Depression costs Australian employers approximately $8 billion per annum as a result of employee sickness absence and presenteeism, $693 million of which is due to job strain and bullying, says Safe Work Australia.
In a newly released report, the national policy setting body says that work-related stress represents a ‘huge cost’ for worker health and productivity and the problem is so serious that it is predicted that by 2020 stress-related illnesses such as depression and cardiovascular disease will be the leading causes of the global disease burden.
The Australian Workplace Barometer report revealed that workers showing mild symptoms of depression take twice as many sick days as those who don’ show any symptoms of depression at all. With work-family conflict one of the major contributors to poor health and wellbeing, working hours are also a major issue with 18 per cent of Australians working longer than 48 hours per week.
The report also revealed the levels of bullying in Australian workplaces is substantially higher than international rates. One of the at risk groups included workers aged between 25-34 years as they show the poorest psychological health.
“I have seen organisations spend a great deal of time and energy in dealing with individual cases of bullying and harassment,” explains Linda Scott, registered psychologist and General Manager of Safety Consultants Australia. “While it is very important to manage these complaints professionally and compassionately, organisations need to start addressing some of the causes.”
Other findings from the report include:
• Levels of bullying are at 6.8 per cent, which are substantially higher than international rates;
• Nearly 42 per cent of males report that they have been sworn or yelled at in the workplace;
• Over 20 per cent of workers are humiliated in front of others and almost 20 per cent state they experience discomfort due to sexual humour; and
• 6.9 per cent of women experience unwanted sexual advances and 14.8 per cent of females surveyed experience unfair treatment due to gender.
Safe Work Australia advises that the costs to employers from bullying in the workplace and employee depression can be reduced considerably through initiatives that deal with incidents of bullying and harassment appropriately, build employee communication, and by creating a positive culture that enables constructive communication and inhibits bullying behaviour.
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