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Workplace mental health crisis rises as 41 percent of leaders struggle

A new SuperFriend report revealed the need for better support for leaders who are finding it hard to manage change

Australia’s most comprehensive survey on workplace mental health, the 2023 Indicators of a Thriving Workplace report, has revealed that almost half (41 percent) of leaders lack the essential skills required to perform their jobs effectively. 

The annual report which has been conducted for nine consecutive years by SuperFriend, a leading national workplace mental health organisation, has revealed that workers lack confidence in the capabilities of their managers, when dealing with change management, amplifying the need for better support for leaders in shaping a positive wellbeing culture.


“With almost half (49 percent) of Australian workers experiencing a major organisational change in the past 12 months, and with the rising cost of living pressures, it is more important than ever for organisations to prioritise mental health practices in the face of increasing turbulence and uncertainty,” SuperFriend CEO Darren Black said.

The data reveals a staggering 46 percent of participants who identified as having a mental health condition said their workplace has either caused or exacerbated their condition*. 

The research assessed how people view leadership’s effectiveness in influencing mental health outcomes in the workplace. Notably, those who viewed their workplace as positively influencing their mental health reported a score almost 20 points higher than those who said their workplace made it worse, highlighting the significant correlation between strong leadership and mental health.

Natalie Flatt Ph.D, Chief Mental Health Advisor, SuperFriend said: “It’s undeniable that leaders are ‘culture architects’ in the workplace and help to foster resilience amidst frequent workplace changes, and external pressures.”

“The results of the 2023 Indicators of a Thriving Workplace report tell us that there is a gap, with 44 percent of employees not feeling comfortable talking about their mental health at work, which is worrying,” Dr Flatt added

SuperFriend is calling on organisations to better understand the needs of their employees and implement mentally healthy solutions in order to address the issues and shift the dial so that workplaces across the country thrive. 

“There is a unique opportunity for organisations and leaders to have a positive impact on the lives of their employees, and be rewarded for it with increased productivity and reduced absenteeism. 

“It’s critical that adequate training and support is provided at all levels to mitigate stressors, set a culture of wellbeing, and prioritise early intervention. Monitoring absenteeism, fostering open communication and connection through an empathetic lens, and promoting flexibility, create psychologically safe and thriving environments where teams are set up for success,” concludes Dr. Flatt.

Dr. Ross Iles, Associate Professor and Chief Research Officer, SuperFriend added: “Our 2023 Indicators of a Thriving Workplace findings strongly connects our Domains to outcomes for both people and organisations. We can show that being a mentally healthy workplace is not only good for people, it’s good for business.”

“We found 11 percent of people with a mental health condition said work had a positive impact on their mental health. This shows there is untapped potential for the workplace to be a place that improves mental health – and that targeted action can help lift that number higher,” Dr. Iles said

The report, encompassing nearly 10,000 Australian workers across 19 industries, delves deep into the characteristics of workplaces, psychosocial hazards, and their profound influence on key employee mental health-related outcomes such as retention, absenteeism, burnout, and productivity. Its key findings underscore the pressing need for employers to apply attention to areas such as leadership, safety, work design, and capability within their workplace.  

For further information and to access the 2023 ITW Key Insights report, please visit Indicators of a Thriving Workplace – SuperFriend

*Mental health conditions were self-reported lifetime experience within the last 12 months and/or any time prior to this and included those that have not been diagnosed by a medical professional.

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