Cost of living, fatigue, and burnout put pressure on workplace mental health

Aussie workplaces facing new pressures post-pandemic, research reveals.

While the direct disruption of the pandemic on workplace mental health has eased, Australian workplaces are facing new pressures, new research from Allianz Australia has revealed.

More than a third (35 per cent) of surveyed Australian employees say cost of living pressures are negatively impacting their job satisfaction, along with fatigue and burnout (33 per cent), with almost a quarter of all surveyed employees (24 per cent) stating they feel they are underpaid at work.

Adding to the volatile economic environment are pervasive issues like increased pressure on workload, over a quarter of surveyed Australian employees (28 per cent) claim that they have felt exhausted when it comes to work over the past 12 months, with Gen Z (40 per cent), the highest among all generations surveyed.

With four distinct generations now working alongside each other, each is feeling the brunt of the ongoing pressures differently. Gen X (41 per cent) and Gen Z (40 per cent) are more likely than Millennials (29 per cent) to state that cost of living pressures were negatively impacting their job satisfaction at work.

Gen Z (27 per cent) and Gen X (32 per cent) were least likely to state they were satisfied with work. They were also more likely than Millennials (30 per cent) to be feeling the pressure of fatigue and burnout, Gen X (45 per cent) and Gen Z (48 per cent) 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likely to state that the speed of technology changes, such as the adoption of AI in the workplace, is making them feel out of date and is negatively impacting their job satisfaction (17 per cent).

The friction caused by the economic environment, ongoing internal workplace pressures and a diverse, multigenerational workforce means that the delivery of effective workplace mental health support is becoming more complex for managers.

New claims data from Allianz Australia saw a 39 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent) state that they have felt negatively about their work over the past 12 months, and almost one in five (19 per cent) 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 per cent) 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. While the majority of surveyed managers (60 per cent) say their organisation has gone above and beyond to provide support and systems to create a mentally healthy workplace, just one in three (33 per cent) employees share the same sentiment. 

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. 

Julie Mitchell, chief general manager of personal Injury, Allianz Australia said ongoing disruptions have continued to fuel a disconnect between managers, employees and organisations on the most important workplace mental health issues.

“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,” said Mitchell.

While issues in the workplace are becoming more complex and proving harder to solve, managers must focus on responding to the direct needs of their employees, to maintain a more mentally healthy workplace culture.

Interestingly, employees have highlighted empathic and emotionally intelligent environments (41 per cent), over adequate remuneration in line with the market (39 per cent) 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 per cent).

Dr Mark Cross, consultant psychiatrist said displaying empathy and establishing meaningful connections with employees is the first step to develop trust and to spark The Workplace Realignment. In this environment, employees are more likely to feel heard and that their concerns are being addressed by their workplace.

“Business leaders must take a nuanced approach to modernising workplace mental health support, tailoring policies to the evolving needs of employees across all generations. This goes beyond just the control of direct workplace mental health risks, it also encompasses initiatives around employee engagement, culture, attraction and retention.”

As the demands of employees change and the marketplace evolves, 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,” said 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.”

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