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Almost half of the Australian workforce say their work is suffering as a result of poor mental health, a new survey has found.

And this rises to over half (56%) of millennial workers (25-34 year olds), compared to less than two in 10 (17%) of the 55+ age bracket, the survey of almost 1,400 workers in Australia found.  

People working from home are more likely to feel that poor mental health is having a detrimental impact on their work (55%) than their colleagues in the workplace (36%), the ADP Research Institute’s People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View survey found.

It said that across the Asia-Pacific region, 56% of workers say mental health issues are taking a toll on their work.

Recent studies indicate that in addition to uncertainty and disruption caused by lockdowns, the COVID-19 infection itself can increase the risk of mental health problems developing, and as a result mental health services have been inundated in many countries. According to the charity Mind, a third of adults and young people worldwide say their mental health has gotten much worse since March 2020.

In addition, the frequent stress and burnout that many workers were already feeling, appears to have been exacerbated since the pandemic. Seven in 10 workers across Australia (70%) say they experience stress at work at least once a week, up from 62% pre-pandemic in 2020, and one in seven (27%) feel stressed 4 or more times a week.

The most common cause of stress injuries is having increased responsibility as a result of the pandemic, with 45% of workers citing it as a major cause. Other key sources of stress include the length of the working day (for 29%), problems with technology (27%) and concerns over job security (27%).

Kylie Baullo, Managing Director ANZ at ADP, said: “It’s concerning to see the number of workers, and especially millennial workers, struggling in Australia due to mental health issues. There are ongoing issues around the rising cost of living worldwide, and the demands placed on workers across industries is only rising. There are, however, a range of issues and factors which can lead to mental ill health.

“It is important to note that workers may be struggling whether they are working from home or at the office - in this case, managers should be vigilant to ensure they are offering support no matter the working location.”

Most employers across Australia (82%) are being proactive about finding new ways to support the mental health of their workforce. Chief among the initiatives being tried are: checking in or communicating with employees more (33% of workers say their employers are doing so), allowing wellbeing days off (27%), implementing Employee Assistance Programs (23%) and allowing staff to take additional breaks during the day (21%). 

Oxford academics have found that playing and socially connecting via video games can benefit mental health. Not only does this reduce the feeling of being alone during working from home or lock downs, but gives your mind a break and a different perspective. Gaming brings back happy feelings and memories and this is even more so the case when playing retro game consoles as nostalgia is loaded with feel good memories and can be quite therapeutic.

Mrs Baullo said: “Unless the causes of poor mental health - whether it be personal or work related, or both - are identified and dealt with, the impact of well-intentioned schemes could be undermined. Employers need to prioritise ways to boost workplace mental wellbeing, and remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”

Photo: Thought Catalog/Unsplash

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