Survey reveals Australian workplaces are ill-prepared for CSIRO megatrend

Workplace Safety Futures

“Rising work stress and mental health issues” was recently named in CSIRO’s Workplace Safety Futures report as one of the TOP 6 MEGATRENDS for the next 20 years. This follows recent research by beyondblue which found that whilst 91% of Australian employees believe that a mentally healthy workplace is important, only 52% think that their workplace is mentally healthy. In addition mental ill health is currently estimated to cost over $11billion p.a. by PwC, and to be the largest cause of lost productivity in Australia through absenteeism and presenteeism.

So, what are organisations doing wrong and how can we prepare better for the next 20 years?

A survey of 380 employees I undertook in June 2018, revealed that:

  • No Australian organisation has a real time measure of team or organisational mental health
  • A modest 21% believe that the financial cost of mental health issues is known in their organisation
  • A meagre 43% believe that their organisation has the right resources to help employees with mental ill health.
  • Only 49% would feel comfortable speaking with their manager about mental distress.
  • Only 57% believe that the amount of stress in their job is manageable.

These findings invite other questions:

  1. How can we have a real time measure of team and organisational mental health?
  2. Why don’t boards insist on knowing the financial cost of this megatrend?
  3. What is missing from organisational resources to assist employees with mental distress?
  4. Why would 49% of employees feel uncomfortable speaking to their manager about mental health issues?
  5. What can be done to help the 43% of employees that think the stress levels in their job are unmanageable?

There are no immediate answers to these questions, so what do I think that Boards and the senior leadership teams should be doing differently?

  • Commission consultants to find out the current cost of mental ill health (including the cost of direct and indirect workers compensation premiums, how much is absenteeism and presenteeism costing, the cost of employee turnover (research shows that voluntary turnover is up to 50% high when there is high stress present), etc)
  • Conduct research to find out why more than half of employees believe that mental ill health resources are inadequate.
  • Train managers about how to create more psychologically safe and supportive teams

The CSIRO research also identifies that the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is a megatrend – and lead to more volatility and uncertainty. Perhaps AI can also be part of the solution. Eventually it should be possible for employee mood monitoring to combine with AI to produce the right training at the right time for managers.

This has led me to Co-Developing a new product with Brenden Carter, from The Learning Hook, called ‘FactorC: the care equation’ – a 24/7 mental health leadership mentor….as close as your phone. The 1:55 minute video below provides a brief overview.

We don’t know whether this leadership program will be part of the solution, but we are determined to find out. Over the next 6 months we will be conducting 5 pilots with large organisations from the professional services, healthcare, government, insurance, building and university sectors. We will then be publishing our findings. You can find out more information about FactorC at

May you individually and collectively Go for the Green Zone every day.

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