As Australian employees emerge from lockdown – and with a much-needed summer break around the corner – now is the time for organisations to focus on employee wellbeing and stem the tide of ‘Pandemic Burnout’.
Nearly two years of living with a pandemic, including long stretches of lockdown, has tested the mental and emotional wellbeing of Australian employees. While many Australians were learning how to work from home, front line workers were experiencing a different type of stress as demand for their services increased and uncertainty loomed around their own safety, particularly in the healthcare and not-for-profit sectors.
While wellbeing for remote workers was widely talked about, there was less focus on how wellbeing could work for frontline workers. And for organisations with a ‘split workforce’ the challenge is even more complex.
A 2021 study by Atlassian and PwC found that mental health and wellbeing has emerged as the top issue for Australian employees. In fact, 69% of employees would turn down a promotion in favour of preserving their mental health. This trend is true across all age groups and income levels.1
The perfect storm is brewing for employee wellbeing
It has been harder for Australians to separate their working lives and personal lives during the pandemic. This ‘blurring of lines’ is one of the key factors contributing to increased burnout. Recent research2 found that employees feel:
- There are fewer boundaries with their employer (45%)
- There is an expectation to work beyond set hours to ensure the business survives COVID-19 (40%)
- It’s hard to turn off work-related technology (35%) and it’s hard to make time for themselves (34%)
This increased workload – or perceived increase – is being compounded by the fact that Australians aren’t taking a break. With ‘nowhere to go’ and increased childcare responsibilities for many families, employees are holding off on taking annual leave. In fact, Roy Morgan research released in May 2021 found Australian workers are owed 175 million days of annual leave, an increase of more than 23 million days from early 2020.3
A buoyant job market is adding to the pressure with a two-fold impact on employee wellbeing. When employees leave, employers often delay replacing them – increasing the workload for those left behind. The Great Resignation is also prompting many employees to reflect on their wellbeing and reassess their priorities when it comes to work and career.
The stigma around getting help is still a challenge
Nearly 70% of Australian employees surveyed have not had a conversation about mental health with their employer since the start of the pandemic. With 43% saying their workplace has not introduced new mental health initiatives.4 Why do employees avoid getting professional help? Research shows there are a number of reasons including:
- 37.7% believe their condition is ‘not serious enough’ to require attention
- 36% think mental health services are too expensive
- 31.8% say they are too busy
- 25.6% doubt the effectiveness of mental health care
- 25.4% don’t want others to worry about them
- 23.1% feel uncomfortable discussing their mental health5
Research shows that 98% of employers agree it is important to increase understanding and engagement with benefits and/or wellbeing.6
34% of Australian organisations are providing fully funded financial health checks for employees (up from 26% in 2018).7
Employee benefits are an effective way to support employee wellbeing
A clear learning from the pandemic experience is employee wellbeing is not a one size fits all proposition. A well-resourced toolkit that encompasses psychological, physical and financial aspects of wellness provides HR teams with the best chance of sustainable success.
At a time when resources are potentially stretched financial wellbeing is one area that HR teams can see results quickly. 70% of employees say they spend time worrying about their finances at work.8
Many organisations are already providing some form of financial wellbeing initiative, meaning less time and investment upfront to get things moving. Support and education on super, salary packaging options and EAPs can all be seen as components of a financial wellbeing program. It’s just that, historically speaking, they haven’t been badged or categorised as such.
Importantly benefits such as salary packaging or a novated lease can be beneficial for all employees. Regardless of how much an employee earns or whether they are blue collar or white collar workers, if they pay income tax, they have an opportunity to boost their disposable income through salary packaging.
In addition, employees eligible for regional and remote area benefits can generally salary package expenses such as relocation costs, rent payments, interest on their mortgage and fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) expenses. Regional and remote area benefits available to employees will vary depending on their location, role and the sector they work in.
Make an impact even if resources are limited
At Maxxia, we’ve seen consistent investment in financial wellbeing from Australian organisations and for good reason.
A comprehensive salary packaging benefits program can help deliver immediate financial value for employees at no cost to the employer. Higher engagement with benefits such as salary packaging and rewards/discounts can improve employees’ financial and lifestyle outcomes, which, in turn, adds to the overall value they realise from their work.
Download the Maxxia guide to Taking on financial wellbeing with confidence and discover positive steps and quick wins you can use to build an achievable, effective and measurable program for your organisation.
As a premium provider of employees benefits to many organisations across Australia, Maxxia have seen the difference salary packaging can make to the overall financial position of employees. Not only can take up of salary packaging boost net household income for employees, a best-practice program supported by effective communication can also strengthen your employee value proposition as a whole.
Maxxia can offer your organisation a full benefits assessment to measure the effectiveness of your current employee benefits offer. We can also put a dollar figure to the potential savings and efficiencies from running the program and compare overall performance with best practice for your industry.
1. Return on Action Report, 2021, Atlassian and PwC
6. Aon’s 2021 UK Benefits and Trends Survey
8. Gallagher, Employee Financial Confidence Report, 2020