You have 0 free articles left this month.
Register for a free account to access unlimited free content.
accountants daily logo

Excess overtime ‘fuels quiet quitting epidemic’


Skills shortage increases demands on existing staff but the result will be a backlash, says recruiter.

By Philip King 13 minute read

An “alarming” increase in overtime last year caused by the acute skills shortage could inflame the epidemic of “quiet quitting”, according to the head of recruitment specialist Hays.

The firm’s latest Salary Guide found 45 per cent of businesses increased their overtime demands in the last financial year and most of those hours – 56 per cent – went unpaid.

And while most accounting firms wanted to recruit in 2022–23, eight out of 10 expected problems hiring staff to mean increased workloads for existing employees.


The managing director of Hays, Nick Deligiannis, said its annual 2022–23 Salary Guide revealed the impact of the talent drought on work conditions.

“Skills shortages reached acute levels in the past year, leading many employers to ask their existing team to work longer hours to cover critical gaps,” Mr Deligiannis said.

“This can either lead to rising turnover or, in a new trend, quiet quitting.

“Quiet quitting sees employees make a conscious decision to perform the bare minimum at work. For instance, they won’t stay back to help a colleague meet a deadline, work on a task that isn’t in their job description or volunteer for additional work.

“For them, an adequate effort is enough to get by.”

The trend, which has lit up video-sharing website TikTok, was caused by declining real wages as inflation has soared, said UNSW Business School associate professor Mark Humphery-Jenner.

“You have gone through the pandemic and lockdowns with increasing workloads, stress and damage to mental health, but with stagnant or falling wages. As you keep working – with no pay rise in sight – your work-life balance falls,” Professor Humphery-Jenner said.

If wages were decreasing in real terms, then the only way for workers to maintain their sense of wellbeing was to work less. 

“Employees are unsurprisingly pushing back against businesses that seem to be taking advantage of them,” he said. “This is especially true when it comes to highly skilled labour with outside opportunities.”

The Hays guide, which surveyed 4,400 organisations, found 24 per cent of those who are currently looking or planning to look for a new job in the next 12 months cited poor work/life balance as a motivating factor.

It showed overtime ran to four hours a week in almost one-third of businesses while in 8 per cent, the figure was above eight hours.

In response, 56 per cent of accounting firms aim to increase their headcount this year but 78 per cent said skill shortages would impact their organisation, “resulting in increased workloads for existing staff”.

The most in-demand accounting roles are financial analysts, finance managers and payrollers. In a warning signal to firms, just 39 per cent of staff said they intended to remain with their current employer beyond 2022–23, with 59 per cent expecting to gain financially from switching jobs.

That was reflected in the main factors driving turnover, which were uncompetitive salaries, lack of promotional opportunities and poor management or workplace culture.

Hays said businesses should adopt software to track working hours, detect overtime patterns and identify predictors of burnout. They could also scale up for seasonal peaks and encourage staff to take time off immediately before or after.

Professor Humphery-Jenner said incentives linked to performance and value creation were a clear solution, especially where an employee created, sold, or ran a product that created value, provided commissions, or a slice of profits.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member for free today!
Philip King

Philip King


Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

You can email Philip on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You are not authorised to post comments.

Comments will undergo moderation before they get published.

accountants daily logo Newsletter

Receive breaking news directly to your inbox each day.