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COVID-19 and economic uncertainty: 81% of workers are struggling

Given the rapid and unpredictable changes that most Australians have experienced since the start of 2020, it was not surprising to find that 81% of workers felt their levels of struggle had increased. 

This has resulted in statistically significant changes in workers’ levels of wellbeing. The number of workers who were consistently thriving declined by 4%. Although these workers continued to report the highest levels of job satisfaction, performance, and commitment to their organisation, they also experienced a significant decline in their levels of performance, suggesting that the challenges are impacting their functionality, and they may find it harder to navigate the struggles ahead of them. 

In contrast, workers who were living well despite struggles experienced no decline in their levels of job satisfaction, performance, and commitment to their organisation, and continued to report significantly higher levels than those who were not feeling bad but just getting by, or really struggling. The challenges might provide these workers with an opportunity to continue to demonstrate how to thrive despite struggle. 

Workers who were not feeling bad but just getting by experienced a significant increase in their levels of job satisfaction and commitment to their organisation. And the number of workers really struggling declined, suggesting that levels of struggle may be relative to what is happening in the world around us. 

Workers anxiety has increased due to worries regarding COVID-19 and the economy

Workers’ mental health and managing money at home, followed by changes at work became the biggest causes of struggle for workers. Given the economic challenges facing workers and workplaces, these changes are understandable. Interestingly, workers who reported high levels of worry and anxiety about the impact of Coronavirus or the economy were performing just as well as those workers with low levels of worry and anxiety. 

In contrast, workers who reported medium levels of worry and anxiety about these challenges were significantly more likely to report lower levels of performance. Why might this be the case? Worry about the virus or the economy might motivate productive action, whereas moderate worry might reflect uncertainty and passivity, undermining performance. 

Workers are uncertain about the future 

While it is not surprising that 82% of workers are feeling worried and anxious about the impact of the Coronavirus, of particular concern are the 18% of workers who are not worried or anxious about catching or spreading Coronavirus. 

Unfortunately, given the highly contagious nature of the Coronavirus, it may only take this 18% of workers to spread further chaos into our workplaces and communities. Workplaces should also be concerned that only 24% of workers feel certain about what actions they should be taking in response to Coronavirus. 

While community updates are changing daily, 76% of workers are likely to benefit from clear and consistent communication on the actions their workplaces want them to be taking. Finally, although this data was gathered just prior to the shutdown in Australia of non-essential businesses, 91% of workers were already anxious about the impact of the economic downturn.

The impact of this can be seen in the significant surge of workers struggling with money at home. With analysts predicting that Australia may be headed for one of its worst recessions, workplaces need to be mindful of ways to support their workers through these struggles. 

By: THE WELLBEING LAB 2020 WORKPLACE REPORT

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