Employee wellbeing on the decline, study warns

Workers in Australia feeling less engaged as wellbeing, inclusion and intent to stay slide

Employee wellbeing on the decline, study warns

Employers pumped a huge amount of resources into wellbeing throughout the pandemic – but it appears that their effectiveness has dried up. Compared to last year, Australian employees are reporting lower levels of engagement, wellbeing, inclusion, and intent to stay with their employer for three-plus years.

The latest annual Qualtrics Employee Experience Trends report reveals that Australian workers are reporting lower levels of wellbeing (67%) than their global peers (72%).      

It seems Australian employees are also more willing to jump ship, as the intent to stay with a current employer for three-plus years (54%) was well below the global average of 65%.  

Drawing on insights from more than 2,000 employees in Australia, the Qualtrics study highlights the key employee experience drivers and trends employers need to prioritise in 2024 to meet employees’ rising ​and changing ​expectations​.​​    

Dr Crissa Sumner, senior manager – XM Advisory Services at Qualtrics, says that at a time when companies are facing challenging markets and trying to lift productivity, employee experience is one of the most important levers for businesses to prioritise.

“When you consider great employee experiences are linked to positive business outcomes – including profitability, productivity, retention and customer satisfaction – employers need to act now or they’ll be missing out,” Dr Sumner says. “One of the most important actions they can take to reverse this trend is ensuring managers have the insights, tools and support they need to lead teams through the current period of continued change at work.” 

AI and hybrid working results in mixed feelings 

When it comes to time spent in the office, companies are still trying to nail the right balance. Qualtrics research shows that some time spent in the office is better than none – but at five days a week, engagement and wellbeing start to drop​, and employees are less likely to say their expectations are being met.​​     ​

Figures show that an average of two to four days in the office yields the best scores. Both engagement and wellbeing drop sharply when that rises to five days a week, with 72% of hybrid employees reporting good engagement compared to 62% of full-time office workers. Zero office days yielded the worst results for inclusion but outdid five days a week in the remaining four categories – in contrast to other regions globally, where zero time in the office saw employees produce the lowest scores.

Australian employees also appear to be hesitant about adopting AI-powered tools to help them with their work. Approximately half of local respondents (49%) said they were not open to using AI, compared to 42% globally who were in favour of it.

When it comes to the type of AI assistance on offer, data shows that employees would much rather work with AI tools than be evaluated by them. Fifty-four percent of employees would be open to having AI help them with writing tasks, and 41% would take on AI as a personal assistant. However, when asked whether they would use AI for internal support, coaching and personal growth, formal education, performance appraisals or job interviews, the answer was a resounding no. 

Only 16% of respondents were willing to be interviewed by an AI bot compared to 68% who disliked the idea, and only 22% were open to performance appraisals being conducted by AI bots.

“While the world of AI-driven systems may unsettle some employees, if companies prove they are driving organisational improvements based on their usage, the organisation can build trust,” says Qualtrics’ head of employee experience product science, Matthew Evans. 

“By emphasising transparency, explainability and communicating action, organisations will mitigate the risk of coming across as ‘Big Brother’ and can even see improved relationships between employees and leadership.”

Employees comfortable with sharing ​work emails and chats​ for ​a ​better experience 

​​Alongside​ directly solicited feedback​ such as an engagement survey,​ ‘passive listening’ to channels such as work emails, interview notes and chat messages can provide critical insights around engagement.

It seems Australian employees have little issue with employers gathering feedback in this way​ in return for a better employee experience​. A majority of employees (68%) were comfortable with employers using email data, while 64% were OK with employers using data from their work systems and processes.

However, they were less comfortable with social media being used as an insights tool. Only 35% were OK with their company using data from non-anonymous social media posts, while 37% said they were comfortable with companies using data from anonymous posts. 

This opinion has been echoed by respondents globally, and principal behavioural scientist Dr ​Cecelia​​​ Herbert says companies need to take note.

“Employees are very clearly saying: ‘Here is our boundary’,” Herbert says. “Organisations have to respect that.”

For more insights, read the full 2024 Employee Experience Trends Report here.

Recent articles & video

Qantas to pay $21,000 for unlawfully standing down HSR

Australian organisations mulling AI use for project management

Almost half of employers collecting remote employees' working hours

Enhancing people's skills more in focus amid AI transition: report

Most Read Articles

Could remote work become a legal right?

Which industries have the highest pay in Australia?

Woolworths bars Indigenous, LGBTQI+ stickers on badges: reports