Who Are Australia’s Happiest Workers, And Why?

The Wellbeing Lab Workplace Survey, conducted in partnership with Dr Peggy Kern from the University of Melbourne and supported by the Australian HR Institute, recently asked a representative sample of just over 1,000 Australian workers how their wellbeing was faring. The results are both surprising and helpful when it comes to understanding what workplaces can do to improve their people’s wellbeing.

Snapshot: The State of Wellbeing in Australian Workplaces

Of the 19% of Australian workers who were consistently thriving:

  • CEOs (40%) were almost twice as likely to be thriving as their employees. Workers in administrative roles (11%), or customer service and sales positions (10%), were the least likely to be thriving.
  • People working in the consulting industry (42.9%). People in the accounting (11%) or legal (9%) industries were the least likely to be thriving.
  • Workers in South Australia (27%), perhaps reflecting the State Government’s investment in their people’s wellbeing. Workers in Western Australia (12%) were the least likely to be thriving among the Australian states.
  • Men (23.2%) fared better in comparison to women (14.1%).

In addition, 37% of Australian workers demonstrated resilience describing themselves as ‘living well, despite struggles’ and showed no statistically significant difference between job satisfaction or job performance.

So what enables Australian workers, whether they are dealing with struggles like mental or physical illness or not, to thrive?

The Wellbeing Lab Workplace Survey found that while gender may play a role, it was higher levels of positive emotions, a sense of engagement, and job autonomy that differentiated Australian workers who were consistently thriving. Improving wellbeing at work however, is not a solo endeavour.

Workers who were consistently thriving were more likely to be part of a team that provided a sense of psychological safety and support. They were also more likely to be working for organisations where wellbeing support options go beyond Employee Assistance Programs and the popular three Fs of wellbeing (fruit, fitness, and flu shots), to also include the three Ms of wellbeing (meaning, motivation, and mentoring).

“What surprised us most in The Wellbeing Lab Workplace Survey results were the high percentage of Australian workers (37%) who reported that they were ‘living well, despite struggles’,” said Dr. Kern. “Particularly as we found no statistically significant differences on a number of outcomes, like job satisfaction and performance, between these workers and those who were ‘consistently thriving’.”

“This suggests that there is a resilient portion of the Australian workforce who, due to mental or physical illness or other struggles, may never describe themselves as ‘thriving’ or be rated as having high levels of wellbeing,” cautioned Dr. Kern. “Workplaces need to be careful that in their drive for improving wellbeing they don’t stigmatise those who are struggling, but instead learn from and better support these resilient workers.”

“We also found that there were practical steps individuals, teams and workplaces can take to improve and sustain wellbeing,” noted Dr. Kern. “These don’t need to be expensive or complicated approaches, but can be as simple as creating a common language that embraces the diverse nature of wellbeing and a shared evidence-based toolbox that supports the 3Ms of wellbeing – meaning, motivation and mentoring – in addition to the 3Fs – fruit, fitness and flu shots.”

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