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From The Bangles to Dire Straits, Dolly Parton to Bruce Springsteen – the struggle to make a buck in this world has been crooned about by the world’s most famous voices.

And it’s exactly that Monday to Friday slog – or in many cases more like Monday to Sunday, 7am til whenever – that’s been deemed a mental health hazard.

A new research report by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) has found that despite a recent emphasis on ‘working smarter’ – stress levels and depression amongst workers is on the rise.

The APS report, Stress and Wellbeing in Australia in 2013: A state-of-the-nation survey, found that stress is currently impacting the physical health of 75% of workers, and the mental health of 68% of the workforce.

One of the most concerning statistics to emerge was that 1 in 7 working Australians reported symptoms of depression categorized in the severe, to extremely severe, range.

Professor Lyn Littlefield, executive director of the APS commented that the data represents a compelling argument for reviewing the causes of workplace stress.

“Stress can occur in a wide range of situations, but is often made worse when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues or little control over their work. Thus, it’s a problem that demands a collective solution,” Littlefield said.

Littlefield also commented on the negative impact that work-related stress has on productivity, noting that Worksafe figures show stress is the second most common cause of workplace compensation claims in Australia.

The APS report coincides with a separate survey commissioned by Microsoft, which found that although Australians want to embrace new ways of working, many workplaces are holding them back.

Steven Miller, Microsoft Office Division Lead, said that work should be seen as a thing you do, not a place you go. “Our offices are wherever we are, our work hours are when we choose them. It’s the outcome that’s important,” Miller said.

To walk the talk of this sentiment, this week Microsoft Australia hosted a ‘Spring Day Out’, hoping to send a message to the corporate community: that technology enables people to work from anywhere.

The Microsoft survey found many Australian workers don’t have this option.

  • 70% felt their organisation did not have the technology, tools and culture to embrace a flexible working model.
  • Of the respondents who did have an option to work flexibly, half felt pressured to go into the office anyway.
  • 2 in 5 workers felt they worked in an environment where only senior employees could work from anywhere at any time.
  • Just 1 in 10 of those polled felt the office environment was conducive to their creativity.
  • Over 60% felt that working away from the office allowed them to achieve a healthier work-life balance.
  • Over 50% cited reduced commute time and savings on their petrol bill as a top benefit of flexible working.

Miller added that while the discussion often centres around work-life balance, what it should really come back to, is making life work better.

“Every company has different circumstances and every company needs to work out what’s right for them. But the economy and our society is transforming and our workplaces need to be able to transform with it,” he said.

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Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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