The aged care sector is under increasing pressure from the ageing population, both from a consumer perspective, as well as from the ageing of its own workforce.

With fewer younger people choosing aged care as a career option – there is an increasing shortfall in the workforce in this sector.1

This is a significant challenge as workforce is a critical component of improving outcomes for older Australians following the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Royal Commission).

COVID-19 impact on the aged care sector

COVID-19 has brought extra challenges to the aged care workforce.

Prior to the pandemic, the aged care sector faced staffing challenges including:

High levels of staff turnover and difficulty in attracting staff,2 due to factors such as low remuneration and limited career paths. COVID-19 has added to these challenges.

Restricted access to international talent, with migrants comprising a significant portion of the workforce, a resource pool now less available due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Increased community and media scrutiny during the pandemic, as well as the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and the challenges of the vaccination roll out for aged care workers has impacted staff morale and increased the mental load of the workforce.

Combined, these challenges create the perfect storm of an understaffed workforce where employees are exposed to stressful working environments, limited professional development opportunities, low remuneration and a heavy workload.3

These job demands are, unsurprisingly, creating preconditions for employee burnout which in turn pose risks to the successful provision of quality care, as well as the capacity of aged care providers to meet the requirements set out in the Aged Care Quality Standards.

Understanding job demands

Job demands are the aspects of a job that require sustained physical or psychological effort.

These place strain and pressure on employees at work and, if not balanced with job resources or rest, will lead to exhaustion and potential burnout. Burnout is a 'state of exhaustion and disengagement'5 that occurs after experiencing prolonged workplace stress, and the aged care workforce is primed to suffer it.

Burnout can lead to employee performance issues,6 with research demonstrating an effect of up to 22 per cent decrease in staff output.7

The economic value of burnout in a workforce is substantial, with estimates of the costs to organisations and the economy ranging from $5.3 billion8 to $10.11 billion9 per annum through absenteeism and presenteeism.

This is without factoring in turnover, which is 87 per cent more likely in companies with moderate-to-severe burnout10 and costs up to 200 per cent of an employee’s wage.11

Predicting staff burnout

The following demands, many of which are evident within aged care, strongly predict staff burnout12,13

Work overload: a chronic and unsustainable amount of work with no opportunity to have rest.

Time pressure: an actual, or perceived, lack of time for completing required work tasks.

Role conflict: conflicting demands, unreasonable job pressures and incompatible requests.

Emotional labour: having to display an emotion that is not actually felt, or suppressing emotions.

Change-related stress: psychological uncertainty from rapid changes.

Lack of resources: lack of job aspects that support engagement; e.g. autonomy and feedback.

Staff burnout can be characterised by three main symptoms:

Cynicism: an indifference or a distant attitude towards one's work.

Exhaustion: feelings of physical and emotional resource depletion.

Inefficacy: reduced feelings of competence in one's work.

Workforce resilience is quantifiable and actionable

Resolving the root causes of burnout.

A structured approach that places the onus on an organisation to support employee resilience, rather than the individual, can help address burnout and build workforce resilience. Understanding the current risk of burnout and its root causes is fundamental to designing effective interventions.

This approach helps ensure:

  • the root causes, rather than the symptoms, of burnout are resolved
  • an immediate effect on resilience can be realised, instead of depending on individual growth
  • sustained impacts are possible, as progress is not dependent on individual commitment.

Applying a structured approach

A structured approach can help to answer these important questions:

Assess the current state

  • Where are employees experiencing burnout in the organisation?
  • Which job demands are placing the greatest risk to workforce resilience?
  • What resources can be provided to protect employee resilience?

Research-validated questionnaires can be deployed to understand the presence, severity and location of burnout within the organisation to inform focused action.

Explore root causes

  • Why are employees experiencing burnout?
  • What do the job demands and resources look like in each organisation’s context?

Qualitative techniques can unpack questionnaire findings, to help understand and clearly define the root causes of employee burnout in each organisation.

Identify the right interventions

  • How can you eliminate the major organisational drivers of burnout?
  • Which interventions are going to have the greatest impact on building workforce resilience?

Interventions can be tailored to address the root causes of burnout. Interventions will be unique to the organisation’s context but may include job redesign, capability uplift, process review and improvement, and channels and tools for social connection.

Take action

Building workforce resilience in aged care.

The aged care sector has many demands that place stress and strain on the workers who are ultimately responsible for the care and wellbeing of our elderly.

Well-being interventions have traditionally focused on building an individual’s resilience – treating the symptoms rather than the root-cause issues that drive employee burnout.

Building workforce resilience in aged care by adopting an enterprise and environment-focused approach; one that removes troubling job demands and affords the workforce adequate job resources that can buffer employees from stress and strain.

KPMG assists clients on their organisational change and transformation. We help you identify issues and work collaboratively with you to design how you respond.

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KPMG aged care insights

Insights related to aged care in Australia and the Aged Care Royal Commission.

  1. Hodgkin, S., Warburton, J., Savy, P., & Moore, M. (2017). Workforce crisis in residential aged care: insights from rural, older workers. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 76(1), 93-105.
  2. Martin, W., & King, D. (2008). Who cares for older Australians? A picture of the residential and community based aged care workforce.
  3. Productivity Commission, 2011. Caring for Older Australians. (Report No. 53). Canberra
  4. Rachel, H., & Francesco, S. (2018). Factors associated with and impact of burnout in nursing and residential home care workers for the elderly. Acta Bio Medica: Atenei Parmensis, 89(Suppl 7), 60.
  5. Demerouti, E., Mostert, K., & Bakker, A. B. (2010). Burnout and work engagement: a thorough investigation of the independency of both constructs. Journal of occupational health psychology, 15(3), 209
  6. O.C. Tanner Institute, 2020. Global Culture Report. Accessed from:
  7. O.C. Tanner Institute, 2020. Global Culture Report. Accessed from:
  8. Safe Work Australia, Cost of work-related injury and disease for Australian employers, workers and the community: 2008–09, Safe Work Australia, Canberra, 2012a
  9. Econtech, The Cost of Workplace Stress in Australia, Medibank Private Limited, 2008. Available at:
  10. O.C. Tanner Institute, 2020. Global Culture Report. Accessed from:
  11. Allen, D. G. (2008). Retaining talent: A guide to analyzing and managing employee turnover. SHRM Foundations
  12. Fragoso, Z. L., Holcombe, K. J., McCluney, C. L., Fisher, G. G., McGonagle, A. K., & Friebe, S. J. (2016). Burnout and engagement: Relative importance of predictors and outcomes in two health care worker samples. Workplace Health & Safety, 64(10), 479-487.
  13. Suleiman-Martos, N., Albendín-García, L., Gómez-Urquiza, J. L., Vargas-Román, K., Ramirez-Baena, L., Ortega-Campos, E., ... & Emilia, I. (2020). Prevalence and predictors of burnout in midwives: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(2), 641.