A new study by workplace mental health and wellbeing partner for the superannuation and insurance industries SuperFriend, The Financial and Insurance Services Industry Profile Report, has concluded that mental health awareness in the industry is still “very much a work in progress.”
The research is a “snapshot” of the annual Indicators of a Thriving Workplace survey of 5,000 workers.
The survey was conducted shortly after the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was announced.
According to the study, over 25 per cent of financial services workers find their jobs to be “extremely stressful”, while only 13 per cent are highly engaged in their work (compared to the national average of 19 per cent).
Meanwhile, almost 33 per cent reported that job security is a major issue, particularly in the insurance sector, where this statistic rose to 40 per cent.
SuperFriend CEO Margo Lyndon said that the announcement of the royal commission would likely have affected stress levels for employees or influenced perceptions of mental health and wellbeing across the superannuation and insurance sectors nationwide.
“Our research was carried out at a time of unprecedented change and uncertainty for the industry. Many employees in the sector have felt the effect of this scrutiny on a very personal level, and this could have potentially had an impact on their mental health,” Ms Lydon said.
She continued: “Not only is the financial services sector a highly competitive market, the current environment has made workers feel ambiguous about where the industry is headed, and they worry about job security.”
“With the prospect of greater regulation and compliance pressures in the industry making roles more complex, a key focus for employers should be creating job designs that enable employees to bring their best self to work.”
Workplace time and training concerns
When it came to managing mental health, 34 per cent of financial services employees reportedly believe that “lack of time is the biggest barrier to employers improving mental health and wellbeing” in the workplace.
Further, 29 per cent said their managers lacked the necessary or appropriate skills required of their role.
SuperFriend suggested that this perception is supported by the belief that “workplace mental health is not a large enough problem to address”, particularly as businesses and managers have “more important” issues to deal with.
Commenting on these statistics, Ms Lydon added: “While many financial services employers have clear policies in place and offer positive employee benefits, such as confidential counselling and employee assistance programs, businesses should also ensure individual front-line managers are given the time and the training to help prevent workplace mental health issues occurring in the first place.”
Positive leadership needed
The study further revealed that leadership is the biggest opportunity for improvement in this sector, with only 8.4 per cent of respondents feel their leaders create a “sense of cohesion” within work teams, which is “well below” the national average of 16.3 per cent.
Ms Lydon concluded that: “One of the most important factors will be cultivating positive leadership within organisations. Leaders who understand the need to evolve and update their mental health and wellbeing practices post the royal commission will lead the way for innovative workplaces where employees can thrive.”