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‘Hugely concerning’ Covid-19 problem affecting these workers

Anastasia Santoreneos
·3-min read
Portrait of young woman at desk in an office looking concerned.
‘Hugely concerning’ Covid-19 problem affecting these workers. Source: Getty

Casual workers are more likely to face mental health and wellbeing issues in the workplace, and Covid-19 has only made matters worse, a new study commissioned by SuperFriend has revealed.

The 2020 Indicators of a Thriving Workplace survey, which gathered results from 10,338 Aussie workers, revealed that while mental health and wellbeing actually increased overall despite the pandemic, casual workers reported no change.

The survey measures workers in five ‘thriving workplace domains’: information media and telecommunications, financial and insurance services, construction, accommodation and food services, wholesale trade and transport, postal and warehousing.

The national Culture Index, which tracks actual mental and health and wellbeing against a desired state, increased to a score of 65.1 out of 100, up from 62.7 last year. Full-timers reported a score of 66, while casuals had a score of just 62.

“Over the last few years of conducting this research, we have noticed a persistent decline in outcomes for casual workers and industries with higher casualised workforces,” SuperFriend chief executive officer Margo Lydon said in announcing the results.

“Casual workers have very little job security, and fewer opportunities to access workplace mental health programs and resources compared with their securely employed peers.

“Accommodation, food services and arts and recreation workers have been particularly hard hit because of this."

Workplace connectedness also declined, with casual workers reporting persistent declines in respect and inclusiveness over the last three years.

“This is hugely concerning,” Lydon said. “Given the known benefits to wellbeing and the protective factor against suicide and mental ill-health that a sense of connectedness and belonging provides.”

Transport industry workers thriving the least

The report revealed workers in the transport, postal and warehousing industry had the lowest ‘thriving’ score at 62.1, while those in the information, media and telecommunications industry had the highest at 71.6.

The survey follows Safe Work Australia data unveiled on Monday, which found that the rates of injury and death in the transport sector were the highest in Australia.

“The rates of injury and death in the transport sector, in no small part due to the appalling conditions faced by delivery workers in the gig economy, is a national disaster. More than one worker a week died in transport alone in 2019,” the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Liam O’Brien said.

“The pandemic has exposed the systemic issues facing workers in health and community services, and this data shows the human cost of those failings did not begin with the virus.”

Aussies feeling more connected overall

Overall, the research found that Aussies are feeling more connected than ever before, and productivity has actually increased for many. Respondents largely credited the increased productivity to reduced commute times and more comfortable clothing as well as flexible work hours.

“Who'd have thought a pandemic which introduced ‘social distancing’ as a behaviour norm would make us feel more connected at work?” Lydon said.

“Time usually spent getting ready for work, commuting and attending unnecessary meetings is instead spent with loved ones, exercising, pursuing personal interests or getting more sleep – all known factors to improve wellbeing and increase productivity.”

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