Pandemic pushing Aussies to the limit: Australians are the most burnt out in the world

- September 13, 2021 3 MIN READ

A global study by Adecco has revealed Australian workers are the most burnt out in the world with more than half (53 per cent) saying they had suffered from burnout over the past year.

The positives and negatives of virtual work

While burnout may be a problem during the pandemic, there have been some positive outcomes.

The overall findings show Australia’s shift to virtual work in the past year has been positive for office workers, with 70 per cent saying they are happier in their job following the changes to working life.

Productivity has also survived the shift to hybrid work, with 60 per cent saying their productivity has improved since this time last year.

However, increasing overwork coupled with a sense of ‘worker disconnect’ is driving high levels of exhaustion and burnout.

Preeti Bajaj, CEO of The Adecco Group Australia, said the numbers show burnout could become Australia’s new national pandemic unless leaders proactively drive a culture prioritising the mental and emotional wellbeing of workers.


Country % workers suffering burnout in last 12 months
Australia 53%
Italy 49%
China 41%
Canada 40%
Spain 39%
USA 38%
UK 37%
France 34%
Switzerland 34%
Germany 27%
Japan 20%

Table 1: Country rankings of burnout among office workers 

“Australian office workers have risen to the challenge of remote working – many of us are now happier in our jobs and more productive. Unfortunately, the numbers also show that overwork is increasingly common. Some are finding it more challenging to switch off at the end of the day or are feeling emotionally and motivationally cut off while at work,” she said.

According to the research, almost half of Australian respondents (46%) worked an average of more than 40 hours a week over the last year. The research also shows that more than 1 in 10 Australians (12%) feel their workload has worsened in the last 12 months.

To add to the issue, 13% of Australians feel their job motivation has become worse, while almost 2 in 10 (16%) say their sense of team culture and morale has deteriorated.

Cultural change can help stave off burnout

Bajaj said the impact of working throughout the pandemic continues to be felt.

“Virtual work has so many positives but we are all still learning to adjust for the ways it changes our interactions, emotions and motivations at work. Working virtually means we are perpetually connected but in many ways the workforce has never felt more alienated. People thrive on positive social interaction and cooperation which, up to recently, has usually happened in person,” she said.

In addition to the worker disconnect, the research suggests reduced physical visibility at work is also creating stress and could be driving behaviours causing burnout.

Burnout raising stress levels

For example, more than half (53 per cent) of Australians are concerned that remote working may be used as a reason to reduce their pay, while half (50 pr cent) say working remotely makes them feel less comfortable about taking time off sick.

Ms Bajaj suggests that reduced physical visibility could see employees working harder to ‘prove their value’ to employers.

“The worry for many employees working virtually is that they are out of sight and out of mind. Leaders have a responsibility to proactively encourage a culture where all employees feel visible even if they are working remotely, and their contributions are acknowledged and appreciated,” she said.

According to Bajaj, the research shows it is more important than ever for companies to measure success by more than just profit.

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