81% of Australian Workers Report Increased Levels Of Struggle

New research, released today by The Wellbeing Lab and the Australian HR Institute has found that 81% of Australian workers are reporting increased levels of struggle since the start of 2020, with their mental health (29.5%), managing money at home (29.9%) and changes at work (22.6%) their biggest challenges.

The research surveyed 1019 workers representative of the Australian workforce, just before the closure of non-essential businesses.

Given the rapid and unpredictable changes that the bushfires, COVID-19, and the economic downturn has created for most workplaces, it is understandable that the majority of Australian workers are experiencing more struggle.  However, stress and struggle aren’t necessarily signs that workers are breaking, but indicators that there are opportunities for learning and growth among all these changes.

For example, the study found that workers who reported high levels of worry and anxiety about the impact of COVID-19 and the economy were performing just as well as those workers with low levels of worry and anxiety.  In contrast, workers who reported medium levels of worry and anxiety about these challenges were significantly more likely to report lower levels of performance.

Why might this be the case?  Worry about the virus or the economy might motivate productive action, whereas moderate worry might reflect uncertainty and passivity, undermining performance.  For immediate performance, a little or a lot of anxiety – may be better, though, over the longer term, those with high levels of anxiety likely become less productive.

“We’re going through an unprecedented time and there’s no doubt that it’s making people feel vulnerable and unsure about what the future holds. It is at times like this that strong and effective leadership is more important than ever before,” said Sarah McCann-Bartlett, Chief Executive Officer, Australian HR Institute.

A critical finding of the research was that workers who shared their struggles with others at work were significantly more likely to have higher levels of wellbeing and performance.  However, 20% of workers felt it was best to generally keep their struggles themselves at work.

“This is something that organizations and their HR teams need to be aware of, particularly when we’re going through these difficult times,” said McCann-Barlett. “A key part of this is encouraging workers to talk with their bosses and colleagues about the struggles they may be experiencing.  We urge all businesses to find ways to help their workers normalize the struggles they are experiencing so they can learn and grow together through these challenges.”

The full the study can be found here.