Why Am I Still Doing Three Jobs?

With hiring ramping up and business normalizing, many workers are wondering when they can give up the extra duties they assumed in 2020.

Sprinkled amidst this week’s town hall Zoom call were a lot of old faces rehired by the company after being laid off during the pandemic. There were also a few new ones who took turns introducing themselves. Combined, the team was back to full strength. Yet, you are still carrying out the additional responsibilities thrust onto your role at the beginning of the pandemic. 

This is a familiar scenario for many people who took on multiple roles amid the mass layoffs and lockdowns of last year. While business and the economy have for the most part normalized, their workloads haven’t—and they aren’t happy about it. It’s a tipping point leaders have seen during the recession, digital disruption, and other crises, says Mark Royal, senior director for Korn Ferry Advisory. Employee energy rises at the beginning of a crisis as people rally together for the greater good, says Royal, but as time goes on that energy wanes, leading to burnout and a feeling they aren’t appreciated. “That’s what a lot of organizations are facing now,” he says. 

Part of the frustration people feel stems from the fact that the numbers just don’t add up. In March, the economy added nearly one million new jobs. The unemployment rate has fallen from its pandemic high in the low teens to 6.1% while the labor participation rate is up, meaning more people are working.

At the same time, however, people are still working, on average, 10% longer per day than pre-pandemic, according to multiple studies. Survey after survey shows remote work leading to increased burnout, stress, and other mental health issues. And more people are looking to leave their current jobs because they are overworked—41% of people responding to a recent Microsoft survey said they may quit their jobs this year. As Linda Hyman, Korn Ferry’s executive vice president of global human resources, puts it, “Right now most people would be happy to give up a role or two.”

Figuring out how to do that is the hard part, however. It’s not like you can just tell your boss to assign your work to someone else or to go out and hire more people. Moreover, your boss may see more opportunities for you by staying in that expanded role. One approach, says Royal, is to identify the responsibilities you are still willing to take on that would most help the team and contribute to personal development opportunities in return for offloading some less critical tasks. 

While managers are cognizant of the stress employees are under, they too have to tread carefully when seeking ways to offload responsibilities. There are those ambitious, motivated, overachievers who are looking to use the expanded responsibilities as a springboard to bigger, more lucrative positions. “Those people may view relieving them of additional roles as a penalty,” says Andy De Marco, Korn Ferry’s vice president of human resources for the Americas. He says it’s important for managers to frame any handoff of duties for this group of people in a “came, saw conquered” fashion with tangible developmental goals for what’s next. 

As vaccinations ramp up and hiring increases, experts say organizations will be better served designing job roles and responsibilities through an enterprise rather than an individual lens. Hyman says there’s an opportunity for leaders and employees to work together to rethink how roles should be allocated and what structures are the most sustainable. “I expect to see a lot of creativity and innovation from both sides in terms of accountabilities and responsibilities for roles,” she says.