Employers in Australia prioritise wellbeing and “right to switch off”

Employees are seeking enhanced health and wellbeing support, leading organisations to integrate these concerns into job designs.
By: | November 1, 2023

Employers in Australia are under increasing pressure to provide better working environments for their employees, with a new report finding that 57% of those surveyed said employee wellbeing will shape their workplace policies in the next three years, up from 33% in 2021.

The report, titled Future of Work – Balancing Acts by Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), found that three-quarters of respondents (75%) in Australia said that employees are demanding greater support for their health and wellbeing, with 53% already incorporating wellbeing into job design and a further 39% planning to adopt this approach.

Shivchand Jhinku, HSF Employment Partner, said that while legislation demanding increased attention to employee mental health may be forcing employers’ hands in some jurisdictions, leading organisations are doing a lot more than that because they see that wellbeing initiatives work from the retention and productivity perspectives.

The report found that 61% of respondents plan to give employees the “right to switch off” work communications outside working hours, well above the global average of 40%. “This will be an interesting area where employers will have to respond to forces pulling in different directions—mitigating employee burnout because they feel that they are ‘always on’, against people working flexible hours and perhaps in different locations and time zones,” Jhinku added.

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The report also underlined disparities in workplace expectations in Australia, where 83% of employers anticipate increased in-person work in the next two years, with only 8% expecting more hybrid arrangements, in contrast to global averages of 70% and 16%. Additionally, employers are exploring ways to shape work preferences through incentivisation, as 38% expect remote work to become a trust-based privilege, and 37% plan to differentiate pay between office-based and remote employees in the next three to five years.