Who Are Australia’s Happiest Workers, And Why?
The Wellbeing Lab Workplace Survey, conducted in partnership with Dr Peggy Kern from the University of Melbourne and supported by the Australian HR Institute, recently asked a representative sample of just over 1,000 Australian workers how their wellbeing was faring. The results are both surprising and helpful when it comes to understanding what workplaces can do to improve their people’s wellbeing.
State of Wellbeing In Australian Workplaces Snapshot
Of the 19% of Australian workers who were consistently thriving:
- CEOs (40%) were almost twice as likely to be thriving as their employees. Workers in administrative roles (11%), or customer service and sales positions (10%), were the least likely to be thriving.
- People working in the consulting industry (42.9%) were strongly represented. People in the accounting (11%) or legal (9%) industries were the least likely to be thriving.
- Workers in South Australia (27%) are faring moderately well, perhaps reflecting the State Government’s investment in their peoples’ wellbeing. Workers in Western Australia (12%) were the least likely to be thriving among the Australian states.
- Men (23.2%) fared better in comparison to women (14.1%).
In addition, 37% of Australian workers demonstrated resilience describing themselves as ‘living well, despite struggles’ and showed no statistically significant difference between job satisfaction or job performance.
As the Australian Productivity Commission begins looking at the economic cost of mental illness, Professor Allan Fels recently suggested that a marked improvement in workforce participation by Australians with a mental illness could help boost the economy by a massive $18.4 billion a year. But what enables Australian workers, whether they are dealing with mental illness or not, to thrive?
The Wellbeing Lab Workplace Survey found that while 40% of C-suite executives report being ‘on top of the world,’ only 11% of administrative staff, and 10% of sales or customer service staff, report that they are consistently thriving. While gender may play a role, it was higher levels of positive emotions, a sense of engagement, and job autonomy that differentiated Australian workers who were consistently thriving.
Improving wellbeing at work however, is not a solo endeavour. Workers who were consistently thriving were more likely to be part of a team that provided a sense of psychological safety and support. They were also more likely to be working for organisations where wellbeing support options go beyond Employee Assistance Programs and the popular three Fs of wellbeing (fruit, fitness, and flu shots), to also include the three Ms of wellbeing (meaning, motivation, and mentoring).
“It’s important to understand what is helping workers to consistently thrive so that Australian organisations can leverage these insights,” said Dr Peggy Kern. “What surprised us most in The Wellbeing Lab Workplace Survey results were the high percentage of Australian workers who reported that they were ‘living well, despite struggles’ (37%) versus those who were ‘not feeling bad, but just getting by’ (36%)”.
“Typically, wellbeing is measured on a single continuum from struggling to thriving,” explained Dr Kern. “But we have found — and other researchers have previously suggested — that struggling and thriving are related, but are also separate continuums of wellbeing. For example, there were no statistically significant differences on a number of outcomes, like job satisfaction and performance, between workers who were ‘consistently thriving’ and those who were ‘living well, despite struggles’.
“This suggests that there is a resilient portion of the Australian workforce who, due to mental or physical illness or other struggles, may never describe themselves as ‘thriving’ or be rated as having high levels of wellbeing,” cautioned Dr Kern. “Workplaces need to be careful that in their drive for improving wellbeing they don’t stigmatise those who are struggling, but instead learn from and better support these resilient workers.”
Mindful of the findings in this survey, the Wellbeing Lab Workplace Survey concluded that workplaces can help to improve and sustain the wellbeing of their workers by:
- Incorporating multidimensional measures of wellbeing when designing solutions that accommodate the different needs of workers who are capable of thriving and those who may always struggle but are also capable of living well.
- Building a common language about the diversity of wellbeing thereby making it safer to talk about struggles and to ask for support.
- Considering ways of supporting the 3 Ms — meaning, motivation, and mentoring — in addition to the 3 Fs — fruit, fitness, and flu shots.
- Creating shared, evidence-based toolboxes for workers, teams, and organisations that provide easy-to-apply wellbeing approaches that can be incorporated into busy workdays.
- Supporting leaders and HR teams to step up as sources of wellbeing support by making the wellbeing of workers one of their explicit responsibilities.
To download a full copy of the Wellbeing Lab Workplace Survey visit www.thewellbeinglab.com/Australian_Report.