Aussie workers prioritising mental health and wellness in 2021

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New research reveals that Australian employees have an increasing expectation that their employers will act on issues affecting society, with mental health and wellness emerging as their number one area of concern in 2021.

Commissioned by Atlassian Corporation Plc and conducted by PwC Australia, the second annual Return On Action Report shows the extent to which expectations of employers have grown, with 77 per cent saying that businesses should speak up on societal issues, up 10 per cent on last year’s iteration of the report.

Almost three-quarters of the 1200 employees surveyed – 74 per cent – believe that businesses should pay the same amount of heed to their social impact as they do to their financial performance, up five per cent from 12 months ago.

“The era of the corporation being an invisible entity is gone, and employees expect more,” Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder and co-CEO of Atlassian, said. “We have an awesome opportunity to take inspiration from the hearts and minds of our global workforce, and drive change for the betterment of our world.”

Mental health first

The report shows that ‘mental health and wellness’ has overtaken ‘cost of living’ as the number one societal concern, whereas it only ranked in fourth place in 2020. This change suggests that the majority of workers have shifted from a “live to work” to a “work to live” mindset.

Over two thirds od respondents – 69 per cent – said that they would consider turning down a job promotion in order to preserve their mental health, and a further 42 per cent would change jobs to be able to work remotely more often. The number is even higher among Gen Y respondents, 50 per cent of whom expressed this intention.

More than half of the respondents (55 per cent) said that issues relating to ‘mental health and wellbeing’ (55 per cent) are more important now compared to 12 months ago; over a third (37 per cent) now expect their employer to provide mental health support – worryingly, 25 per cent feel that they did not receive enough of such support from their employers during the pandemic – and a quarter (26 per cent) said that they had suffered mental health issues and distress in the last year.

“The consequences of inaction are very real. We’re in a global war for talent and employees want change,” Scott Farquhar, co-founder and co-CEO of Atlassian, said. “There have never been higher expectations on business, and how we respond as leaders is crucial. If this groundswell of support for action is ignored, it will open businesses up to the risk of alienating the emerging workforce.”

Gen Y driving the shift

The Gen Y workforce bore the brunt of  the economic instability created by the pandemic, resulting in this section of the workforce leading the rise of social activism. Four-fifths of them say that businesses need to speak up or act on societal issues their employees care about, and 72 per cent of them appreciate companies that take a a public stand on important societal issues not directly related to their own business.