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Australia has ways to go to achieving ‘thriving’ workplaces

New research conducted by SuperFriend, a mental health organisation that works closely with superannuation funds and insurers to advocate for mental health solutions across Australian businesses, has found that Australia still has ways to go in achieving “thriving” workplaces.

The SuperFriend Indicators of a Thriving Workplace report for 2019 revealed that Australia achieved a score of 62.7 out of a possible 100, across five different domains and 40 different indicators of a thriving workplace.

The report focuses on the mental health and wellbeing of employees, including mental health conditions and workplace stress.

The study was undertaken using a representative sample of over 5,000 people, including employees, business owners, business leaders and managers, who shared their experiences within their place of work.

The report found that more than half of Australia’s workers have experienced a mental health condition, and one in five workers finds their job “very” or “extremely” stressful.

Speaking on The Wellness Daily Show with senior writer Jerome Doraisamy, SuperFriend CEO Margo Lydon discussed the report and the five key domains that it examines across all industries.

“The first one is leadership… that is leadership needing to walk the walk. This is leaders being proactive and encouraging people to promote good workplace mental health,” Ms Lydon said.

“The second is connectedness, and this is the indicator [that questions] if it feels like a community and not just a place to go to work. 

“The third is in policy and rather than it being policy just written down, what the greatest or the strongest indicator is that we seek policy in action. So, it’s most important we actually see the activity associated with the good policies. 

“Capability is the fourth, and that is around having people who’ve got the skills, the confidence, the expertise to really support each other when it comes to workplace mental health.

“And the fifth one is culture, and this is about us having meaning and purpose in our lives and in our work, and for leaders to help us create that connectedness to meaning and purpose. Something bigger than myself and the job that I’m actually doing.”

She explained that the data can be further broken up into specific industries, to give insight into the extent to which each industry provides mental health and wellbeing support for their workers.

“One of the great things about having such a huge data source is that you can cut and dice it in different ways, and we were very keen to see which industries are doing the best, and which industries are at the bottom of the list,” Ms Lydon said.

“It’s pleasing to see that the professional scientific and technical services are ranked second in Australia at this point in time. Interestingly, the utilities of gas, water, waste services and so on are our first, our highest-rated industries. 

“The third, which I totally get, is arts and recreation. Who wouldn’t love that sort of job. But it’s really great to see that the legal profession is towards the top of the list [too].”

When the industries can be examined individually like this, Ms Lydon said it’s easier to draw conclusions about what makes employees thrive in different environments.

“I think there are certainly elements we need to look at how work is constructed, as to how it is going to more easily contribute to a thriving workplace.”

An interesting takeaway from the report is that it is the industries who have spent many years addressing issues of occupational health and physical safety that appear to be head and shoulders above the pack in addressing mental health concerns. 

“We would also say the industries that are doing well typically are ones that have, for many years, proactively tackled physical safety and health as a general sort of theme, and that’s obviously been through the work health and safety legislation that’s been in existence for a number of years. 

“But those industries that are high-risk from a physical safety usually get on the bandwagon about workplace mental health and wellbeing pretty quickly,” Ms Lydon said.

At its current level, the results from the report highlight that Australia still has a long way to go, across all its industries, in addressing mental health concerns and achieving thriving workplaces for its employees.

“Now 100 is the desired state, the perfect world order, which we would love to get to and where Australia is currently sitting is 62.7 out of 100,” Ms Lydon said.

“That’s a long way off from 100, so we’ve still got a long way to go.”

To listen to Jerome Doraisamy’s full conversation with Margo Lydon, click below:

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“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain