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Pandemic-related insecurity still dominating employee concerns: ELMO Employee Sentiment Index

With many regions in Australia again facing extended lockdowns, three in five of the country’s workers are open to their employer mandating COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace, according to the June quarter ELMO Employee Sentiment Index (ESI).

The ESI found that 62 per cent of Australian workers believe employers should require their employees to be vaccinated while nearly half (44 per cent) of Australian workers are uncomfortable going into work if their colleagues are not vaccinated.

Vaccine rollout seen as critical to economic recovery

The vaccine rollout is also an important factor for workers with three quarters (76 per cent) reporting they believe the economy will only return to normal if an Australian COVID-19 vaccine rollout is successful, yet only two in five (41 per cent) workers believe Australia is on track with its vaccination rollout. 

ELMO Software CEO Danny Lessem says the COVID-19 vaccine will become a tough challenge for employers in the coming months.

“We are already seeing different companies take different approaches to managing vaccination requirements in the workplace. It’s far from a cut-and-dried matter and will require employers to be able to engage in transparent one-to-one communication with their employees. 

“The vaccine rollout is an important issue for workers’ perceptions of economic security with 76 per cent stating the economy will only return to normal if the rollout is successful. The message from Australian workers is clear – to kickstart the economy we need to kickstart the vaccine rollout.”

Job security lessens while burnout increases

The insights into employee attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccinations follows on from the employee sentiment indexing research of the ESI. The benchmarking research also found that Australian workers are feeling less secure in their jobs and more burnt out compared to the first quarter of the year.

The ESI recorded an eight-point drop in perceived job security among Australian workers from 55 per cent reporting they perceived their jobs to be secure in the March quarter to 47 per cent in the June quarter. This drop was mirrored across perceptions of economic security, falling from 30 per cent to 19 per cent, industry security from 59 per cent to 54 per cent and organisational security from 57 per cent to 52 per cent. 

The decline is in stark contrast to New Zealand which recorded just a one-point decline in perceived job security among its workforce to 55 per cent compared to the March quarter. 

Alongside employment insecurity, workers are feeling more burnt out and overwhelmed. Burnout rates among Australian workers increased by eight points to 42 per cent. Similarly, there was a 10-point increase in workers reporting being overwhelmed by the amount of work they had to do. The feelings of burnout and overwhelm are resulting in a three-point decline in workers feeling they are remunerated fairly (from 66 per cent to 63 per cent) and a four-point decline in workers feeling recognised for their workplace contributions (from 67 per cent to 63 per cent). 

Career changes on the rise

Despite concerns about job and economic security, a quarter (26 per cent) of Australian workers are considering changing their careers; a two-point increase on the previous quarter. Similarly, there has been a three-point increase in the workers actively searching for new roles in another company, up from 16 per cent to 19 per cent. 

Nearly a third (31 per cent) of working Australians are encouraged to search for a new job by the current economic conditions and in the last quarter, four per cent followed through and started work in a new career. 

The top four factors respondents look for when choosing a new employer are:

  • Remuneration and bonus payments / incentives
  • Stability
  • flexible/remote working
  • organisational culture

Mr Lessem says the findings should be ringing the alarm bells for Australian employers.

“Employees feeling burnt out, unrecognised for their efforts and insecure in their jobs is a dangerous combination for employers. This mix should be the ‘canary in the coal’ mine to do something now to make employees’ lives easier.

“With large parts of the economy experiencing a skills shortage, workplaces can’t afford to lose employees. Yet, the risk of losing good workers is greater now than it was at the beginning of the year.

“Unsurprisingly, 68 per cent of Australian workers believe greater technology will help them in their jobs. Employers need to turn to technology to reduce the manual processes in people’s work lives so they can feel less burnt out and focus on tasks that lead to outputs for the company.”

The takeaway for SMEs

When commenting on the implications of the survey results for SMEs, Mr Lessem says: “The findings in the ELMO Employee Sentiment Index offer employers from businesses of all shapes and sizes an insight into how the Australian workforce is feeling. 

“Our index shows that workers are feeling anxious, insecure and concerned about what the future holds. This holds true right across organisations of varying sizes.

“While smaller firms may be unable to offer onsite vaccinations to their employees, they can certainly engage in conversation to discuss employees’ concerns about COVID-19 and what employers can do to remedy those fears.

“It doesn’t matter whether an organisation hires a few people or a few thousand, the key for organisations is to understand how their workers feel and then engage with them about those concerns.”

Read more: Fostering psychological safety in the workplace

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Clare Loewenthal

Clare Loewenthal

Clare is an author, business commentator and passionate contributor to Dynamic Business. She was the Founder and Publisher of Dynamic Small Business magazine, which became Australia’s largest small business publication.

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