Workplace mental health epidemic imminent: Research

‘It’s not surprising that employees are feeling overworked, disrespected, stressed and anxious’

Workplace mental health epidemic imminent: Research

Workers are feeling pressure to work longer hours - often without pay – and to take work home in order to meet deadlines, according to Aaron McEwan, HR Advisory Leader at Gartner.

Add to that the stress of “always on” technology and flat wage growth, and it’s not surprising that employees are feeling “overworked, disrespected, stressed and anxious”, added McEwan.

McEwan’s comments as new research found that in the pursuit of growth and productivity, Australian workplaces have exhausted staff morale and decimated effort levels, with employees now on the brink of burnout and ready to quit.

Data from Gartner’s Q1 2019 Global Talent Monitor has revealed that discretionary effort levels – the willingness to go above and beyond at work – have dropped to the lowest point since Q1 2014.

This suggests that without change, the workforce simply cannot give any more.

In Australia, 15.7% of employees reported high discretionary effort levels in Q1 2019, only slightly above the global average of 15%, and down from a high of 23% in Q2 2017.

McEwan added that organisations have “stripped the fat in every area of operations” as they look to drive efficiencies and move their business into the future.

“Growth targets are high, and for years, organisations have expected their workers to do more with less and achieve continuous results against a backdrop of constant change and increasing complexity.”

Gartner’s data also reveals that the No. 1 reason employees cite for leaving their job is respect, or lack of it.

Respect rose seven places in Q1 2019 to become the leading driver of attrition among Australian workers. This was followed by manager quality, up two places.

“To see these indicators of dissatisfaction and disengagement so early in the year is alarming and should be a wake-up call to employers,” said McEwan.

“There’s a long year ahead and growth targets are not going away. We need a workforce that is energised, committed and focused on delivering results.”

In the three months to March 2019, Australian employees’ intent to stay fell a significant 8%, while active job seeking increased by 5.6%.

“Even though the external job market is not particularly favorable for candidates today, leaving becomes a more attractive prospect than remaining in a job where you feel undervalued and mentally exhausted,” said McEwan.

 “It’s quite simple really — organisations need to declutter.

 “They need to strip away time intensive, low value tasks that slow people down. This could include using technology in new ways; it could also mean removing technology from certain processes.”

Limiting the number of steps involved in reviewing and signing-off on annual leave or expense reports, reducing reporting or automating workflow are just some of the small changes organisations can make to help workers have a productive and satisfying day.

Moreover, Gartner recommends employers implement a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that focuses on what employees value most.

Organisations with attractive EVPs can reduce the compensation premium needed to attract qualified candidates as well as potentially decrease annual employee turnover by just under 70%.

Research from Gartner’s Q1 2019 Global Talent Monitor shows that the top drivers of attraction for Australian employees are work-life balance, a convenient location and respect.

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