The COVID-19 pandemic has already brought extreme workplace disruption – but two in five (42%) Australian employees and over half of managers (57%) believe they are yet to experience the most significant impacts of the pandemic on the workforce, according to Allianz Australia's (Allianz) new research.
The report revealed that the surveyed employees have a broad range of concerns negatively impacting their job satisfaction due to fatigue and burnout (42%), staff shortages resulting from low levels of talent acquisition (34%), and not being adequately rewarded at work (31%). Meanwhile, the managers surveyed said they worry about physical health (30%), fatigue and burnout (29%), staff shortages resulting from low levels of talent acquisition (25%), and limited opportunities to connect with the team in person (25%).
Despite evident dissatisfaction among employees and managers, more than half (53%) of managers said their company had gone above and beyond to provide support and systems to create mentally healthy workplaces. By contrast, Allianz's claims data showed a 19% increase in the days taken off work from mental health claims in the last three years.
Julie Mitchell, chief general manager of personal injury at Allianz, said the pandemic's disruption to workplaces has not subsided – leaving employees with refreshed values and changed approach to work, prompting the emergence of concepts like “the right to disconnect,” “loud leaving,” “quiet quitting,” and “acting your wage.”
“These trends are all real-world examples of the Workplace Wave, and organisations unequipped to effectively respond are likely to experience the full effects – being increased employee turnover, employee disengagement, and in some instances, a mental health workers compensation claim,” Mitchell said.
To manage the Workplace Wave, Allianz advises employees to:
- Assess their feelings about work and the workplace and actively respond, such as outlining their goals, ideal approach to the workplace, and their needs;
- Talk with the manager to share workplace concerns in a trusted setting, focusing on working together to find a solution;
- Improve their sense of engagement in the workplace, including building more meaningful relationships with colleagues;
- Check in with the organisation's workplace mental health policies and support offerings to know what support is available and where to get it; and
- Find a balanced approach to work that allows them to stay healthy with adequate sleep and exercise and establishes clear boundaries with the workplace.
Meanwhile, employers must:
- Facilitate meaningful conversations to develop a better understanding of employee needs and create more open and nurturing workplace environments;
- Foster an inclusive and meaningful culture by inviting formal feedback through tools such as workplace surveys and informal feedback through transparent discussion;
- Modernise organisational approaches to employee skill building, career progression pathways, and learning and development programs to help build team resilience and motivation through clear purpose and goals;
- Encourage a micro-break to encourage employees to disconnect at clear times in the day, leading to greater employee productivity; and
- Review mental health policies, including extended annual leave and flexible working programs, to allow employees to personalise their approach to work.
“The relationship between employee and leader has become more important than ever. Organisations need to ensure that the tone from the top is very much aligned with the behaviours leaders want to see throughout the business. This [as well as] transparency, vulnerability, and clear action points are the key ingredients to ensure that the workplace is thriving and mentally healthy – which is something Allianz encourages and champions,” Mitchell said.