Workplace mental health & wellbeing in decline: 21% drop during COVID-19


Published: 8 October, 2020

Just 42 per cent of Australia’s workforce rate their current mental health & wellbeing as positive, down from 63 per cent pre-COVID-19.

That’s one finding from a survey of over 4,000 people by recruiting experts Hays, released in advance of World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10th October.

By industry, resources & mining is a stand-out, with 87 per cent of professionals rating their current mental health & wellbeing as either positive or neutral, down 7 per cent since before the outbreak. At the other end of the scale, only 55 per cent of sales professionals rate their current mental health & wellbeing as positive or neutral, down from 90 per cent pre-pandemic.

The deterioration of workers’ mental health & wellbeing has occurred despite 72 per cent of employers increasing their organisation’s focus on this area during the pandemic.

This figure is, however, in stark contrast to the 26 per cent of professionals who agree with employers that the level of support they’ve received has increased during COVID-19.

Perhaps this gap will soon reduce, since 71 per cent of employers say mental health & wellbeing will become even more of a priority in their organisation over the next three to six months.

As for the greatest challenges to mental health & wellbeing, financial concerns top the list for 40 per cent of respondents, ahead of worry about their physical health (31 per cent), concern over returning to the workplace (29 per cent) and isolation and loneliness when working from home (28 per cent). An increase in workload was a factor for 24 per cent, while for others a lack of challenging work (19 per cent), access to the right technology to do their job (18 per cent) and juggling work and children (14 per cent) were issues.

“Clearly COVID-19 has taken a toll on the mental health & wellbeing of Australia’s workforce, with employees pushed to their emotional limits,” says Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand.

“A growing focus on mental health & wellbeing was bubbling away in the background of the pre-crisis world of work, and while it has accelerated in response to COVID-19, it seems that more support is still needed.”

There are various ways an employer can support the mental health & wellbeing of their staff during this pandemic. According to Nick, these include holding regular team meetings and one-on-one meetings, access to counselling, virtual social activities for remote staff, encouraging physical exercise, encouraging regular breaks, monitoring workloads to avoid overworking and offering regular training and upskilling.    

By location, the percentage of survey respondents who rate their current mental health & wellbeing as either positive or neutral compared to pre-COVID-19 is as follows:

By industry, the decline in the percentage of survey respondents who today rate their current mental health & wellbeing as either positive or neutral compared to pre-COVID-19 is as follows:
  • Architecture - decreased 36%
  • Sales - decreased 35%
  • Legal - decreased 30%
  • Education - decreased 25%
  • Facilities Management - decreased 24%
  • Retail - decreased 23%
  • Accountancy & Finance - decreased 22% 
  • Human Resources - decreased 22%
  • Marketing & Digital - decreased 21%
  • Information Technology - decreased 19% 
  • Insurance - decreased 19%
  • Contact Centres - decreased 18% 
  • Office Support - decreased 16% 
  • Engineering - decreased 15% 
  • Property - decreased 15% 
  • Construction - decreased 14% 
  • Manufacturing & Operations - decreased 14% 
  • Oil & Gas - decreased 14% 
  • Policy & Strategy - decreased 14% 
  • Logistics - decreased 12% 
  • Healthcare - decreased 11% 
  • Trades & Labour - decreased 10% 
  • Procurement - decreased 8% 
  • Resources & Mining - decreased 7% 
  • Banking - decreased 5%  
Hays’s survey was conducted in August 2020 and was completed by 4,105 people. Of these, 966 responded as employers and 3,139 were working professionals.

The full results can be found in the new Hays Barometer Report, which launches next week and will be available on the our website from Monday 12th October. 

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