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New Zealand Diversity Survey: Wellness at work makes for healthy businesses

Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015

A decade ago, the majority of employee surveys would have told you that career advancement opportunities were the number one priority for workers focused on doing whatever it took to get that next step on the ladder. In 2015 the surveys tell a very different story, with 69% [1] of professionals in NZ stating that work life balance, including flexible working, is their top priority when seeking a new role. The workplace landscape has certainly changed along with the face of the workforce, undeniably increasing in diversity with each passing year. It is these new workplace dynamics that the EEO Trust’s New Zealand Diversity Survey (NZDS) seeks to define in order to understand the challenges and opportunities facing business in New Zealand today. EEO Trust Chief Executive, Bev Cassidy Mackenzie says that the New Zealand Diversity Survey (NZDS) was originally designed to enable a better understanding of the current picture and to establish a benchmark of diversity practices in New Zealand organisations. “Since the survey began in late 2013, we have canvassed employers from businesses of all shapes and sizes across the country and have collated over 5,700 responses which show that wellbeing, flexibility and ageing consistently continue to be the most common diversity issues important to organisations whether the business has two or two hundred employees”. In this latest round of the survey, run in conjunction with the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce with research carried out by AUT Business School’s Work Research Institute, the EEO Trust conducted a deeper dive of these specific issues. Almost 60 per cent of respondents identified wellbeing/ wellness as a concern for their organisation with over one third of these stating that stress, burnout and work life balance were a real challenge for their organisation. Michael Barnett, a Director of the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce, says that this research is critical to support businesses in developing sustainable business plans that will help them effectively manage their future workforce and retain vital skills. “Whilst many may associate the concept of work life balance with larger organisations and corporates, the fact that around half of the participants in this survey are from businesses with less than twenty employees shows that this is a problem facing all business. It’s clear we need to work towards solutions that will combat employee fatigue and encourage positive workplace interventions that will see increased engagement and productivity”. Professor Tim Bentley, Director of AUT Business School’s Work Research Institute says that whist the increased prevalence of technology in the workplace has brought about a number of positive benefits for the way we all work and live, technology can be a double-edged sword when employees struggle to find the right balance between their work and personal lives. “It's important that technology is managed effectively to ensure that any perceived benefits aren't outweighed by increased stress levels and expectations that you are always on duty; both employers and employees need to set appropriate boundaries and actively discourage this kind of culture within teams.” “In the future, work will become even more flexible and global than it is now resulting in greater insecurity for both employers and employees; workers will increasingly need to be responsible for managing their own careers and wellbeing. For business this means the development of robust processes and policies to support this future workforce and new ways of working, potentially involving a significant mind-shift for some management”. Following the findings from the NZDS, the EEO Trust in collaboration with the Work Research Institute will undertake qualitative research to look deeper into the issues around wellbeing/ wellness at work, utilising the results to inform the development of appropriate tools and services to support all New Zealand businesses.

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