Kiwi workers have suffered rising levels of anxiety and depression as the pandemic and attendant cycle of lockdowns have ground on, according to AUT research.
Dr Jarrod Haar, a professor with the university's School of Business, is overseeing a rolling survey of 1000 Kiwi workers called "Wellbeing@Work".
The mental wellbeing of the employees has been canvassed three times - and Haar has found levels of job anxiety steadily grew from May 2020 to December 2020 and to April 2021.
"The data clearly show a decline in the mental health of the NZ workforce," Haar says.
Stress is rising in a representative cross-section of the NZ workforce. Haar's survey has a 50/50 gender split, a mix of private sector and public organisation staff, and an average age of 39.
"The findings are sobering. Job anxiety rose significantly between May and December 2020 and again in April 2021," Haar says.
Depression from the job increased markedly between May and December 2020 but stabilised in April 2021.
Participants described the racing and "spinning" of their minds since the first Covid-19 lockdown, Haar says.
Job insecurity looms large
Haar says although anxiety and depression levels are not critically high, the failure for anxiety to drop over the better part of a year shows that Kiwis remain deeply worried and anxious about, and because of, their jobs.
"The biggest driver of this mental health concern is a persistent worry about job insecurity. This has remained relatively high and unchanged across the three time periods. Kiwis are worried about their job and future," Haar says.
Further, he contends, the study shows that organisations generally have struggled to aid worker wellbeing since the first lockdown in 2020.
"When employees feel that their organisation cares about their wellbeing, anxiety and depression levels among staff tend to drop," says Professor Haar. "To help keep staff anxiety levels at bay, companies must communicate clearly with employees about their concerns – especially job security."
Haar's research found that managers were under rising levels of pressure too, with similar results to staff.
And there was no element of either sex being more susceptible to anxiety and depression.
Overall, females had similar levels as males towards job anxiety and job depression across all three survey periods.
Haar says there's nothing worse than a slow drip of bad news, and a series of piecemeal job cuts.
"If job losses do have to be made, do them quickly and compassionately," he says.
"People suffer immensely when they fear their job is on the line – whether it really is or not," he says.
"Uncertainty is not helpful. This can be why some employees leave for another job – just for surety."
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633 or text 234 (available 24/7)
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (12pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or text 4202 (available 24/7)
• Anxiety helpline: 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY) (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.