As long as underlying problems remain, such as ad agencies accepting lower pay, then cutting or underpaying qualified workers, extra time off will remain an appreciated but inadequate stopgap, Ms. Reyes said.
The pandemic exacerbated many of the issues that fuel burnout, such as excess workload, lack of autonomy, absence of positive feedback, a weak sense of community and worries about unfairness, experts said.
“People keep framing burnout as an individual problem,” said Christina Maslach, an emerita professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who has spent much of her career studying occupational burnout. “If you’re really going to try and make a dent in the problem and get to a better place, you’re going to have to not just focus on the people and fix them, you have to focus on the job conditions and fix those as well.”
In retail, hospitality, restaurants and other understaffed and lower paid industries, companywide weeks off are hard to pull off. Instead, to try to cajole workers back as the economy reopens, some service-centered companies are offering free tuition and free hotel rooms — though not necessarily more pay.
Other businesses are experimenting with options like “Zoom-free Fridays” (Citigroup) and blocked emails on weekends (GroupM, a media investment company). Hewlett Packard Enterprise gave employees free accounts on the Headspace meditation app and the option for new parents to work part-time for up to three years.
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where staff-wide breaks for decompression are unrealistic, is just trying to listen to its staff. Surveys of employees have found that one of the top demands from workers is to feel valued for their efforts during the pandemic.
In the advertising world, some executives are pushing for a coordinated summer hiatus, much like the winter holidays. An industrywide week off could ease the pressure on employees to continue catering to clients or work-related tasks during their time away, said Neal Arthur, the chief operating officer at Wieden and Kennedy.