The Workplace Wave

A new wave of change is disrupting workplaces

Since COVID-19 first brought disruption to workplaces in 2020, organisations and their employees have experienced distinct ‘waves’ of change. During the first wave, organisations experienced a sense of anxiety and a desire from employees to find a balance between their home and work lives (PDF, 631 KB). Then, organisations experienced an increasing disconnect between employees and their manager (PDF, 1.4MB) around the ideal approach to modern work.

Employees now have stronger expectations of a healthier, more sustainable workplace culture – one which places higher value on the importance of mental health. These changed employee ideals, preferences and demands reflect a new wave of change – a wave that Allianz has named ‘The Workplace Wave’.

Julie Mitchell, Chief General Manager of Personal Injury, Allianz Australia
  • Our research shows that despite a refreshed outlook and clearer expectations, less than half of Australian employees (42%) surveyed and more than half of managers (57%) surveyed believe they’re yet to experience the most significant impacts of the pandemic.
  • The Workplace Wave is the next wave of change whereby the disruption of the pandemic is causing permanent shifts in desired ways of working, employee engagement and, in turn, workplace mental health. If your organisation is slow to adapt to the rapidly changing workplace landscape, you could be impacted.
A man standing in front of a group of colleagues pointing to a whiteboard.
A continued sense of isolation from colleagues and managers.
Almost half (46%) of the employees surveyed feel no change in levels of isolation or connectedness to their colleagues, as they did during periods when lockdowns and other more extreme COVID-19 restrictions were in place, with more than 2 in 5 (42%) employees saying they are likely to consider leaving their current organisation in the next 6–12 months.
Issues with high staff turnover and meeting employee flexibility expectations.
Only 24% of employees surveyed feel completely comfortable discussing when and where they work and their working hours with their manager. 
Employees feeling increasingly unsatisfied with the role of work in their lives, seeing them look for new employment opportunities. 
More than 2 in 5 (42%) employees surveyed said that fatigue and burnout, including increased pressure on productivity and workload, or mental health issues, are negatively impacting their job satisfaction in their current role.
Employees remaining unsatisfied with the proportion of time they spend working each day, with managers failing to recognise dissatisfaction amongst staff.  
A third (30%) of employees surveyed stated they’re unsatisfied with the proportion of time they spend working, yet 78% of managers surveyed believe their employees are satisfied with the proportion of time they spend working.
A growing disconnect between managers and employees on the importance of creating more mentally healthy workplaces and the necessary steps to implementing change. 
Just 25% of employees surveyed said their employer has gone above and beyond to provide support and systems to create a mentally healthy workplace in the past 6 months, compared to more than half (53%) of managers surveyed who say their company has gone above and beyond to provide support and systems to create a mentally healthy workplace.
It’s important to note that organisations should expect to see further examples of The Workplace Wave emerging in the months – even years – to come. Therefore, organisations should work to quickly understand the evolving needs and demands of their employees to help maintain a mentally healthy workplace culture. 
Dr Mark Cross, Consultant Psychiatrist and Author
With The Workplace Wave continuing to emerge in the months – even years – to come, the best practice response to The Workplace Wave is also still evolving. However, organisations and individual employees can consider a number of steps to navigate The Workplace Wave and better understand its evolving impacts. 
  • Assess and actively respond: Take time to assess how you’re feeling about work and the workplace – outline your personal and professional goals, your ideal approach to work and your needs to achieve this. 
  • Conduct important conversations: Engage in more important conversations with your manager to share workplace concerns in a trusted setting, such as a private, soundproof room or a neutral location out of the office, and focus 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 by checking in with each member of your team most days. 
  • Stay across mental health policies: Explore your organisation’s workplace mental health policies and support offerings, so you know what support is available and where to find it. 
  • Find and create balance: Find a balanced approach to your work that allows you to stay healthy, with adequate rest and exercise, and establish clear boundaries with your workplace. 
  • Facilitate important conversations: Develop a better understanding of employee needs by facilitating important conversations. Open discussions about topics that are important to your employees helps to create more 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 the organisation’s approach 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, which can lead to employee burnout. Encouraging employees to take micro breaks (a break of seconds or minutes away from work) at clear times in the day can 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.
Julie Mitchell, Chief General Manager of Personal Injury, Allianz Australia
Getting the treatment you need and being actively involved in your recovery may help you return to health sooner. You don’t have to be fully recovered to return to work. Our goal is to help you get the treatment you need, and return to the workplace as soon as possible.
The disruptive wave of change impacting the modern workplace
How managers and organisations can address employee concerns and mitigate the impacts of The Workplace Wave
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 1,550 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.
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.

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