When it comes to developing employee wellbeing, there are some key barriers that workplace leaders need to be aware of. In a nationally representative survey of 1,001 employed Australians conducted by McCrindle, the biggest blockers to people thriving at work were being overworked and stressed (31%), followed by management structures/hierarchy (28%) and leadership (26%).
Mental health and stress
When people are overworked and stressed, it can flow on to other areas of their health, namely their physical, mental, social, relational and spiritual wellbeing. According to our national survey of 1,001 employed Australians, more than two in five workers (43%) always or regularly feel stressed in life. When it comes to the causes of this stress, four in five (79%) say their work is a cause of stress.
In this same survey, a third (34%) said they struggled to make friendships a priority, and just 31% said they felt extremely or very satisfied with how connected they were in the community. With a third of our waking hours spent at work, the nature of work changing and a shift in how we spend time outside of work (more time on screens, less time in face-to-face interaction), work plays an important role in the social needs of human beings. To some work is simply a job, but to many more it is a lifeline to social interaction, purpose and a place of belonging. Therefore, twenty-first-century workplaces are not just where workers come to work; they are for many the primary environment in which people find community and has a big impact on their overall wellbeing.
Being overworked and stressed for extended periods of time often leads to burnout. In our survey of 1,001 employed Australians, 37% said they always or regularly feel busy to the point they struggle to keep on top of things, and more than one in five (22%) said they always or often experience burnout.
When workers experience burnout it can lead to disengagement and a lack of motivation with the role or organisation. If people feel taken advantage of or not appreciated for going over and above, it can lead to absenteeism (taking sick leave) and to presenteeism (where people are physically present while they are unwell, disengaged, distracted or disconnected from what they are doing in the present). If sustained over a long period of time, burnout can lead to people resigning and looking elsewhere for a role or organisation that will prioritise their health and wellbeing.
Belgian philosopher Pascal Chabot calls burnout “civilisation’s disease. It is not only an individual disorder that affects some who are ill-suited to the system, or too committed, or who don’t know how to put limits on their professional lives, it is also a disorder that, like a mirror, reflects some excessive values of our society.”
When work takes over life, it can impede on:
• physical health: the need to exercise, sleep and eat well
• mental health: the need to rest, re-energise, be mindful, present and our ability to reduce stress
• social health: the need to connect with others
• relational health: the need to have deep, meaningful connections with family and friends
• spiritual health: the need to find purpose and meaning in life.
There is a popular saying that people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. When it comes to work wellbeing, leaders have a tremendous opportunity to influence the culture of an organisation – either positively or negatively.
In a survey of 1,001 employed Australians we ran in partnership with Reventure, we found that almost half (46%) of those who planned on looking for a new job said the poor leadership in their workplace was the most stressful part of their job, and 36% were actively looking to leave the organisation because of the leader directly above them.
Lack of trust
When there is a lack of trust within a team, disengagement and low satisfaction ensue. According to our survey of 1,001 employed Australians, one in five (21%) said that a lack of trust and fairness is a blocker to them thriving at work. Workplaces that have a high level of trust often perform better because workers feel comfortable giving and receiving regular, constructive feedback. When there are high levels of trust people also feel free to make mistakes, which leads to greater innovation and creativity.
If leaders are aware of these barriers, workers have a better chance of their work enhancing, rather than inhibiting their wellbeing.