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Warning Signs Work is Making You Worry Yourself Sick

Many workplaces are very different to what they were 20 years ago, but how has that affected the mental health of today’s workforce?

It’s a common refrain that “work is doing my head in”. It’s a lucky few who never complain about work – even people who love their jobs will face occasional frustrations or challenges.

Workplaces have changed significantly over the past 20 years, which led the Black Dog Institute – a global leader in mental health research – to ask whether those changes have significantly impacted workers’ mental health. And, if so, what can we do about it?

The report

The Black Dog Institute’s white paper on Modern Work and How Changes To The Way We Work Are Impacting Australians’ Mental Health found there had been significant changes this century in the way we work.

Among them was technological innovation, which has “led to wide-scale digitisation of work, automation, and the gig economy”.

The report found that while our increasingly online world allowed flexibility for workers, it had also blurred the lines between “work” and “home”. More people have been working overtime, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. They have been feeling “a sense of increased psychological demand and diminishing ability to disconnect from work (Mazmanian et al., 2013)”.

Working from home has also produced feelings of isolation, while technological advances also raise workers’ fears of being replaced.

Australia’s workforce has benefited by increased greater female participation with implications for the home/family dynamic. With older retirement age and more people on short-term or casual contracts, particularly young people, these changes add to a changing workforce.

The findings

The report identified several positives, including that employers increasingly take steps to create more mentally healthy workplaces.

However, today’s workers say their jobs are much more complex than ever before.

Workers also reported that they worry more about the long-term future of their jobs – particularly among the rising number of young casual and gig workers and those who run small enterprises – and this has only increased since the pandemic.

The report reveals a new analysis showing a gradual increase in mental health symptoms reported by Australian workers over the past 10 years. That was especially the case in workers younger than 25, where there has been a marked rise since the pandemic – suggesting that COVID-19 may have accelerated an already emerging trend.

The report states that “while the rate of mental health-related workers’ compensation claims has remained relatively stable recently, recovery from these injuries is taking longer, and there has been a steady increase in claims relating to harassment or bullying in the workplace”.

What can we do? 

Black Dog Institute made several recommendations for employers:

  1. Train managers to better recognise and respond to mental ill-health and related risk factors
  2. Have strategies at an organisational level to help improve autonomy, job control and flexible work conditions for employees
  3. Take immediate steps to prevent workplace bullying, and sexual harassment and assault
  4. Use evidence-based protective mental health and wellbeing interventions
  5. Provide a stable post-pandemic transition

How can Rehab Management support you or your workplace?

At Rehab Management, our team of experts can tailor solutions for small to medium businesses and our corporate and government clients to meet the health and well-being needs of employees. We also provide staff to boost in-house expertise to help our clients maintain a mentally healthy workplace.

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