culture of well-being, it translates into employees performing at their highest level.”




Benefits aid in employee retention, but people shortages are causing strain


The survey also indicated that a good way to retain talent is by providing the right benefits. According to the latest data, 38% of respondents named benefits as a top reason they’re staying at their current place of employment. Another 35% chose base pay as a top reason to stay, while 24% selected job security.


When asked about employee benefit offerings, 74% of workers said they were well-informed about their company’s benefits. But being well-informed doesn’t always help separate companies from the pack. When asked how unique their current benefits are, fewer than half (48%) of respondents said they agree or completely agree their benefits are different from what another employer would provide.


“Companies should view this data point with a sense of opportunity,” said Kim Jacoby, a People & Organization director at Grant Thornton. “Tailoring a total rewards package that stands out from competitors’ offerings could be a differentiator in attracting and retaining talent.”


The effect of people shortages has also had a significant impact on employee strain as indicated by the survey. In fact, out of the 20 different areas to choose from, people shortages ranked as the top stressor. Length of workday/week and work/life balance rounded out the top three. That shortage of workers is likely causing a compound effect, where employees take on additional workload from vacant roles, which in turn causes increased stress.




Employees find value in returning to the office, but flexibility is key


Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic period, many employees preferred to work from home, even after returning to the office no longer presented a health threat.


The survey saw a trend back to pre-pandemic in-office work, as those wanting to work completely at home fell to just 16% and those wanting to work 1-2 days a week represented only 15%. Interestingly, just over half (51%) of respondents prefer to work 4-5 days in the office, which is up from 33% last year and represents a huge shift in employee mindset from the previous surveys.


The data also suggested that employees are starting to see the benefits of coming in, whether it be for their own well-being or to be better connected to their colleagues and leaders. When asked about the attraction of in-office work, 42% of U.S. workers expressed the desire for more face-to-face collaboration with coworkers, noting its benefit of fostering working relationships and improving job performance.


However, employees are still finding remote work beneficial. In fact, 42% noted the better work/life balance that remote work offers them, while 59% indicated that their organization’s culture had been positively impacted by the increased flexibility of a hybrid model.


“The workforce is still in transition mode,” said Margaret Belden, People & Organization director at Grant Thornton. “Employees want flexibility to work when and where they want, but also are being attracted to the modernized opportunities organizations are creating in the office space.”


As much as there is an increase in desire to return to in-office work, the survey indicated the ideal number of days in the office for employees still lags behind the amount of in-office time leaders want them there. A significant majority of employees said they want flexibility when it comes to work. When asked to pinpoint where that flexibility should happen, 64% of employees noted the desire to be able to choose when and where to work, while 32% expressed a need for flexible start and stop times, and another 31% said they’re interested in fewer days with longer hours.


“Leaders need to respond to employees by addressing their personal and professional needs,” said Jacoby. “That’s how you create a highly engaged workforce fueled by mutual loyalty.”


To see additional findings from Grant Thornton’s 2023 State of Work in America survey, visit



About Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton” is the brand for two professional-services entities: Grant Thornton LLP, a licensed, certified public accounting (CPA) firm that provides audit and assurance services ― and Grant Thornton Advisors LLC (not a licensed CPA firm), which exclusively provides non-attest offerings, including tax and advisory services. With revenues of $2.4 billion for the fiscal year that ended July 31, 2023, and dozens of offices nationwide, Grant Thornton represents a community of more than 9,000 problem solvers, relationship builders, and industry specialists who know that how we serve matters as much as what we do.


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