The ‘Great Resignation’ may have just been the beginning, with new research finding that nearly two million Australians may leave their job in the next year.
The Allianz Australia report, The Workplace Wave: The next wave of the pandemic disrupting workplace mental health, found that the full impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the workforce is yet to be seen, despite the much-discussed Great Resignation.
According to the study, nearly 2 million Australian employees are very likely to consider leaving their current job in the next six to 12 months.
Allianz has dubbed this the “workplace wave”, a long-term impact stemming from the step-change caused by the pandemic, a fundamental rethink of the concept of work and increased focus on mental health.
“Despite emerging from the depths of the pandemic, the disruption to workplaces has not subsided,” Allianz Australia chief general manager of personal injury Julie Mitchell said.
“Employees have emerged with refreshed values and a change in how they are approaching work, prompting the emergence of concepts like ‘the right to disconnect’, ‘loud leaving’, ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘acting your wage’.”
The imminent wave of disruption predicted by the report may be down to a number of negative factors impacting employee satisfaction.
I’m so tired
More than 40 per cent of those surveyed listed fatigue and burnout as a relative factor, 34 per cent named staff shortages due to low levels of talent acquisition, while nearly a third said they were not being adequately rewarded for the work they are doing.
The study also found a fundamental disconnect between workers and the employers. Despite the widespread concerns coming from employees, more than half of the managers surveyed said they think their company has gone “above and beyond” to provide support and systems to create mentally healthy workplaces.
But there was a 19 per cent increase in the number of days taken off from work due to mental health claims in the time since the onset of the pandemic, according to Allianz data.
Mitchell said that quiet quitting – the recent phenomenon of workers clocking off on time and entirely disconnecting from work after hours – is one symptom of the wider “workplace wave”.
Is that a tidal wave?
“These trends are all real-world examples of the Workplace Wave, and organisations unequipped to effectively respond are likely to experience the full effects – being increased employee turnover, employee disengagement, and in some instances, a mental health workers compensation claim,” she said.
More than 40 per cent of employees surveyed for the study said they believe that they are yet to experience the most significant impacts of the pandemic on the workforce, while 57 per cent of surveyed managers think the same.
While much of the focus so far has been on weathering the impact of the pandemic, businesses need to be turning their attention to the next incoming storm, Allianz consulting psychiatrist Dr Mark Cross said.
“The Workplace Wave is yet to be widely discussed in public discourse, but it’s spreading rapidly,” Cross said.
“Organisations have worked hard to be ‘pandemic proof’ and respond to all the challenges of the last two years, however, it is being ‘post-pandemic proof’ that requires attention and action.”
Australian companies should be taking action to reduce staff shortages and absenteeism, minimising fatigue and burnout amongst their employees, introducing flexible annual leave policies and creating more meaningful connections between colleagues and their managers, the report found.
In the report, employees call on their companies to provide adequate remuneration in line with the market or inflation (40 per cent of those surveyed), to create empathetic and emotionally intelligent environments (38 per cent) and to provide specialist mental health days alongside normal sick days (34 per cent).
“The relationship between employee and leader has become more important than ever before,” Mitchell said.
“Organisations need to ensure that the tone from the top is very much aligned with the behaviours leaders want to see throughout the business.
“This, alongside transparency, vulnerability and clear action points are the key ingredients to ensure that the workplace is thriving and mentally healthy.”
The pandemic has led to many Australian workers reconsidering their relation to work and seeking more purpose, and to simply disconnect from their jobs.
This has emerged through the trend of “quiet quitting”, with workers simply switching off their devices and logging off after work hours in order to shift their focus away from work and towards their personal lives.