Workplace mental health epidemic imminent 

Featured | Workplace

By Loren Webb

Gartner finds more Australian workers ready to quit 

In the pursuit of growth and productivity, Australian workplaces have exhausted staff morale and decimated effort levels, with employees now on the brink of burnout and ready to quit, according to Gartner. 

Data from Gartner’s Q1 2019 Global Talent Monitor reveals that discretionary effort levels – the willingness to go above and beyond at work – have dropped to the lowest point since Q1 2014, suggesting that without change, the workforce simply cannot give any more. In Australia, 15.7% of employees reported high discretionary effort levels in Q1 2019, only slightly above the global average of 15%, and down from a high of 23% in Q2 2017. 

 “Organisations have stripped the fat in every area of operations as they look to drive efficiencies and move their business into the future,” said Aaron McEwan, HR Advisory Leader at Gartner. “Growth targets are high, and for years, organisations have expected their workers to do more with less and achieve continuous results against a backdrop of constant change and increasing complexity.” 

“Workers are acutely aware of what their employers want from them; they’re feeling pressure to work longer hours, often without pay, and take work home in order to meet deadlines. With the added stress of “always on” technology and flat wage growth, it’s not surprising that employees are feeling overworked, disrespected, stressed and anxious,” added Mr McEwan. 

Gartner’s data reveals that the No. 1 reason employees cite for leaving their job is respect, or lack of it. Respect rose seven places in Q1 2019 to become the leading driver of attrition among Australian workers. This was followed by manager quality, up two places. 

“To see these indicators of dissatisfaction and disengagement so early in the year is alarming and should be a wake-up call to employers. There’s a long year ahead and growth targets are not going away. We need a workforce that is energised, committed and focused on delivering results,” warned Mr McEwan. 

Job seeking behavior up; intent to stay drops 

In the three months to March 2019, Australian employees’ intent to stay fell a significant 8%, while active job seeking increased by 5.6%. 

According to Mr McEwan, when workers are fed up and tired, their first instinct is flight over fight. 

 “Even though the external job market is not particularly favorable for candidates today, leaving becomes a more attractive prospect than remaining in a job where you feel undervalued and mentally exhausted.” 

“We’re heading for a workplace mental health epidemic and if organisations don’t prepare for it, employee wellbeing and productivity will both be at serious risk,” said Mr McEwan. Gartner, Inc. page 2 

Research by Monash University found that workers with a mental health injury can take up to three times longer to return to work than those affected by a physical injury. 

Declutter to improve workplace wellbeing 

“It’s quite simple really — organisations need to declutter,” said Mr McEwan. “They need to strip away time intensive, low value tasks that slow people down. This could include using technology in new ways; it could also mean removing technology from certain processes.” 

Reducing the number of steps involved in reviewing and signing-off on annual leave or expense reports, reducing reporting or automating workflow are just some of the small changes organisations can make to help workers have a productive and satisfying day. 

In addition, Gartner recommends employers implement a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that focuses on what employees value most. Data from Gartner’s Q1 2019 Global Talent Monitor shows that the top drivers of attraction for Australian employees are work-life balance, a convenient location and respect. Organisations with attractive EVPs can reduce the compensation premium needed to attract qualified candidates as well as potentially decrease annual employee turnover by just under 70%. 

Table Highlights from the Q1 2019 Global Talent Monitor 

 Talent Monitor  Australian  International average 
High Intent to stay  30.3%  32.8% 
High Discretionary effort  15.7%  15% 
Job Opportunities  49.7%  51.3% 
Drivers of Attraction  1. Work-Life Balance 

2. Location 

3. Respect 

1. Compensation 

2. Future career opportunities 

3. People management 

Drivers of Attrition  1. Respect 

2. Manager quality 

3. Work/life balance 

1. Compensation 

2. Work/life balance 

3. Stability 

Source: Gartner (March 2019) 

Each quarter, the Global Talent Monitor is sourced from over 40,000 employees in 40 countries, to offer the most authoritative look at the latest global and country-level data on what attracts, engages and retains talent. The survey is conducted quarterly and is reflective of market conditions during the quarter preceding publication. The Q1 2019 survey included 1,909 respondents in Australia. 

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