The Workplace Wave: the next wave of the pandemic disrupting workplace mental health

28 September 2022
  • New research from Allianz Australia reveals employees believe they are yet to experience the most significant impacts of the pandemic on the workforce (42 per cent) with nearly 2 million Australian employees very likely to consider leaving their organisation in the next 6–12 months.1
  • Allianz has defined this emerging trend of employee disruption as The Workplace Wave, a long-term wave stemming from the pandemic that organisations did not consider and are currently experiencing.
  • This comes as Allianz Workers' Compensation claims data shows a 17 per cent increase in mental health (psychological) claims since pre-pandemic times.2
  • Organisations that fail to respond to The Workplace Wave are likely to see increased levels of employee burnout and an increase in talent turnover – all of which can lead to higher rates of workplace mental health injuries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought extreme workplace disruption, and employees are now emerging with a different perspective on the role of work in their lives. Despite a refreshed outlook and clearer expectations, 2 in 5 (42 per cent) of surveyed employees and more than half of surveyed managers (57 per cent) believe they are yet to experience the most significant impacts of the pandemic on the workforce.

New research by leading Workers’ Compensation insurer, Allianz Australia, reveals surveyed employees currently have a wide range of concerns that are negatively impacting their job satisfaction. Fatigue and burnout (42 per cent), staff shortages due to low levels of talent acquisition (34 per cent), and not being adequately rewarded for work (31 per cent) were the most reported factors. Managers surveyed believe worries around physical health (30 per cent), fatigue and burnout (29 per cent), staff shortages due to low levels of talent acquisition (25 per cent) and limited opportunities to connect with the team in person (25 per cent) are causing employee dissatisfaction. 

Despite clear concerns from both managers and employees, more than half (53 per cent) of managers surveyed believe their company has gone above and beyond to provide support and systems to create mentally healthy workplaces. In contrast, claims data from Allianz shows there was a 19 per cent increase in the days taken off work from mental health claims in the last three years.2  

The rate of dissatisfaction and disconnect amongst employees and managers is continuing to grow because of the pandemic, with the disruption of the last two years causing permanent shifts in desired ways of working, employee engagement and workplace mental health. This phenomenon – or next wave of change – is defined as The Workplace Wave3 and it’s set to directly impact organisations that are not ready to respond. 

Julie Mitchell, Chief General Manager of Personal Injury, Allianz Australia said, “Despite emerging from the depths of the pandemic, the disruption to workplaces has not subsided. Employees have emerged with refreshed values and a change in how they are approaching work, prompting the emergence of concepts like ‘the right to disconnect’, ‘loud leaving’, ‘quiet quitting’, and ‘acting your wage’. 

These trends are all real-world examples of The Workplace Wave, and organisations unequipped to effectively respond are likely to experience the full effects – being increased employee turnover, employee disengagement, and in some instances, a mental health workers' compensation claim.”

The research reveals that the best response to The Workplace Wave is reducing staff shortages/absenteeism (39 per cent) minimising fatigue and burn out (13 per cent), introducing flexible annual leave policies (11 per cent) and creating more meaningful connections with colleagues (11 per cent). 

Dr Mark Cross, Consultant Psychiatrist said, “The Workplace Wave is yet to be widely discussed in public discourse, but it’s spreading rapidly. Organisations have worked hard to be ‘pandemic proof’ and respond to all the challenges of the last two years, however, it is being ‘post-pandemic proof’ that requires attention and action.

We should expect to see further examples of The Workplace Wave emerge in the coming months – even years – as organisations and employees continue to adapt to the fundamental shifts in their shared approach to work. It’s important that employees are transparent about how they feel towards their work, and that employers create an environment that addresses and nourishes emerging values.”

Looking ahead, managers should be responding to the needs of their employees. Adequate remuneration in line with the market/inflation (40 per cent), empathetic and emotionally intelligent environments (38 per cent), and specialist mental health days in addition to sick leave (34 per cent) are the top measures employees surveyed believe organisations should commit to in order to improve mental health. In response, surveyed managers say their organisation has committed to creating empathetic and emotionally intelligent environments (37 per cent), regularly updating mental health policies (34 per cent), having clear processes in place for annual leave accrual, holidays and sick leave (34 per cent) and ensuring employees receive adequate remuneration in line with the market/inflation (33 per cent).

Julie Mitchell continued, “The relationship between employee and leader has become more important than ever before. Organisations need to ensure that the tone from the top is very much aligned with the behaviours leaders want to see throughout the business. This, alongside transparency, vulnerability, and clear action points are the key ingredients to ensure that the workplace is thriving and mentally healthy – which is something Allianz encourages and champions.”

For more information on how to respond to The Workplace Wave and how to create more mentally healthy workplaces, visit the Allianz Workplace Mental Health Hub.

  • Assess and actively respond: Take time to assess how you are feeling about work and the workplace – outline your goals, your ideal approach to the workplace and your needs. 
  • Conduct important conversations: Engage in more important conversations with your manager to share workplace concerns in a trusted setting, focused on working together to find a solution. 
  • Build meaningful connections: To improve your sense of engagement in the workplace, look to build more meaningful relationships with your colleagues. 
  • Stay across mental health policies: Check in with your organisation’s workplace mental health policies and support offerings, so you know what support is available and where to go to find it. 
  • Find and create balance: Find a balanced approach to your work that allows you to stay healthy, with adequate sleep and exercise and establishes clear boundaries with your workplace. Additionally, use different tactics to help you transition from work to your personal life, such as listening to music or going for a walk. 
  • Facilitate important conversations: Develop a better understanding of employee needs by facilitating important conversations and creating more open and nurturing workplace environments. 
  • Foster an inclusive and meaningful culture: Place greater importance on the issues impacting employee engagement and retention by inviting formal feedback through tools such as workplace surveys, and informal feedback through transparent discussion. 
  • Build, educate and reward your team: Modernise organisational approaches to employee skill building, career progression pathways and learning and development programs to help build team resilience and motivation through clear purpose and goals. 
  • Encourage micro breaks: The workplace can often be fast paced, and it can lead to employee burn-out. Taking micro breaks encourages employees to disconnect at clear times in the day and can in turn, lead to greater employee productivity.  
  • Review mental health policies: Actively review workplace policies around mental health support, extended annual leave and flexible working programs to allow employees to personalise their approach to work.

The Workplace Wave is evident in organisations in the following ways:

  • A continued sense of isolation from colleagues and managers.
  • Issues with high staff turnover and meeting employee flexibility expectations.
  • Employees feeling increasingly unsatisfied with the role of work in their lives, seeing them look for new employment opportunities.
  • Employees remaining unsatisfied with the proportion of time they spend working each day, with managers failing to recognise dissatisfaction amongst staff.
  • A growing disconnect between managers and employees on the importance of creating more mentally healthy workplaces and the necessary steps to implementing change.
  1. More than 2 in 5 (42 per cent) of surveyed employees say they are likely to consider leaving their current organisation in the next 6-12months, with 1 in 5 (22 per cent), the equivalent of 2 million employees when extrapolated to the general population, saying they are very likely to do so.
  2. Allianz Workers' Compensation claims data comparing primary psychological active claims for FY19 compared to FY22, from the Allianz Australia Workers' Compensation Underwritten Portfolio.
  3. Term defined and IP of Allianz Australia.
For further information, contact Emma Graham by email or on  +61 401 363 662.
For any media enquiries, journalists can contact our Media team.
Allianz Australia has been securing the future of our customers in Australia since 1914. We deliver a wide range of personal and commercial insurance products and services to more than 4 million policyholders. We also provide support for workers' compensation insurance to around 25% of the top 200 ASX companies, making us one of the leading workers' compensation insurers in Australia.

Allianz Australia Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of the worldwide Allianz Group. The Allianz Group is one of the world's leading insurers and asset managers with corporate customers in more than 70 countries. Allianz customers benefit from a broad range of personal and corporate insurance services, ranging from property, life, and health insurance to assistance services, credit insurance and global business insurance. Thanks to our systematic integration of ecological and social criteria in our business processes and investment decisions, we are among the leaders in the insurance industry in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
This article has been prepared by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL234708 (“Allianz”). In some cases, information has been provided to us by third parties and while that information is believed to be accurate and reliable, its accuracy is not guaranteed in any way.

Any opinions expressed constitute our views at the time of issue and are subject to change. Neither Allianz, nor its employees or directors give any warranty of accuracy or accept responsibility for any loss or liability incurred by you in respect of any error, omission or misrepresentation in this article.
Allianz acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live and work across Australia. We pay our respect to First Nations Elders past and present.

Any advice here does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Terms, conditions, limits, and exclusions apply. Before making a decision about this insurance, consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS)/Policy Wording and Supplementary PDS (if applicable). Where applicable, the PDS/Policy Wording, Supplementary PDS and Target Market Determination (TMD) for this insurance are available on this website. We do not provide any form of advice if you call us to enquire about or purchase a product.

Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFS Licence No. 234708 is the insurer of any general insurance products offered, and Allianz Australia Life Insurance Limited ABN 27 076 033 782 AFS Licence No. 296559 is the insurer of any life insurance products offered. Each entity is responsible for any statements and representations made about its products, on this website.