Office connections a lifeline for workers

Office connections a lifeline for workers

For all the complaints and comedies about office politics and getting along with co-workers, it seems most Australians missed going into a workplace during COVID lockdowns.

New research has found 70 per cent of Australians say they find their most meaningful and regular social connections at work – outranking even their homes and community.

And when it comes to which location they prefer to do jobs from, the data is clear: most do not want to work from home all the time.

The desire to return to a group workplace is strongest among Gen-Z workers (aged 18 to 26), who also report the most impact on their mental health of coronavirus-related isolation.

Workers aged 18-65 were surveyed by Mainstreet Insights to see how they're faring during the second year of living in a world changed by coronavirus.

“Three in five (60 per cent) of Australian workers want a hybrid model of work, which means having flexibility to work between home and the workplace,” Mainstreet's co-founder Dr Lindsay McMillan said.

Only 15 per cent opted for permanently working from home.

Dr McMillan says a 2019 report by the research organisation found 40 per cent of Australians reported feeling lonely at work.

“But post-COVID, we can see a shift in that societal sentiment, with almost three quarters (70 per cent) of workers saying the workplace is where they experience their most meaningful and regular social connections and feel the strongest sense of community.

“It was a surprise to see that despite their familiarity with and comfort using technology, Gen Z workers have the strongest desire for human interaction at work.

“Some 76 per cent of Gen Z workers report feeling the most meaningful social connection and community at work, compared to 68 per cent of Gen X and 63 per cent of Baby Boomer workers.”

Gen X workers are defined as aged 41-56, and Baby Boomer workers are 57-65.

The household was the second most (54 per cent) important source of social connection for Australian workers overall, followed by the local neighbourhood (32 per cent) and sporting activities (29 per cent).

The survey was conducted during April with 1000 complete responses from a nationally representative sample.

Mainstreet's fellow co-founder Mark McCrindle said younger generations of workers seem to be suffering most.

“More than half of Gen Z workers (58 per cent) reported experiencing an increase in mental health concerns,” he said.

“This highlights that while young Australians have been the least vulnerable to the impacts of COVID, they have been the most impacted by the mental health and social consequences of the pandemic.”

Almost half (48 per cent) of Gen Y workers reported experiencing an increase in mental health concerns from COVID, compared to 36 per cent of Gen X workers and 28 per cent of Baby Boomers.

“To some, work is simply a job, but to many Australians it's a lifeline to social interaction, purpose and a place of belonging,” Mr McCrindle said.

In other findings, more than two thirds of those surveyed (68 per cent) said they've suffered financially from COVID, 32 per cent reported reduced quality of sleep and a quarter said the pandemic led them to increase caffeine and alcohol consumption.

For a copy of the current research or the 2019 Workplace Loneliness Report, visit https://mainstreetinsights.com.au/

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