In recognition of World Mental Health Day (10 October), we want to take the opportunity to share our latest research insights on workplace wellbeing with you. 

Dr Jeremy Robertson and Amanda Wallis
Umbrella Research and Development Team 

These research insights came from data collected from 3,000 working New Zealanders who completed the Umbrella Wellbeing Assessment over the last two years Jeremy and Amanda analysed this data to unpack the trends that are relevant to businesses today and paired them with recommendations on what you can do to act on these insights. We’re sharing key insights from the data, alongside key themes across 200+ leaders, as we respond to our current COVID-19 climate. 

Across the nine research papers, we cover topics relevant to today’s workplaces including satisfaction with work/life balance, employee turnover, personal resilience, and organisational climate – and how they all relate to wellbeing, mental health, and job performance.  

We hope that these insights and recommendations will help you to better understand the state of mental health and wellbeing in our workplaces, so that you can build on the strength of your teams and we can all work towards building a psychologically healthy and thriving Aotearoa New Zealand.   

What are the key insights from the new research? 

There are too many insights to mention in full here, so we want to share just a few with you to spark your interest: 

  1. One in four working Kiwis report problematic signs of psychological distress and this pattern is particularly significant for younger employees. However, the good news is that our data shows that personal resilience buffers against psychological distress and helps employees to thrive. How do we go about building resilience in workplaces? Check out Paper 5 to find out. 
  1. One in four employees intend to leave their job in the next six months and the most important reason for this decision is poor peer support. Somewhat surprisingly, this is even more important than workload. For more about reducing staff turnover through supportive teams, read Paper 8.  

What are we hearing from leaders? 

When we launched these research papers with 200+ leaders during Aotearoa’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we stimulated engaging and inspiring conversations with people across 85+ different organisations. We talked together with leaders about what they’re working on with organisational wellbeing and what it’s like leading diverse and dispersed teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There are six main pressure points and opportunities that these leaders are facing:  

  • The state of workplace wellbeing, mental health, and resilience has changed since COVID-19 and more support is needed. 
  • How do we support teams with compound stress (e.g. earthquakes, COVID-19, organisational change and other non-work stressors)? 
  • How do we support employees to transition well in and out of different COVID-19 alert levels (and back and forth between the office and home) now, and potentially into the future? 
  • How do we embed wellbeing practices into our organisational DNA enabling people to be their best selves at work, when some people are just not interested or are disengaged? 
  • What is presenteeism and how can we support people to be as effective, engaged and thriving in their jobs as possible? 
  • How do we do all of these things within the new environment of dispersed teams, both for ourselves as leaders and with our people? 

We plan to address some of these key challenges in upcoming issues of our newsletters. To start us off, our Acting CEO has written two articles on how to lead and support dispersed teams (see here and here). You can subscribe to our newsletter and read previous articles here. 

How does the data fit in with the current COVID-19 climate? 

The insights that we share in the research papers were collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the data does not accurately reflect the state of wellbeing and mental health in employees right now as we manage this crisis, we expect that the trends in our research papers remain just as relevant (if not more!) in a COVID-19 working world. 

Anecdotally from business leaders across our client base, from the work our clinical psychologists have been doing since COVID-19 hit our shores, and from the many stories we read across today’s various media platforms, we feel safe in suggesting that the mental health and wellbeing of our working population is more strained than ever. For example, given that peer support in the workplace was so important for people prior to the pandemic, how do we ensure that peer support is maintained in countries that are still in lockdown and in New Zealand as we flip-flop between the office and working from home? 

Over the COVID-19 period we’re continuing to run Umbrella Wellbeing Assessments with organisations, and we aim to release additional research on how COVID-19 has impacted workplace wellbeing in New Zealand. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy reading our findings and reflecting on what’s happening in your business at the moment. 

Why do we do research at Umbrella? 

We believe it is important to use the data that we have collected and share it with our community so that everyone can benefit from new insights on workplace wellbeing in New Zealand. Having run the Umbrella Wellbeing Assessment for several years, we started to notice patterns and trends in the data we were gathering. When we analysed anonymous data across all the Wellbeing Assessments, we found some interesting insights – and so the research papers we share with you today were born! 

Our Research and Development team are highly trained in research skills (e.g. survey design, research methods, and statistical analysis and inference) and it’s what we love doing. We are passionate about staying uptodate with leading-edge research on workplace wellbeing and mental health, and we use this knowledge alongside our team of clinical psychologists to inform the evidence base behind each of our Umbrella services. 

The Umbrella Wellbeing Assessment offers a comprehensive analysis of the factors that contribute to wellbeing (work and non-work related), as well as the protective factors that reduce the impact of stress on wellbeing. That means that the research papers we share with you today go beyond descriptive statistics and start to unpack the factors that are important for building and maintaining wellbeing at all levels of an organisation. You can read the research papers here, and for more on the Umbrella Wellbeing Assessment itself, and how the tool works, read here. 

 As always, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions at [email protected] or [email protected]  we’d love to talk more with you.