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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
A structured approach can help to answer these important questions:
Assess the current state
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
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
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.
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.
Insights related to aged care in Australia and the Aged Care Royal Commission.