Understanding The Workplace Wave

Last updated on October 4, 2022 

Organisations across the globe have proactively discussed the disruptive impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic and have worked to implement programs to engage and retain employees. However, the scale of the disruption brought on by the pandemic is causing permanent shifts in the desired ways of working, employee engagement and, in turn, workplace mental health.

The need for open dialogue around mental health in the workplace couldn’t be more urgent, with Allianz Workers' Compensation claims data showing a 17 per cent increase in mental health (psychological) claims since pre-pandemic times.

During the first outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, employees struggled to find a balance between their home and work lives (PDF, 630 KB). Many employees experienced an increasing disconnect from their managers, which delivered a shift in how employees engage with one another and their organisation. These waves of change have altered employee values, as they rethink their ideal approach to work. 

As the initial impact of COVID-19 fades, employees are returning to the workplace. They’re ready to experience a more ideal workplace culture, built on sustainable principles and with higher value placed on the importance of mental health. The Workplace Wave is the term Allianz is using to describe the next wave of change, which is set to impact organisations that are slow to adapt to the rapidly changing workplace and the demands of a modern workforce.

Organisations can see the impact that The Workplace Wave is having on their teams across a range of areas, including workplace relationships, flexibility and talent, fatigue and fallout, organisational responsiveness and mental health support.

Some employees report a sense of isolation from their colleagues and managers, even when compared to the most extreme periods of COVID-19 lockdown measures. A disconnect between managers and employees on the importance of creating more mentally healthy workplaces is a significant example of the impact of The Workplace Wave.

Our latest research has found that employees across Australia are feeling unsatisfied with the role of work in their lives and are considering looking for new opportunities. More than 2 in 5 (42 per cent) employees surveyed 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 survey data is extrapolated to the general population), saying they’re very likely to do so.

Managers’ opinions appear to be divided on whether their employees are likely to leave, with 2 in 5 (39 per cent) managers surveyed saying their employees or direct reports are likely to consider leaving their current organisation in the next 6–12 months, and the same proportion (39 per cent) saying that their employees/direct reports are not likely to consider leaving in this period. This points to a core impact of The Workplace Wave – the need for greater staff engagement and connection to understand changing workplace issues. 

This sense of employee empowerment and their willingness to change their employer highlights new concerns that organisations will be challenged to keep their staff engaged and retained. In our research, employees surveyed confirm they are most concerned about contracting COVID-19 or Long COVID (29 per cent), being unable to secure a promotion or pay rise (26 per cent), and high staff turnover (25 per cent) occurring in their teams over the next 6–12 months. Managers surveyed are aware of these issues, as their responses when asked to list their employees’ most significant concerns, mirrored those of their employees. 

Employees’ satisfaction in their current role has been directly impacted by The Workplace Wave. Most commonly, employees surveyed say fatigue and burnout, including increased pressure on productivity and workload, or mental health issues (42 per cent), staff shortages due to low talent acquisition (34 per cent) and not being adequately rewarded at work (31 per cent), are negatively impacting their job satisfaction in their current role.

Concerningly, our research found that almost half (48 per cent) of employees surveyed, the equivalent of 4.5 million employees, agree that they often experience staff shortages due to absenteeism – a significant driver of The Workplace Wave. More concerning is that while managers surveyed acknowledge the negative impact of staff shortages due to low talent acquisition, on job satisfaction, it’s far more acknowledged as a factor by employees surveyed (34 per cent compared to 25 per cent), indicating that organisations need a deeper understanding of the pressures negatively impacting their employees.

With employees considering concepts like ‘the great resignation’, ‘the right to disconnect’, ‘loud leaving’ and ‘quiet quitting’, organisations are being challenged to become operational innovators to meet the changing expectations of their workforce.

While our claims data shows a 17 per cent increase in mental health (psychological) claims since pre-pandemic times, it also shows there was a 19 per cent increase in the days taken off work from mental health claims in the last three years.3

If organisations are unable to modernise their approach to work and place a greater emphasis on addressing emerging mental health issues, they’re likely to experience higher rates of workplace fatigue, and may see increases in the number of workers' compensation claims related to mental health injuries.

To find out more about The Workplace Wave visit our Workplace Mental Health Hub. Here, you can delve into our research on the issue of mental health in the workplace and find tangible insights and practical toolkits for both employees and managers.  

1 Allianz Workers' Compensation claims data comparing primary psychological active claims for FY19 compared to FY22, from the Allianz Australia Workers’ Compensation Underwritten portfolio.

2 About the research: The research was commissioned by Allianz and conducted by YouGov in accordance with the Australian Polling Council standard. The survey is a nationally representative sample comprised of 1550 employees (middle managers and below) and 506 managers (senior managers and above) in Australia aged 18 years and older. This study was conducted online between 3 August 2022 and 15 August 2022. Following the completion of interviewing, the data was weighted by age, gender and region to reflect the latest ABS population estimates.

3 Allianz Workers' Compensation claims data comparing primary psychological active claims for FY19 compared to FY22, from the Allianz Australia Workers' Compensation Underwritten Portfolio.


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.

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