One third of Australian workers say pandemic burnout caused them to resign, according to new research

One third of Australian workers say pandemic burnout caused them to resign, according to new research
Sydney's CBD is all but empty. (Speed Media, Icon Sportswire)
  • Amid mounting fears a ‘Great Resignation’ could hit Australian workplaces, new research seeks to better understand employee sentiment as the country moves out of lockdowns.
  • New data suggests burnout from working from home is a key reason employees plan to leave their jobs.
  • Longer hours, combined with a loss of division between work and home, drove experiences of burnout globally since the start of the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

As Australian business anxiously eye what has been dubbed ‘the Great Resignation’ in the US, new data suggests burnt out employees are most likely to hand in their notice. 

Conducted by ASX-listed employee wellbeing platform Limeade, new research suggests that while Australians are not quitting at the same rates as their U.S. counterparts, burnout and a sense their workplaces failed to support them during lockdowns are driving a local exodus.

In recent months, the US has seen millions of workers quit their jobs, with four million exiting the workforce in July alone according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics — a rate that marks a two-decade high.

While widespread, the movement is showing up more dramatically among mid-career workers, along with those in tech and healthcare jobs. 

And data from HR platform Employment Hero suggests a similar phenomenon may unfold in Australia, with a survey finding two in five Australians are getting ready to leave their current roles within six months. 

Burnout a leading cause of resignations

Limeade’s survey found the strain of working longer hours from home during pandemic lockdowns was the top reason they left their job. 

The platform, which surveyed 500 Australian-based full-time employees who work at companies with 500 or more employees, recorded that 29% of respondents said burnout from the last 18 months of working from home was the key reason they resigned. 

Over 37% of respondents said they were leaving their workplace without another job lined up. 

It follows similar research indicating how longer hours, combined with a loss of division between work and home, drove experiences of burnout globally since the start of the pandemic.

A recent survey of workers across 25 countries, including 1,000 in Australia, found Australian office workers are the most burnt out in the world, ahead of Italy, China, Canada, the US and the UK. 

More than half of the Australian respondents said they suffered from burnout in the last 12 months, with 52% admitting they’ve taken time off due to mental health concerns during pandemic lockdowns. 

Similar research from LinkedIn found 52% of office workers have taken time off during the pandemic to support their mental wellbeing.

Pay and wellbeing top reasons to stay 

After years of slow wage growth, the pandemic has offered new negotiating power to those in in-demand sectors like tech. 

Border closures have given some tech workers six-figure raises, with one in three reporting they expect to see a 10% raise if they change jobs. 

Examining the risks to organisations from the changing power dynamics of the labour market, research conducted by consulting firm PwC found that while there was a spike in those reporting they planned to leave their jobs, remuneration and wellbeing remained the two key reasons employees stayed. 

Its survey of more than 1,800 Australians aimed to clarify what workers valued during a period of change in labour market sentiment. The results showed pay and wellbeing were valued most highly by employees, with 25% and 22% of respondents respectively saying they were the key factors that determined whether they would stay at their current workplace.

Dr Ben Hamer, future of work lead at PwC Australia, said the shift toward power for employees was driving Australian workers to follow those in the U.S. toward a similar surge in resignations. 

“This phenomenon will be in full swing by March 2022, driven by market stability, increased consumer confidence, the likely softening of interstate borders, and the usual post-summer holiday recruitment activity,” Hamer said. 

He said that as competition for talent intensifies, companies would need to “identify what their workers really want”.