Understanding mental health among public servants during the COVID-19 pandemic

As governments adjust their operations to respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic, it is clear that investments in the government workforce can have meaningful impacts on how, how well, and to whom services are delivered. At the State and local level in the U.S., some public servants are seeing their caseloads sky-rocket, others are being redeployed to new positions on the front line, while others still are adapting to the new demands of teleworking. 

We’re interested in measuring the predictors of burnout, anxiety, and compassion fatigue during crises. We administered a series of online surveys (n=6,150) distributed to all government workers in one mid-sized city and a State government agency in April and May 2020.  

We found that 1 in 3 public servants are burnt out, 1 in 4 report moderate to severe anxiety, and 1 in 5 are experiencing compassion fatigue. Perceiving government as the place to make a difference, and perceiving co-workers as caring and competent is negatively associated with psychological distress. Conversely, perceiving poverty as systemic, and not due to individual factors, is associated with higher distress during the pandemic.


Policy Brief:
Government Workers & COVID-19
Media Coverage:
A Burnout Crisis Hits Government

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