Burnout on the Rise: Work-Life Balance in the U.S. during COVID-19

Lauren Thomas

October 21, 2021

Key Findings

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Acuity Insurance and Digital Prospectors top Glassdoor’s list of companies that are highly rated for work-life balance according to U.S.-based employee Glassdoor reviews, with Sprout Social rounding out the top three. 
  • Of the 20 highest-rated companies for work-life balance, seven are in tech, which is the most represented industry on the list. Other companies that are highly rated for work-life balance span diverse industries, including retail, insurance, finance, real estate and more. 
  • The percentage of reviews discussing burnout jumped 100 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, while the proportion of employees mentioning mental health on Glassdoor increased by 143 percent.

For the last 18 months, COVID-19 disrupted the workforce and forced employees to abruptly transition to working from home. Although measures were initially intended to be temporary, many companies have evolved to improve work-life balance for their employees in this new environment. And although work-life balance varies for everyone, some companies are taking meaningful steps by introducing permanent flexible or work-from-home policies, allowing employees to have more autonomy over their own schedule or encouraging employees to use more paid time off during the pandemic. As the line blurs between home and work, which companies are really the best when it comes to work-life balance?

Companies Leading in Work-Life Balance According to Employees

To find out how COVID-19 has impacted workers, Glassdoor data reveals the highest rated companies for work-life balance, according to those who know best: employees. To conduct this research, we analyzed millions of reviews on Glassdoor from full-time U.S.-based employees from March 15, 2020, through September 28, 2021. The table below shows the 20 highest-rated companies for work-life balance in the U.S. during this time period.

Table 1: 20 Highest-Rated Companies for Work-Life Balance During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Employees at Acuity Insurance particularly emphasized the company’s flexibility, with over a quarter of all reviews in this time period praising the company’s flexible working policies, which allow its employees to take time off later if they work more hours earlier in the week. Other reviews highlighted the company’s generous work-from-home policies, implemented in response to the pandemic. As one employee puts it, “Acuity truly embraces work-life balance: it’s not just jargon.”

Many of the reviews from the other highest-rated companies mention the policies put in place to support work-life balance, including flexible schedules available at companies like South Carolina Federal Credit Union, the ability to work from anywhere in the world at eXp Realty and unlimited paid time off for employees at Asana, Box, Ryan, LLC, KnowBe4 and many others.

A diverse range of industries are represented among the 20 companies including tech, finance, nonprofit, retail, real estate, accounting, education and government, reassuring job seekers that they can still find strong work-life balance across industries — no matter their field of work.

Notable Industries for Work-Life Balance During COVID-19

To go one step further, we also looked at the average work-life balance rating by industry from the Glassdoor reviews left during the pandemic. Table 2 below shows the industries where employees can maintain the best work-life balance, while Table 3 below shows those industries rated the lowest on this measure. Unsurprisingly, the tech industry topped the list, as many tech companies quickly responded to the disruption caused by COVID-19. The tech industry was already equipped for a smooth transition, historically offering flexible work-from-home policies, greater autonomy for workers and the ability to carry out most work on a portable laptop.

Other professional industries with less remote work flexibility, like retail, restaurants and transportation & logistics, were rated lower for work-life balance. An interesting exception for retailers is car dealerships. Both CarShop and Bergstrom Automotive, commonly praised by employees for their “family”-like atmosphere, ranked among the 20 highest-rated companies for work-life balance during COVID-19. 

Notably, the tables also show that the average work-life balance rating for each industry is much lower than the highest-rated individual companies, demonstrating that the particular company you work for matters far more than industry when it comes to finding work-life balance. 

Table 2: Highest Rated Industries for Work-Life Balance During the COVID-19 Pandemic

RankingIndustry NameAverage Work-Life Balance Rating
2Real Estate3.8
3Aerospace & Defense3.8
Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (www.glassdoor.com/research)

Table 3: Lowest Rated Industries for Work-Life Balance During the COVID-19 Pandemic

RankingIndustry NameAverage Work-Life Balance Rating
2Restaurants, Bars & Food Services3.1
3Transportation & Logistics3.1
4Arts, Entertainment & Recreation3.3
Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (www.glassdoor.com/research)

Employees Are Increasingly Burned Out

We also looked at the percentage of reviews each month mentioning reflecting employees being burned out before and during the pandemic. Chart 1 below shows the percentage of all reviews that mention the words “burnout” or “mental health,” which increased sharply in the months after the onset of COVID-19. The proportion of all reviews discussing burnout surged 100 percent, from 0.20 percent in February of 2020, before the pandemic in the U.S., to 0.40 percent in September 2021. 

The rise in mental health discussion is even more stark. Soon after the start of COVID-19 in the U.S., a spike in mental health discussion appeared in Glassdoor reviews, followed by a steady increase throughout 2021. Overall, reviews discussing mental health considerably increased 143 percent, from 0.23 percent in February 2020 to 0.56 percent in September 2021.

Chart 1: Percentage of Glassdoor Reviews Discussing Burnout & Mental Health

Chart 2 below shows the sentiment of reviews, defined as the difference between the percentage of positive and the percentage of negative reviews mentioning either term. The chart shows that most mentions of burnout have been consistently negative, indicating that many employees are experiencing increasing dissatisfaction with how their employers are addressing burnout. 

Mentions of mental health have followed a different trajectory. Immediately after the start of the pandemic in the U.S., the sentiment was positive, with many employees praising their employers’ for offering extra PTO or providing mental health resources. However, this initial positive spike was followed by an increase in negative mentions of mental health, particularly throughout 2021.

Chart 2: Sentiment of Glassdoor Reviews Discussing Burnout and Mental Health


Many of the companies that are highly rated on Glassdoor for work-life balance have supported their employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by offering innovative policies like working from anywhere, unlimited PTO and flexible working schedules. This is particularly important because many employees are experiencing burnout, adjusting to a newly buoyant job market and quitting their jobs en masse as the “Great Resignation” continues. The companies on this list have risen to the top of their respective industries, serving as a healthy reminder that prioritizing work-life balance in your job search isn’t taboo, and there are plenty of companies today that are making conscientious efforts to improve employees’ experiences.


This research was compiled using Glassdoor reviews from current and former U.S.-based full-time employees between March 15, 2020, and September 28, 2021. 

To rank individual companies based on work-life balance ratings, Table 1 only includes companies with at least 75 work-life balance ratings between March 15, 2020 and September 28, 2021.

To measure employee sentiment and discussion of work-life balance related topics, we look at reviews posted between September 1, 2019, and September 28, 2021 that include "mental health" or "burnout" keywords. We designate reviews that mention these keywords in the "Pros" section as having positive sentiment, and conversely, designate reviews using these keywords in the "Cons" section as negative.

Newsletter Signup

Sign up to receive updates from the Economic Research Team.