Australian Workforce Survey 2023 finds workers at a crossroads 

Australian Psychological Society

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has released findings from the 2023 Australian Workforce Survey, shedding light on the critical importance of psychological health in the workplace.

The survey of over 2,000 participants across various industries underscores the need for effective leadership, employee well-being, and organisational culture in fostering successful and future-ready workplaces. The project was conducted by the APS’ College for Organisational Psychology in partnership with the Future of Work Institute at Curtin University.

APS CEO Dr Zena Burgess spoke on the importance of the project saying, “we are living in a time of monumental change in how workplaces are structured and function, and this important work helps shed a light on what this means for organisations and the economy.”

“It’s clear that much more needs to be done to improve psychological safety in the workplace, regardless of where or how you work.”

Key findings of the survey reveal that a quarter of employees feel either slightly unsafe or neutral at their workplace, and one-fifth believe their employer does not care about their well-being. Furthermore, smaller and private organisations have been found to offer higher levels of psychological safety compared to their larger private and public counterparts.

There was also significant disconnect between managers and workers perceptions on workplace training, with 78% of leaders perceiving themselves to be preparing their employees well for the future of work (e.g. embracing new technology and work methods) but just 53% of employees agreed with this.

Older workers and those in agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, professional scientific and technical services were also more likely to feel that they have enough training, decision-making autonomy and ability to cope with future changes at work than younger workers and those in retail and manufacturing.  

COP Chair Hayden Fricke said “the survey results highlight the necessity for leaders to develop clear and confident visions for their organisations, ensuring safe, supportive, and inclusive workplaces.”

“There is significant room for improvement, as only a small fraction of survey respondents expressed ‘very satisfied’ levels of job satisfaction” he said.

While the report also found that those who are self-employed and those who can work from home were the most satisfied with their job, the report concerningly found that those self-identifying both as LGBTIQ+ and people with a disability were the least satisfied and most cynical workers.

Dr Burgess continued saying “Working from home revolutionised the workplace, often for the better, but this isn’t spread evenly across the economy”.

“Successful workplaces of the future belong to organisations that have leaders who share their visions and are empathetic and inclusive.”

“Psychological safety, employee well-being, and a supportive work culture are not just ethical imperatives but also key to enhanced productivity and job satisfaction” she said. Previous studies have found mental health costs organisations more than $10 billion annually. Organisations who invest in workplace mental health can see a return between $2.30 to $5 for each dollar invested.

APS recommends organisations invest in leadership development, support adaptability and resilience, prioritise feedback, cultivate supportive cultures, reduce bureaucracy, and focus on employee safety and well-being. Additionally, the importance of preparing employees for the future through skill development, embracing technology, and fostering a learning environment is emphasised.

“The future of work depends on how well we can integrate these principles into our organisational structures and cultures,” adds Mr Fricke. “It’s about creating workplaces where employees don’t just survive but thrive.”

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