Close Search
News  |  CareersPeople and culture

Employee autonomy key to reducing burnout in the NFP sector

7 September 2022 at 3:12 pm
Ruby Kraner-Tucci
New research reveals that transitioning to a more autonomous workforce is critical to reducing the $11 billion cost of burnout and increasing engagement for NFPs.

Ruby Kraner-Tucci | 7 September 2022 at 3:12 pm


Employee autonomy key to reducing burnout in the NFP sector
7 September 2022 at 3:12 pm

New research reveals transitioning to a more autonomous workforce is critical to reducing the $11 billion cost of burnout and increasing engagement for NFPs. 

As the NFP industry continues to be challenged by burnout caused by COVID-19, new research from The Access Group suggests that an autonomous workplace that prioritises wellbeing and has a positive community impact is key to boosting staff engagement.

Burnout is officially recognised as an occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic workplace stress by the World Health Organisation, shifting the burden from individuals to organisations to address.

With the impacts of COVID-19 still ongoing, burnout has become a common experience for employees across all sectors, including NFPs – and it’s only getting worse.

The 2021 Australia and New Zealand Anatomy of Work Index report estimated that burnout cost organisations almost $11 billion last year alone, with key contributing factors including employees being overworked, feeling unable to disconnect from work and lacking rest.

Burnout has both economic and social implications as NFPs are forced to spend more on wellbeing-related services while experiencing high staff turnover, reduced productivity and low employee satisfaction.

According to The Access Group’s new Powering Profits and Prosperity report, NFPs are dominated by ‘command and control’ style working environments, which involves the organisation shaping the work of the employee.

In contrast, the report suggests prioritising an autonomous way of working, where employees shape their work to achieve the organisation’s goals, is key to increasing staff engagement and achieving sustainable, long-term growth.

President of The Access Group Asia Pacific Kerry Agiasotis believes it’s more important than ever for NFPs to understand what is making employees stay engaged, as the industry grapples with low staff retention and poor employee mental health.

“The pandemic truly shook our relationship with the workplace to the core. Not only did we change how we worked, we also re-evaluated why we work, and for what wider purpose,” says Agiasotis.

“Employees are now more driven towards workplaces that align with their own values and have a purpose that goes beyond chasing growth at all costs. Giving employees a space to follow their passion within the workplace helps staff feel part of something bigger,” he continues. 

On average, the report revealed that organisations employing an autonomous working style delivered 13 per cent better results in areas including customer loyalty, staff retention, community reputation and financial performance.

Autonomous workers are also more likely to be engaged and satisfied, willing to go above and beyond at work and remain at their organisation for longer.

As well as seeking autonomy, Australians are increasingly pursuing workplaces that have a wider social impact, which bodes well for the NFP sector. 

While almost 70 per cent of respondents rated a good salary and job security as highly important, a similar number (65 per cent) valued having rewarding, meaningful work that offers opportunity for growth.

Additionally, a majority of respondents want to see organisations prioritise staff wellbeing (56 per cent) and have a positive impact on the wider community (53 per cent).

“Salary will always be important, but our research shows that provided your people are paid fairly, employee experience is the primary driver in keeping staff engaged,” explains Agiasotis.

“While 31 per cent of NFP staff are very willing to go above and beyond at work, a concerning 6 per cent are not, which is the highest of any of the industries surveyed,” he continues. “As a sector where salaries are less competitive, building other initiatives that increase attraction and retention is even more important for NFP organisations.”

“Evidently, a work environment that prioritises wellbeing – while also making employees feel part of something bigger – is a key factor in NFP staff engagement.”

Respondents cited additional workplace perks (66 per cent), a more positive workplace culture (66 per cent) and strong leadership (53 per cent) as being key to driving engagement in the NFP sector.

Undertaking rewarding and meaningful work, fairness and transparency in the employment process and diversity in the workplace were also important considerations for respondents.

Ruby Kraner-Tucci  |  @ProBonoNews

Ruby Kraner-Tucci is a journalist, with a special interest in culture, community and social affairs. Reach her at

Get more stories like this


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Leading change for the next generation

Ed Krutsch

Friday, 21st July 2023 at 9:00 am

Empowering Change for Invisible Illnesses

Ed Krutsch

Friday, 7th July 2023 at 5:31 am

The 11 green flags of a great employee, what are yours?

Tracey Montgomery

Friday, 7th July 2023 at 5:09 am

Importance of work flexibility

Danielle Kutchel

Wednesday, 5th July 2023 at 3:13 pm

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook