While the direct disruption of the pandemic on workplace mental health has eased, Australian workplaces are facing new pressures, according to new research by Allianz Australia.
More than a third (35%) of surveyed Australian employees say cost of living pressures are negatively impacting their job satisfaction, along with fatigue and burnout (33%), with almost a quarter of all surveyed employees (24%) stating they feel they are underpaid at work.
Adding to the volatile economic environment are pervasive issues like increased pressure on workload, with over a quarter of surveyed Australian employees (28%) claiming that they have felt exhausted when it comes to work over the past 12 months, with Gen Z (40%) the highest among all generations surveyed.
With four distinct generations now working alongside each other, each is said to be feeling the brunt of the ongoing pressures differently. Gen X (41%) and Gen Z (40%) are more likely than Millennials (29%) to state that cost of living pressures were negatively impacting their job satisfaction at work.
Gen Z (27%) and Gen X (32%) were least likely to state they were satisfied with work. They were also more likely than Millennials (30%) to be feeling the pressure of fatigue and burnout, (Gen X (45%) and Gen Z (48%) respectively). Millennial employees were most likely to state that the speed of technology changes, such as the adoption of AI in the workplace, is making them feel out of date and is negatively impacting their job satisfaction (17%).
Mental health claims
New claims data from Allianz Australia saw a 39% increase in the average number of days taken off work due to mental health in the last four years, with the cost of claims rising 36% in the same period. Work pressure continues to be a key driver for primary psychological claims.
This comes as the majority of surveyed employees (63%) state that they have felt negatively about their work over the past 12 months, and almost one in five (19%) admit that they often have mental health challenges triggered by work.
Despite this clear toll on employee wellbeing and satisfaction at work, nearly nine out of ten (89%) of surveyed managers state that they are satisfied with their organisation’s ability to create mentally healthy workplaces for their employees in the last 12 months.
This misalignment between employees and managers on workplace concerns is affecting how organisations can effectively address mental health issues in the workplace, says Allianz Australia.
While the majority of surveyed managers (60%) say their organisation has gone “above and beyond” to provide support and systems to create a mentally healthy workplace, just one in three (33%) surveyed employees share the same sentiment.
The Workplace Realignment
In response, Allianz Australia is calling for organisations to embark on ‘The Workplace Realignment’, to better understand the expectations of employees across diverse generations and closely consider how employees’ sentiment to work and expectations in a post-pandemic world marry up with the support provided by workplaces today.
This includes being aware of the wider elements impacting employee sentiment and mental health at work, and effectively implementing a modern approach to workplace mental health.
“Ongoing disruptions have continued to fuel a disconnect between managers, employees and organisations on the most important workplace mental health issues,” says Allianz Australia Chief General Manager of Personal Injury Julie Mitchell.
“This disconnect continues to have a serious impact on workplace satisfaction and employee retention, and in turn, is continuing a worrying trend of increasing mental health claims in the workplace.”
While issues in the workplace are becoming more complex and proving harder to solve, Allianz Australia says managers must focus on responding to the direct needs of their employees, to maintain a more mentally healthy workplace culture.
Surveyed employees have highlighted empathic and emotionally intelligent environments (41%) over adequate remuneration in line with the market (39%) as the leading measures they believe their organisations should commit to drive improved mental health outcomes, alongside clear processes and policies to communicate workplace concerns (36%).
As the demands of employees change and the marketplace evolves, Allianz Australia says workplaces must be willing to adapt and modernise their approach to mental health or risk losing staff, as the research reveals 1.4 million employees are “very likely” to consider leaving their current organisation in the next 6-12 months.
“Monolithic approaches to supporting mentally healthy workplaces aren’t sustainable,” says Ms Mitchell.
“Organisations must address changing employee expectations, by acknowledging their concerns and offering mental health and wellbeing programs aligned to expectations.
“This demands a holistic view of an employee’s workplace experience, including mental health support, engagement, culture, remuneration, career progression and retention activities.”