A new pulse survey found that 41% of government workers surveyed in a February poll felt burnt out.

A new pulse survey found that 41% of government workers surveyed in a February poll felt burnt out. Carmen Martinez Torron / Getty Images

Burnout among government workers is decreasing but still high, according to new pulse survey data

Leader of the consulting firm that sponsored the poll says the burnout rate could cause public employees to leave their jobs.

Burnout among government employees has continued to steadily decline, according to new survey data, but researchers say it’s still at a concerning level. 

“I think that when government workers, in particular, are burnt out, they're less productive, less engaged and less innovative, and they're also more likely to leave their jobs, especially given that the opportunities in the private sector typically offer more pay,” said Melissa Jezior, the CEO of Arlington-based firm Eagle Hill Consulting, which sponsors the twice annual pulse survey. “So I think it's important to survey these people to help the government mitigate the risk of those things happening.” 

Forty-one percent of government workers surveyed in a February poll said they felt burnt out, which is a 24% decrease from roughly two years ago. Similarly, the poll found that 45% of U.S. employees in general reported feeling burnt out at work the same month. 

For government workers — which includes those at the federal, state and local levels —  48% of those experiencing burnout said a main cause is workload. This was followed by staff shortages and managing personal and professional life, both at 44%.

Jezior thinks the decrease in burnout for government employees can be partly attributed to the increase in public sector hiring. She pointed to the June Bureau of Labor Statistics report, which found that government employment has continued to trend up, with an average monthly growth over the past year of 52,000 jobs. 

“We’re starting to see some of the cause for burnout is being eliminated at its root,” she said. 

The market research firm Ipsos conducted the survey of approximately 1,250 U.S. employees, including 515 government workers. 

The majority of public employee respondents reported that increased flexibility, a four-day work week, decreased workload, better health and wellness benefits and working from home would alleviate their stress. 

The Biden administration has been pushing agencies to require employees to spend more time in-office. But Jezior doesn’t think this effort will necessarily increase burnout. 

“Bringing people together, I really think, does increase connection, which is also a great opportunity to decrease burnout,” she said. “But it also decreases people's flexibility or their perceived flexibility. So I think it's just [about] making those moves cautiously and thoughtfully.”

In a discussion last month with the Office of Personnel Management, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy urged federal leaders to balance telework with purposeful team building to promote personal connections. 

Among government employees who report burnout, 41% said they are not comfortable telling their manager. This is an increase from 2023 when it was 35%. Jezior encouraged government managers to normalize conversations about burnout. 

“If you create a better dialogue around burnout with your employees, I think you could get to finding a mutually-beneficial solution quicker,” she said. 

Eagle Hill’s report also found generational differences in public employee respondents experiencing burnout: 49% of Gen X and 42% of Millennials compared to 36% of Gen Z and 27% of Baby Boomers. 

Also, 64% of those surveyed who work for the government said that technology changes in the coming year likely would not impact their stress.

These survey results mirror other polling data. According to the analytics firm Gallup in March, about one in four government workers report “very often” or “always” feeling burned out at work, with another two in five “sometimes” feeling that way. 

For the workforce in general, the Society for Human Resources Management reported at the end of April that 44% of U.S. employees feel burned out at work.