New Research: Insights into the mental wellbeing of Australian workplaces

In November, SuperFriend published its fourth annual research report on the status of workplace mental health and wellbeing in Australia. The Indicators of a Thriving Workplace Survey collected the views of 5,047 working Australians in different industries, locations, roles and organisation sizes. The survey was structured around 40 scientifically-validated characteristics of a thriving workplace, and identified opportunities for improvement across five workplace domains. The report shows that workplace mental health and wellbeing is still a work in progress: Australian workplaces are only two-thirds of the way to achieving optimal mental health and wellbeing with an index score of 62.7 out of the desired state of 100. Workplaces are closest to thriving in the connectedness domain (index score of 67.3), followed by culture (63.8), capability (62.4) and leadership (61.5), with the policy domain receiving the lowest index score (58.2). 

How does investing in mental health help working Australians?

Women are more likely than men to experience a mental health condition

More than half (55.3%) of working Australian women have experienced a mental health condition, compared to 43.7% of men. This particularly impacts younger workers, with more than two thirds (68.0%) of women experiencing a mental health condition before the age of 25. The report found almost a quarter of women (23.9%) are currently experiencing a mental health condition, which is significantly higher than men (15.2%). This is perhaps unsurprising given women more commonly experience bullying (25.8%), work-related insomnia (22.7%) and a lack of flexible work arrangements when required (23.4%).

Stress and the benefits of investing in mental health and wellbeing

A quarter of Australian workers reported experiencing high levels of stress in their current job, and more than one in ten of these workers say they are likely to leave their employer in the next 12 months. According to the survey, more than half of the workers believe that if their employer invested in mental health and wellbeing, they would see an increase in retention (50.1%) and a reduction in sickness and absenteeism (55.4%). While almost two-thirds (63.9%) of working Australians believe that productivity would also increase, which is critical from an economic viewpoint, this type of investment would also benefit employees at a personal level. Three in five people (60.7%) say they would feel more valued at work, and more than half of the workforce said that it would boost their commitment to their employer (51.9%) and heighten their willingness to make a valuable contribution at work (53.9%).

‘Busyness’ is bad for business

Almost a third (32.6%) of respondents believe that their employers are too busy to actively improve workplace mental health and wellbeing. While the costs associated with taking action are considered the fifth largest barrier to creating thriving workplaces by one in four people (24.0%), there are bigger obstacles to overcome. The report highlighted that more than a quarter (25.5%) of employers simply don’t understand mental health and wellbeing issues, and that many managers lack the required skills and training to address these issues (29.5%). There is also a common perception from a quarter (24.9%) of the workforce that there are simply higher priority business issues to address, and the stigma associated with mental illness remains an ongoing issue for nearly one in five (17.7%) workplaces.