Australian workers are feeling burnt out and overwhelmed by their work but feel like they can’t take their annual leave, according to a new study.

The latest Elmo Software Quarterly Employee Sentiment Index report, covering July to September 2022, reveals how 1,000 Australian workers are feeling about their jobs, workplace and economy, and compares this to previous quarters.

The study found that 42 percent of Australian workers surveyed were feeling burnt out at work, while one-third were feeling overwhelmed because of their job.

To compound this, three-quarters of the surveyed Australian workers accruing annual leave had a reason that was stopping them from taking a break with this leave.

For more than a quarter of these people, their workload was too large for them to take some time off.

“Allowing annual leave accrual to blow out not only impacts an organisation’s bottom line, but it is a significant liability on the books, potentially costing Australian businesses millions of dollars,” Elmo co-founder and CEO Danny Lessem said.

“What’s more, taking leave is crucial for employees’ wellbeing. The damaging impact of burnout, with its flow-on effects to productivity and performance, would be unnerving to quantify.”

Employers need to understand why their workers don’t feel like they can take leave, and urgently take steps to rectify this, Lessem said.

“Mandating employees to take a significant portion of their annual leave, encouraging them to enjoy a well-earned break and look after their mental health and wellbeing is paramount,” he said.

Nearly a quarter of the surveyed workers had accrued more than the yearly annual level entitlement of 20 days, while 13 percent had banked up more than two months’ worth.

The average employee surveyed had 23.8 days of leave accrued.

This differed along age lines, with older employees having more leave up their sleeves.

On average, baby boomers and Gen Xers had double or triple the amount of annual and personal leave compared with the Gen Zs and Millennials surveyed.

The number of people taking sick days however is still 10 percent higher than the same quarter in 2021.

The survey also found that 64 percent of workers are choosing to continue working from home in order to save money, with more than a third saying that free breakfast or catered lunches would entice them back into the office.

The stability of an organisation has now taken over flexibility and remote working as a main priority for workers, ranking in second overall.

Managers are increasingly looking to draw their workers back into the office.

Another recent study found that a third of surveyed managers wanted their employees back in the office full-time because they believe they’re more efficient when being watched.

But the same study found that 42 percent of workers would consider quitting their current job if they were forced back into the office.

A recent report found that up to two million Australians are considering quitting their job in the next year, with the full impact of the pandemic on the workplace yet to be felt.

The Elmo study found that, on average, Australians worked 33.4 hours per week in the third quarter, the highest amount for the whole year.

More than 40 percent of workers are encouraged by the economy to search for a new job, while nearly 20 percent actively searched for a new role in the quarter, the highest levels of the year so far.

“It’s been a challenging year for everyone, and as we move into planning for 2023, people management processes and solutions should be reviewed with a lens that considers workloads, resourcing and project deliverables, yet prioritises simplification, efficiency and employee wellbeing,” Lessem said.

The pandemic has had an extraordinary impact on our relationship to work and the workplace.

The concept of a four-day working week for the same pay is picking up steam, with a trial currently underway in Australia and the Victorian government reportedly considering including a trial of the concept in the party’s platform for the upcoming election.