Modern Australian


NZ workplace study shows more than quarter of employees feel depressed much of the time

  • Written by Professor Tim Bentley, Director of Research, professor of Work and Organisation, Massey University
NZ workplace study shows more than quarter of employees feel depressed much of the time

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the workplace can be a positive force for improving mental health.

But many workers are exposed to work environments that are damaging to their psychological health and leave them burnt out. As the nature of work changes – including technological advancements, reduced job security, and blurred work/non-work boundaries – psychosocial harm is likely to increase.

Despite their popularity, many wellness initiatives directed towards “stressed” workers simply help people to cope a little longer with a toxic and damaging environment. The underlying risks remain.

The New Zealand Workplace Barometer (NZWB) seeks to understand the causes of psychosocial risks - factors that encompass mental, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions of what it means to be healthy.

We have found that more than a quarter of employees experience depression, but that a strong psychological safety climate is the most effective way to manage mental health at work.

Read more: Are you burnt out at work? Ask yourself these 4 questions

Why we need a workplace barometer

Psychosocial risk factors include aspects of work design, the organisation and management of work, and work relationships. Evidence from New Zealand and elsewhere shows that these factors considerably increase the risk of negative psychological, physical or social outcomes, including work-related stress, burnout or depression.

Despite these findings, there has been no comprehensive approach to understanding or preventing these risk factors in New Zealand before the introduction of the NZWB in 2018.

Its primary aim is to produce information on the prevalence, nature and impacts of psychosocial risk factors in the New Zealand workplace so organisations can improve worker health by attacking any problems at their source. But the NZWB also has an important engagement function, working closely with industry.

Participating organisations receive individual reports to monitor their performance over time and benchmark against other organisations. They also receive advice on how to improve their risk profile. This engagement has motivated preventive action and the inclusion of psychosocial risks in workplace health and safety policies and initiatives.

Key findings from year one

The NZWB is underpinned by the theory of psychosocial safety climate (PSC). This reflects the balance of concern management shows for workers’ psychological health versus their productivity. It is a strong predictor of stress-related illness.

Findings from the NZWB’s initial year of data draw on a sample of 25 organisations and 1,409 individual workers. We found that workplace mental health had a debilitating influence on the lives of study participants. More than a quarter felt depressed much of the time and a half said depression affected their work or non-work lives to some extent. Worryingly, these problems made life “very or extremely difficult” for nearly 8% of our sample.

The costs to organisations were also considerable. People who reported the highest psychological distress had up to 3.5 times more days off work than those with the least level of stress.

As expected, the psychosocial safety climate was significantly related to health outcomes, with lower reporting of depression, psychological distress and physical health issues associated with higher PSC. These findings are critically important in understanding how mental health and stress-related illnesses might be addressed by improving workplace conditions.

Also worth noting is that the psychosocial safety climate had a powerful impact on organisational outcomes such as work engagement and leave intentions of workers. This provides further incentives for organisations to build a strong psychosocial safety climate.

Read more: Go home on time! Working long hours increases your chance of having a stroke

Workplace bullying

Workplace bullying prevalence has remained persistently high in New Zealand compared to other countries. Our study found 12.2% of respondents were targeted with at least two negative behaviours weekly over the a period of six months.

Although this figure is somewhat lower than the rate of between 15-18% found in previous New Zealand studies by the Healthy Work Group, bullying remains a concern. Our study found a strong relationship between bullying, mental health and organisational outcomes.

Interestingly, given the changing nature of how employees communicate and interact at work, we found that the prevalence of cyber bullying was relatively low. Just under 3% of our sample experienced this emerging risk.

The prevalence of sexual harassment was approximately 3%, although women experienced higher rates (4%). This mode of workplace ill-treatment should get further attention.

Inclusion has not previously featured as a variable of interest in major studies of workplace health. We found that workers’ perception of inclusion is a powerful predictor of a number of psychosocial risks, including job stress, work engagement, workplace bullying and depression.

This finding suggests the need for greater attention to diversity and inclusion within organisations as this will enhance workers’ experience of work. It appears to be a protective factor.

The workplace can be a positive influence on worker mental health, but achieving this means paying attention to the work environment itself and not just helping staff to build resilience to cope with highly stressful and poorly led workplaces. The NZWB seeks to understand the deep causes of workplace mental health and offers positive solutions to enhance individual and organisational outcomes.

It is our hope more New Zealand organisations will join the free programme in 2019, as a first step towards building a strong psychosocial safety culture and address key hazards in the workplace.

Authors: Professor Tim Bentley, Director of Research, professor of Work and Organisation, Massey University

Read more http://theconversation.com/nz-workplace-study-shows-more-than-quarter-of-employees-feel-depressed-much-of-the-time-118989

NEWS

what teachers are saying about COVID-19 and the disruption to education

ShutterstockAll Victorian school students will be learning remotely from Wednesday. Prior to the state’s premier Daniel Andrews announcing a tightening of restrictions over the weekend, only students in prep to...

As 'lockdown fatigue' sets in, the toll on mental health will require an urgent mental health response

ShutterstockAs Victorians face yet another long period of enforced lockdown, serious concerns are being raised about people’s capacity to comply with the new orders and the mental health impacts of...

why health-care workers in Australia are inadequately protected against coronavirus

ShutterstockIn Victoria, more than 1,100 health-care workers have now been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Some 11% of active cases are workers in the health-care sector.Health-care workers...

Babe at 25, a trailblazing cinematic classic

Universal PicturesIt wasn’t the first time I’d crashed a film set. My first was the 1984 film The Coolangatta Gold. You’ll recognise me in one of the shots because I’m...

400,000 women over 45 are at risk of homelessness in Australia

ShutterstockOlder women have been recognised as the fastest-growing group of homeless people in Australia in recent years. Yet until now we have not known exactly how many older women are...

older women renters are struggling

ShutterstockOlder women renters are struggling in an insecure and unaffordable rental housing market. A combination of high rents and low incomes leaves many living in substandard housing and unable to...

How climate change made the melting of New Zealand's glaciers 10 times more likely

Dave Allen, Author providedGlaciers around the world are melting — and for the first time, we can now directly attribute annual ice loss to climate change.We analysed two years in...

Our states are crying poor. They wouldn't if they charged for rezoning like the ACT

Google MapsThroughout Australia, when land is rezoned from industrial to high-rise residential, a charge is levied to help fund the required infrastructure.In NSW it is called an infrastructure contribution.The NSW...

5 scientists tell the stories behind these species names

Left: imdb. Right: Volker Framenau Weaving creative, heartfelt or even risqué words into the formal Latin names for new species has long been common in taxonomy — the science of...

Australia won't recover unless Victoria does too. The federal government must step up

The announcement of stage 4 restrictions in Victoria marks a new, and depressing, stage in Australia’s response to COVID-19. The new measures will close non-essential retailers and most child-care centres...

Victoria's child-care shutdown is a hard blow for working mothers

ShutterstockHow do you occupy a child for long enough to get any work done?This will be the question confronting more than 150,000 Melbourne families for at least the next six...

here's why Melbourne's new business restrictions will reduce cases

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced sweeping changes to businesses across metropolitan Melbourne, including closure of retail stores and restrictions on some industries, including construction. The new constraints come into...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

How to supercharge your immune system for cold and flu seasonHow to Avoid Blocked Drains and Stinky OverflowCBD on Cyber Monday: Buying the Best for You5 Beginner Projects You Can Make with Arduino Starter KitWhy Your Outdoor Living Areas Might Benefit From TilesRetirement on the Road: Planning a Post-Retirement Australian Road TripDesign a Pool to Fit Your SpaceHow to Get TEFL Certification for Teaching English in ThailandHow to Find a Lawyer in Sydney for Your Legal RepresentationHow to Pre-Prepare For Your Retirement3 of the most common beginner’s mistakes in table tennisTips to Choose Regular Wear Bands for Your Brand New Apple WatchThe Benefits of Living a Healthy LifestyleHOW TO STUDY ART WITH WIKIART.ORGHow to transform a