More than 1.4 million Australians are “very likely” to quit their jobs in the next year as mental health pressure mounts.
Cost of living pressures, along with fatigue and burnout are creating a “frightening” issue in the workplace according to the astonishing new research from Allianz Australia.
Over a third of surveyed employees (35 per cent) said increasing costs are negatively affecting their job satisfaction, along with fatigue and burnout (33 per cent).
The costs of the mental health crisis are already mounting, with Allianz seeing a 46 per cent increase in mental health claims compared to before the pandemic and a 36 per cent rise in the cost of claims.
There’s also been a 39 per cent increase in the number of days taken off work due to mental health.
For Amy, fatigue and burnout played on her mental health, which took a turn when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis just as she started her first corporate job as a sales rep for a furniture company.
The 25-year-old struggled of take care of her health and keep up with the demands of her employers, while battling the auto-immune condition, which causes inflammation in the large intestine and rectum, and can be set off if the sufferer becomes sick or stressed.
“There was added pressure in the workspace, it was more of that constant thought process of ‘how am I meant to fit in my whole social life, household responsibilities, and work responsibilities [with my disease]’,” she said,
“Every single time I heard someone sneeze or caught...it was scary...that constant [fear] of ‘it’s not my fault if I get sick, but what if I do? Will I then get into trouble?’.”
She said she felt “punished” and “intimidated” by the company for having an auto-immune disease, saying that her managers “weren’t impressed” when she became sick.
Amy said the company’s policy only allowed employees to work from home one day a week, and concessions weren’t made to allow her to stay home more often.
The turning point came when she had a flare up at the same time as Covid-19 and pharyngitis, with her employer only allowing her to stay home for a week as a doctor had warned she would get pneumonia.
At the end of that period, she says she was told to either work from the office or use a day of annual leave as her sick leave had been used up.
Amy reached a point where the “anxiety was just too much” and she was forced to leave the company for another sales role, where she was subjected to similar treatment.
With her mental and physical health in jeopardy, Amy decided to leave her corporate life behind all together to become a pilates instructor, starting her own brand A. Pilates Movement.
The figures and experiences like Amy’s aren’t surprising to psychiatrist Dr Mark Cross, who has seen the stats reflected in his clinical work.
“People don’t feel like they’re being treated well for their mental health at work, and they’re putting in more claims and there are issues linked to that that companies need to address,” he said.
Dr Cross said that employers are in danger of losing large numbers of workers if they don’t address mental health and pay concerns.
“If companies aren’t paying people properly, people are going to walk, you’ve got a very mobile workforce at the moment with the low unemployment rate, so companies have to shift things,” Dr Cross said.
“If you‘ve got cost of living pressures and you’re having difficulty making ends meet, that’s going to absolutely impact you at work, and it’s going to impact mental health at work,” he added said.
Dr Cross added that companies are obliged to make reasonable adjustments for employees going through mental health issues, but they needed to do “so much more” in order to address the current crisis.
Sixty per cent of managers surveyed said that their organisation goes “above and beyond” to support a mentally healthy workplace, compared to just one in three employees.
Allianz Australia are now calling on organisations to embark on a Workplace Realignment in order to address the issues, with a discrepancy between what workers and managers think about mental health at work.
A realignment is a “critical step” in addressing the looming flight of workers according to Allianz’s chief general manager of personal injury Julie Mitchell.
“What we‘ve seen over the last couple of years is that these issues are persisting and they’re continuing and they’re also changing with the rapid pace of change that we’ve seen in a post-Covid world,” Ms Mitchell said.
“You can‘t just have a set and forget approach to your people practices...the primary thing employees are looking for is empathetic work environments that drive culture and better relationships with their colleagues.
“So having leaders that are really in tune with what the needs of their workforce are how they‘re changing over time, and ensuring that policies and practices are contemporary is a really valuable use of time for for employers.”