Allianz study highlights "empathy gap" in the workplace

Employees call for enhanced support amid rise in psych claims

Allianz study highlights "empathy gap" in the workplace

Life & Health

By Roxanne Libatique

Allianz Australia’s recent research has indicated that Australian businesses are set to invest $27.8 billion in diversity, inclusion, and mental health initiatives over the next year.

This translates to an average of $38,771 per organisation, highlighting a significant commitment to these critical areas.

Study highlights need for improved employee support

The study, conducted by Allianz Australia, underscored an urgent need for improved support.

Nearly half (48%) of the surveyed Australian workforce report experiencing fatigue and burnout, a notable increase from previous years. Additionally, over a third (36%) of employees are contemplating leaving their current roles within the next six to 12 months, which equates to roughly 2.7 million workers nationwide.

The research delved into workplace mental health and wellbeing, focusing on diverse needs across demographics, including gender, generation, culture, and physical ability.

Findings showed that over a third (39%) of employees with disabilities and 42% of neurodivergent employees have withheld personal information out of fear of negative judgment by their managers.

Empathy gap in Australian workplaces

At the core of these issues is an “empathy gap,” with nearly a third (31%) of employees feeling that their managers lack compassion regarding their personal circumstances. Moreover, over a quarter (28%) of respondents believe unconscious bias affects managerial perceptions of their job performance.

Approximately 22% of employees with disabilities report feeling excluded due to their personal situations, and female employees are more likely than males to withhold personal information for fear of negative perceptions.

Acknowledging these concerns, a quarter (25%) of managers recognise an empathy gap in their workplaces, and nearly half (45%) admit to potential unconscious biases.

Economic pressures impact employees’ dissatisfaction

Economic pressures further exacerbate employee dissatisfaction, with nearly half (46%) citing cost-of-living pressures as negatively impacting job satisfaction.

Additional factors include mismanaged staff shortages and insufficient rewards, which contribute to increased workloads and stress.

Allianz workplace psych claims increased

These challenges are reflected in a rise in psychological workers’ compensation claims reported by Allianz, which have seen a 47.5% increase in active claims and a 30% increase in days off due to mental health issues over the past five years.

Importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Julie Mitchell, chief general manager of personal injury at Allianz Australia – which was considered by Insurance Business as one of the most diverse companies this year – emphasised the importance of diversity and inclusion.

“Diversity and inclusion is so important within the workforce. It not only benefits individuals but also their teams, the organisation, and society more broadly, and at Allianz, we believe in the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace that gives fair and equitable opportunities to all employees,” she said.

Calls for enhancing mental health support in the workplace

Despite 85% of managers believing they show empathy towards their teams, less than half (46%) of employees agree. Both groups recognise the need for more significant action to support mental health in the workplace, with one in five managers noting efforts to address unconscious bias.

Dr Sarah Cotton, organisational psychologist and co-director of Transitioning Well, an organisation that works with companies to help employees achieve work-life balance, highlighted the complexity managers face.

“Through our work, it’s clear that managers are navigating a highly complex working environment, amongst a diverse workforce that is calling for workplaces to embrace the whole person,” she said. “It’s critical that organisations view their people as more than just workers and take the time to truly understand the often messy intersections between life and work in order to provide tailored support in meaningful and holistic ways.”

Surveyed employees expressed a desire for workplaces where they feel they belong and can be their authentic selves. They called for more open conversations about workplace needs and clearer communication channels.

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