Workplace dissatisfaction on the rise: report

Posted on 29 Feb 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Unappreciated employees DI

Australians feel less connected, less valued and less included at work than they did before the pandemic, according to a major new study of employee attitudes.

The 2023–24 Inclusion@Work Index by Diversity Council Australia (DCA) has for the first time assessed worker wellbeing in a full year not impacted by the pandemic.

The biennial study found workers were feeling disillusioned post-covid, with discrimination, harassment and other forms of workplace exclusion on the rise – a reversal of the trend experienced during the pandemic.

However, the study also revealed that organisations focused on diversity and inclusion were bucking the trend.

Key findings:

  • The number of Australian workers who don’t feel valued, respected or able to contribute and progress at work has almost doubled since 2021 to one in five (19%)
  • Almost one in three workers reported experiencing discrimination and harassment on the job, an 8% rise since 2021.
  • The number of employees who believe their manager does not behave in an inclusive way (does not value differences, treat everyone fairly or deal with inappropriate behaviour) increased from 18% in 2021 to 27% in 2023.
“In a time of so much disruption and division, a focus on diversity and inclusion is more important than ever.”
Diversity Council Australia CEO Lisa Annese.

The study also found that opposition to diversity and inclusion (D&I) had doubled since the previous survey. Support for D&I initiatives among young men had dropped, and First Nations workers experienced the highest rates of workplace discrimination.

DCA CEO Lisa Annese said the good news is that workers who indicated their organisation was taking action to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace were twice as likely to belong to an inclusive team and have an inclusive manager.

They were also twice as likely to report their work had a positive effect on their mental health, and twice as likely to provide excellent customer service, collaborate effectively, solve problems in an innovative way, and work extra hard.

“While many behave as though the global pandemic is firmly behind us, Australians are still recovering from the shared trauma of these past few years,” said Ms Annese.

Diversity Council Australia CEO Lisa Annese.

She said this year’s report was uniquely positioned to capture the state of Australian workplaces post-covid, drawing comparisons with previous releases in 2021–2022 (during the pandemic) and 2019–2020 (pre-pandemic).

“Workplaces are adjusting to the latest ‘new normal’, grappling with questions around flexible working, AI technology, inflationary pressures and growing skills shortages,” said Ms Annese.

“Meanwhile, employees are still processing the trauma and disruption of the past few years, fuelling a growing disillusionment with traditional working arrangements.”

Given these factors, Ms Annese said it was unsurprising that the latest Inclusion@Work Index revealed workers felt less connected, less valued and less included in a post-pandemic world.

“In a time of so much disruption and division, a focus on diversity and inclusion is more important than ever,” she said.

“This report addresses the unique problems of the post-pandemic workforce and lays out a case for D&I action as a proven solution.”

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