Five facts to know before implementing a wellbeing program


By Lindsay McMillan

Before businesses start on a new workplace wellbeing program, they should consider five facts to make sure they are helping, not hindering employees.

Research from the Workplace Wellbeing report, based on a survey of 1,000 Australian workers, shows that programs have to more meaningful than just “work-perks” to improve wellbeing.

Lead researcher of global HR think-tank Reventure, Dr Lindsay McMillan said in order to make wellbeing programs more meaningful, there are five key facts to know:

FACT 1 – Half (51%) of Australian workers believe unrealistic workload expectations have the greatest negative impact on wellbeing in the workplace.

“Unrealistic workload expectations had the greatest negative impact on wellbeing according to Australian workers,” said Dr McMillan.

“If workers are drowning in more deadlines than there are hours in the day, taking any time to talk about workplace wellbeing is going to sound incredibly tone-deaf.”

FACT 2 – The majority (75%) of Australian workers believe wellbeing includes both physical and mental wellbeing.

“Encourage both physical and mental health side by side,” Dr McMillan said.

FACT 3 – More than a third (38%) of Australian workers believe low team morale has the most negative impact on the workplace.

“Boost morale with team-oriented events – don’t neglect socialising from your overall workplace wellbeing plan,” said Dr McMillan.

“However small, find a balance that works for your team – it might be a sports team or it might be an office lunch to get the team together and celebrate your successes.”

FACT 4 – Half (51%) of Australians say family is one of the biggest stressors in their life

“For those with caring responsibilities, making it easier for them to prioritise family commitments will go some way to alleviate stress,” he said.

“Consider whether your workplace needs an Employee Assistance Program that is available to family members too,” Dr McMillan said.

FACT 5 – About three-quarters (74%) of workers believe wellbeing programs are worth the time and money.

“The majority of workers said wellbeing programs are worth both the time and money, so have confidence in the knowledge that this investment is worth it for employees,” Dr McMillan said.


Who gets more rest: The CEO or the employee?

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review has explored some surprising findings regarding the amount of sleep that workers get.

To get to the core of it, the more senior the position, the more sleep.

If you’re currently a sleep deprived senior executive, you’re probably ready to close the tab, but stick with me. Let’s first assess the two theories why this might be true.



The time of the day that impacts workers’ productivity the most


By Lindsay McMillan

Workplaces often think that the eight hours we spend working determines work productivity, however new research has found that the eight hours we should spend sleeping might have just as big of an impact.

Research from global HR think-tank Reventure has found that dissatisfied sleepers are likely to see the detrimental effects in and out of the workplace.

The more than half of Australian workers that are not getting enough quality sleep (54%) have also said that they are likely to look for a job in the next 12 months.

Workplace Wellbeing, a national survey of over 1,000 Australian workers, shows satisfied sleepers are happier in all areas of their lives including their job (82%) and physical wellbeing (83%).

Dissatisfied sleepers had dramatically lower results, almost half of satisfied sleepers, for their job (55%) and physical wellbeing (44%).

Those not getting enough quality sleep were also more likely to say that they feel as though their life has no sense of meaning.

This is backed up by the latest OECD Better Life Index which found that employees in The Netherlands, ranked as having the best work-life balance, devote around 16 hours per day to eating, sleeping and leisurely pursuits, and are also more satisfied with their lives than most.

The importance of sleep should not be overlooked. Sleep is a key part in fostering wellbeing – over half of the Australian workers we surveyed believed that having time for rest and relaxation contributes to high levels of personal wellbeing. 

Thirty-seven per cent of dissatisfied sleepers said they were either extremely or very stressed about work – and that is something business leaders should not ignore.

The effect work stress has on sleep can form a vicious cycle and while some large workplaces have implemented innovations like sleep pods, there are some more basic measures leaders can take.

Make sure workloads are manageable and that expectations are reasonable, minimise emails after hours and take a look at overtime hours – these may be eating into your workers’ rest.

For more information about the research, click here.



Stop reading this – you’re meant to be on holidays


By Lindsay McMillan

The upcoming public holiday is a day for the beach, barbeque, backyard cricket and of course, no work. However, are workers really relaxing on their day off?

46 per cent of Australian workers believe that with technology they feel like they are “always on” and cannot ever completely shut off from work.

Workers get stuck into bad habits when they should be recharging their batteries. Although most workers make exceptions to answer after work phone calls and emails for urgent matters from time to time, some fall into the habit of making exception after exception.

It can have a devastating impact on our health, our relationships and our quality of life.

These are some of the latest revelations from the a future that works campaign in its most recent report, Workplace Wellbeing which surveyed the views of over 1,000 Australian workers.

85 per cent of workers also reported that they believe employers are responsible for creating an environment that proactively addresses stress in the workplace.

 A further 51 per cent of workers believe unrealistic workload expectations have the greatest negative impact on wellbeing in the workplace

Overseas, countries are putting jurisdictions in place to allow workers to enjoy their down time – in France, the “right to disconnect” is legislated and regulates emails in the off hours.

Although Australia does not have similar regulations yet, it is important for workers’ wellbeing to take undisturbed time off from work.

Our research has found 73 per cent of workers feel stressed in the workplace – we should not be encouraging the old notion of work ‘till you drop’, but find ways to allow real time off. 



The real reason workers leave, and how to make them stay


By Lindsay McMillan

January and February are said to be the most popular months for job changes but a recent study has found a solution to make good workers stay.

Launched by Facebook, the study on employee turnover has shown people are more likely to quit because their work was unfulfilling – despite having good relationships with management.

Data shows that those workers who use their strengths more often and feel they are gaining valuable career experience were less likely to leave for another job.

Research conducted by HR think tank Reventure as part of its national a future that works campaign found that 72 per cent of Australian workers were looking for purpose and meaning in work.

Facebook’s approach to stem the flow of star employees is a HR solution called job crafting, which is one of the a future that works campaign solutions to build a culture of purpose and meaning.

Carrying out a job with a fixed role description that actually contains the work you enjoy and excel at is almost akin to winning the lottery – it’s extremely unlikely. 

Our research has found that jobs need to be crafted around employees not the other way around.

Job crafting re-imagines roles according to employees’ strengths and what they are passionate about, which increases the level of purpose and meaning they feel at work.

This latest research joins mounting evidence that employees are looking for greater purpose and meaning at work.

Work has to be meaningful for employees to stay on long-term – some large organisations like Facebook understand this and are adopting initiatives like job crafting to keep their best workers.

More organisations need to follow suit in order to avoid a high employee turnover in 2018.



New research shows young Australians need wage relief


By Lindsay McMillan

Young Australians are feeling the brunt of workplace stress and financial pressure, according to Reventure's new workplace research.

The survey of more than 1,000 workers found those aged 23 to 37 are more stressed in all areas of their life compared with Generation X and Baby Boomers, and finances are the greatest concern.

This latest research comes as Australians are experiencing record low wages growth, with the wage price index increasing by only 2 per cent over the last year.

The report found that the areas of greatest stress for Generation Y are: finances (37 per cent), work (33 per cent) and health and fitness (23 per cent).

This latest research reveals that the pressures younger Australian workers are facing are very much rooted in the workplace.

Workplace stress is a massive concern and it is clear that younger Australians are feeling it more than other cohorts. Financial stress is significant for these younger workers and it aligns with a prolonged period of low wages growth in the economy.

We are seeing rapid change in workplaces around Australia and this is most evident in technological change, which is changing how work is conducted.

This means for many workers the lines between their work time and their personal time are being blurred, contributing to stress whilst wages remain low – it is a recipe for disaster.

As a result, workplaces need to start acknowledging the impact this is having on workers and put in place thoughtful strategies to address it. If businesses don’t act, this research clearly tells us that employees will simply pick up and move on.

The Workplace Wellbeing report is part of the a future that works campaign, which is advocating for workplace renewal across Australia. To read the report, click here



New Year’s resolution: Let’s address workplace stress in 2018


By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Most people experience workplace stress as a natural symptom of wanting to do their work well. It could be argued that it even has its uses, helping us stay motivated and focussed in the short-term to get that project done or power through the busy season.

However, stress can become a serious problem if it is intense or prolonged. That is why it is so troubling to find that a staggering 73 per cent of workers say they are either extremely or very stressed about work.

This should not be taken lightly; not only is this level of stress negative for your mental health, stressed workers are two and a half times more likely to go home after a day’s work and fire up the job search.

So, why are workers so stressed? According to Reventure’s most recent study, Workplace Wellbeing, employees identified unrealistic workload expectations, low team morale and job insecurity as the top three things hindering workplace wellbeing.

So here are three things to remember about workplace stress and combating it effectively.

1. Employers have the power to make a change

Stress can seem outside your control and subjective, however unrealistic workloads can be a bit more objective. According to 48 per cent of Australian workers, the greatest negative impact on wellbeing in the workplace is unrealistic workloads, so seriously consider whether your employees have too much on their plate.

Have an open and honest conversation in the workplace and remember your employees will most likely avoid telling you that they are overwhelmed, so try re-phrasing your questions and ask them what concerns them the most about their work.

2. Everyone has different motivations

It might be surprising to learn that employees would be willing to forgo perks, promotions and pay for wellbeing, however a quarter of workers said they would sacrifice company perks for wellbeing and one in five would sacrifice a promotion or a pay rise.

It is an important lesson in the fact that employees are not all motivated by the same things. When rewarding employees for a job well done, get their feedback on what is important to them and act accordingly. They may be willing to trade the prospect of a few dollars for being less stressed.

On the other end of the spectrum, consider giving your casual workers more job security after a job well done.

3. Make your support services known

Lastly, it is important to know employees are perceptive to how much their employers consider their wellbeing, only 12 per cent of Australian workers think business decisions are made in the best interest of employee wellbeing.

If your workers are stressed, there needs to be greater communication about the support you provide including Employee Assistance Programs. Workplace wellbeing programs are becoming increasingly important, our research shows it is an important consideration for 42 per cent of workers looking for a new job. So, it is not just a “nice to have” or window-dressing.

A little less stress can go a long way, so make sure you are on the front foot when combating stress.



New report: 85 per cent of Australian workers want employers to lift stress burden


By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Australian employees want their employers to step up and address workplace stress, with stressed workers more likely to be looking for a new job in the next 12 months, our new research has revealed.

As reported in The Australian, our survey of over 1,000 workers found stressed workers are two and a half times more likely to look for a new job in the next year compared with workers who are not stressed at work.

 As well as that, 85 per cent of workers also reported that they believe employers are responsible for creating an environment that proactively addresses stress in the workplace.

These are some of the latest revelations from Reventure's recent report, Workplace Wellbeing, which was launched at two packed events in Sydney and Melbourne. 

These results are a wake-up call for Australian businesses and should make all employers across Australia stand up and take notice. 

Employers across the country are being sent a clear message from Australian workers: workplace stress is a significant issue and employers need to put in place strategies to address it.

The risk for employers is clear, if they don’t act, employees will walk.

These are concerning results, which clearly demonstrate that Australian workplaces need to engage in a meaningful and practical renewal process. If these issues are not addressed, workers will continue to suffer and ultimately so will businesses.

Other headline results in the survey include:

  • 73 per cent of workers are stressed about work;
  • 51 per cent of workers believe unrealistic workload expectations have the greatest negative impact on wellbeing in the workplace;
  • 25 per cent of Australian workers would sacrifice company perks for better wellbeing in their workplace;
  • One in five would sacrifice a promotion (21 per cent) or a pay rise (19 per cent) for better wellbeing; and
  • Only one in ten Australian workers (12 per cent) believe business decisions are made in the best interest of the wellbeing of employees.



The Australian Workforce Speaks Out About Workplace Wellbeing


By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Wellbeing is playing an increasing role in today’s work landscape and workplaces who wish to remain competitive will need to know how to deliver it.

Wellbeing is not a buzzword to attach to any new HR strategy, but rather it requires careful consideration, factoring in worker’s evolving needs in our rapidly-changing work landscape. 

Ever wondered what the greatest negative impact on wellbeing in the workplace is? Or if Australian workers think wellbeing programs are worth the time and money?

A new report from the a future that works campaign will soon reveal that and much more after it asked over 1,000 Australian workers the big workplace questions. 

The report, entitled Workplace Wellbeing, launching in Melbourne on 23 November and in Sydney on 1 December, was undertaken by global HR think-tank, Reventure.

With worker wellbeing increasingly coming under the spotlight, the new report will provide a range of insights straight from the workers themselves.

Some Australian workplaces have recognised this rising trend and have addressed it with workplace wellbeing programs, in fact, 43 per cent of Australian workers claim their workplace offers a wellbeing program.

We have taken the next step and asked the question that often requires multiple internal workplace surveys to gauge – are these programs effective?

The results deliver significant insights for employees and employers alike and we look forward to releasing them soon.

Everyone is welcome to join us for breakfast for the launch of Workplace Wellbeing in Melbourne and Sydney. You can purchase your ticket here.

Importance of emotional intelligence in the age of artificial intelligence


By Dr Lindsay McMillan

I recently came across this excellent piece on The Conversation about the importance of emotional intelligence in our increasingly digitally enabled society. I encourage everyone to read it.

The article highlights some of the key issues confronting workplaces around Australia and the world, namely the rise of automation, increasing use of digital platforms for work and the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Importantly, it also points to something that the a future that works campaign has been highlighting for some time now, and that is the importance of giving employees purpose and meaning at work, and highlighting the emotional dimension of work.

Our 2016 research showed some really negative and unhealthy results for workers throughout the country and across a diverse range of industries.

A central finding in this research, which surveyed 1,001 Australian workers, was that a massive 72 per cent said they were after greater purpose in their work.

And as technology continues to impact how work is conducted, there is a real risk that employee wellbeing is becoming secondary to work output, which leads to disengagement and unhappiness in the workplace. The act of feigning happiness and cheerfulness at work becomes an added burden.

Purpose and meaning at work aligns with the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace, especially as technological advancements rapidly influence the workplace.

As The Conversation piece highlights: “Many indicators suggest that jobs of the future will require much more emotional intelligence to complement the sophisticated machines we work with.”

With artificial intelligence becoming increasingly pervasive, workers will need technology skills but it will be almost more important for employees to develop their emotional intelligence. For example, the globalised workplace means more employee to employee interactions occur digitally, however this means workers should be even more aware of the emotions of those they are working with.

It is time for all workplaces to start thinking about this and implementing the necessary policies. To get the ball rolling a future that works’ six steps to build a culture of Purpose and Meaning are:

1.                   Foster Employee Participation and Inclusion

A culture of respect and valuing employees can be generated and sustained by the simple act of inclusion.

2.                   Communicate the Alignment between Individual Roles and Organisational Goals

Leaders need to be able to identify and articulate the way in which an individual employee’s role contributes to the achievement of the common purpose.

3.                   Encourage Autonomy and Active Engagement

After there has been a clear identification and articulation of purpose, workers should be afforded a high degree of autonomy to carry out their role and make an active decision to work towards this vision.

4.                   Provide Resources and Information

To increase autonomy, employees should have all the information and resources they require to effectively do their job.

5.                   Serve a Greater Purpose

While an altruistic outcome is not a requirement for developing meaningfulness, this is a recommended addition to help maximise the update of purpose among workers.

6.                   Reinforcing Engagement

Actively implementing these strategies will result in higher levels of engagement, and may be reinforced through incentivisation that is not only linked to financial outcomes, but measures of application and alignment. This can be achieved through career construction and job crafting.

These six steps set the course for businesses who want to create a culture of purpose and meaning and by creating this culture, business leaders can foster more emotionally intelligent workers ready for the future of work.

Why we need to work less to accomplish more


By Dr Lindsay McMillan

This week chief executive of BHP, Andrew Mackenzie made an extraordinary statement – Mackenzie, who has been CEO at the mining giant since 2013 said the higher he rose through the ranks, the more important it was for him to work less hours.

It is a statement that can be hard to believe. After all, the image of the CEO we conjure in our minds is the overstretched workaholic, putting in long hours and a superhuman effort to single-handedly manage the entire company. Coffee in one hand, board papers in the other.

It is with good reason that this stereotype was formed. CEOs work almost 20 hours more than the average Australian a week – in 2015, found CEOs worked approximately 57.8 hours a week, which calculates to over 11 hours worked each week day.

So how would working less hours help you manage a more demanding role?

Experts say that overworking sends us into a “negative spiral” that slows our brains and impedes our emotional intelligence.

In a globalised economy, some CEOs work from several different clocks – accommodating for time differences for international business calls made early in the morning or late at night.

Sleep is a key part of ensuring we are at our peak potential so if work is eating up our rest time, we cannot perform our best at work the next day. Mackenzie said being rested allows him to accomplish more in four hours than in eight tired hours.

Although it sounds counter-intuitive, it is important business leaders do not overwork as their leadership position grows.

It is something that has been found in my own research; two-thirds of CEOs said they wanted to step back from day-to-day matters to focus on the long-term sustainability of their business. In short, CEOs begin to manage less and lead more.

The effect of an overworked CEO is even more far-reaching than their individual productivity as it sets a dangerous precedent for employees to follow. CEOs need to demonstrate that you can work sustainably and be successful.

For the employee who overworks, it is important to examine their own motives, whether they are genuinely under the pump from the boss or under the pump from their own expectations.

As an employee, if you are under pressure from the boss with an unrealistic workload, the conversation to be had is with your boss. However, if the real pressure is coming from yourself, the pressure to overwork is often rooted in the thought that this is what is expected.

In a time when the office never leaves your hand and follows you home, it is more important than ever to take stock and renew the workplace to make sure workplaces are happy, healthy and more productive.

Perhaps we can all take a lesson from the BHP CEO.

New report calls for professional services to prepare for AI transformation


By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to cause organisational restructuring amongst firms in the professional services, according to our newest report from global HR think-tank Reventure.

The Industry Insights report finds organisations in the legal, accounting, management and engineering services are just some of the sectors that will be impacted by increased AI presence.

AI would likely start by replacing entry level work in the professional services, however millennials will not be the only ones affected.

The current pyramid structure of organisations is likely to face disruption because AI will begin taking over the repetitive, mundane tasks from everyone’s job.

There will also be changes to what organisations in the professional services look for in candidates and technological aptitude will be high on that list.

Despite the inevitable technological changes, purpose and meaning remained the most pressing issue for workplaces.

A Reventure survey of 1,001 workers found office workplaces had the lowest rates of workers who say their job has purpose and meaning.

It is a great detriment for both organisation and employee if a worker thinks their job has no purpose or meaning, and it is up to business leaders to address the issue. 

It is also likely that if employees don’t have purpose and meaning in their work, the AI revolution will impact them the hardest.

But many of the jobs thought of as unimportant in professional services have an important function in the organisational machine, leaders simply have to communicate that importance.

Sometimes it can be as easy as making the connection to an employee with their everyday tasks and how it contributes to the overall goals of the organisation.

The latest report from global HR think-tank Reventure, Industry Insights has conducted research into the challenges that are being faced by five industries and how they can be addressed.

Mental health is a workplace issue and addressing it is simply the right thing to do

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

As well as a being a significant health and social issue, mental health is a workplace issue that must be taken seriously by Australian workplaces.

According to the ABS, a staggering 45.5 per cent of the Australian population will experience a mental health issue once in their lifetime.

Many of us will know someone who experiences a mental health issue, or will experience one ourselves, however it can be difficult to imagine that the people we see at work may be among this cohort.

Unfortunately, workplaces are still lagging behind in implementing structured approaches to combating poor mental health according to a new report from the NSW Government.

Last week, the Government released research which showed half of businesses in NSW do not have a mental health strategy.

That is despite overwhelming evidence that mental health is a critical workplace issue.

A 2017 Australian study found that mental illness is the leading cause of extended sick leave for workers, and internationally, mental illness has eclipsed back pain as the most common reason why workers are unable to come into work.

Workplaces lose $2.8 billion in New South Wales alone, likely in absences and lost productivity as a result of poor mental health.

Much of what needs to happen in workplaces is cultural change. Unfortunately, many workplaces still see mental health as a “personal problem” and it therefore ends up sitting in the “not our problem” basket.

The other likely claim is that mental health strategies may not work or have an impact. However, the research gives a resounding yes that addressing mental health at work does make a difference.

The Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation and the Brain and Mind Centre found that businesses reap four dollars for every dollar invested in workplace health promotions, in the form of reduced absenteeism and improved productivity.

The numbers speak for themselves. We spend a third (and increasingly more) of our time at work, so it is time to start making that time count. Well thought out and well implemented mental health policy in the workplace, works.

And whilst the economic cost of mental health issues at work is clear, it should not be the driving force behind reforming our workplaces.

It is simply the right thing to do.

Cultural change must drive workplace solutions, not vice versa

By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Cultural change, rather than prescriptive fads, is needed to improve workplace productivity and ensure Australians are enjoying an improved work-life balance.

At the centre of this approach must be greater flexibility and autonomy for workers. 

But, too often in the workplace the word flexibility is used to spruik the benefits of a new fad, and is often only flexibility for the employer, or alternatively it is used to spin the latest attempt at workplace renewal.

Real flexibility recognises the changing nature of work, the changing demands of the home and the wishes of employees to find workplace solutions that will help them improve their own work-life balance and productivity.

Coupled with this, is a need for greater autonomy for workers - empowering workers to make their own decisions, and supporting them when they do.

Policy fads

One of the many fads floated as the ‘answer’ to workplace discontent is often the introduction of a six-hour working day.

On its face it sounds good, but scratch the surface and it is yet another prescriptive policy that, on its own, will fail to improve work-life balance for many workers.

It fails to take into account workplace culture and behaviour, and on its own does nothing to actually empower workers.

If a worker gets to clock off after six hours, but is then inundated with work emails and work calls, which they feel they are obligated to address, the policy is worthless.

The fact of the matter is that for those who can’t seem to switch off now, the six-hour working day means very little. Instead, employees are likely to see a shorter day to complete the same number of tasks they used to complete in eight.

Employees who answer emails at night and stay back are doing so because of an implicit culture that either expects or rewards overworking.

Cultural change must come first

For these policies to have any real impact on improving work-life balance and worker productivity, cultural change must come first.

Workers must be encouraged to ‘switch off’ when they are out of the office and know that they are supported in doing so.

The fastest way to communicate a cultural change is for leaders to lead by example. Leaders need to make a conscious decision to set a positive precedent – don’t send emails outside of working hours, leave on time and do it loudly.

Inevitably, you will encounter the resistant employee who continues to work over-time, so have a serious one-on-one conversation with them. To be clear – this isn’t discipline, it’s an open and honest conversation that you don’t expect them to work outside of hours and that they their value is not measured in how much overtime they do.

Unfortunately, the underlying assumption in many workplace cultures is that those who overwork are more valuable. However, this is a deeply flawed way of thinking. It neglects the fact that looking after yourself and your wellbeing is the only way to grow and learn as an employee. Nobody improves by burning themselves out.

The Norwegian approach

A good example of positive workplace culture comes from Norway, where it is standard business etiquette not to schedule meetings after 3pm Monday to Thursday, as a courtesy to parents who leave to pick up their children. On a Friday, meetings are not scheduled for after 2pm.

By making this a workplace cultural norm, employees can be confident knowing what the expectations are, and have the real flexibility and autonomy to actively improve their work-life balance. 


The myth of perfect work-life balance


By Dr Lindsay McMillan

I recently read a Harvard Business Review article from 2012 on how the constant pursuit of perfection in the workplace can hinder work-life balance.

Despite five years elapsing between that article from Rosabeth Moss Kanter, and a myriad of workplace fads and gimmicks sold as work-life balance solutions, individuals in the workplace are still struggling.

We see this constantly in our research, and other workplace research, which shows employees feeling increasingly stressed and unhappy at work.

Whilst many organisations, including PepsiCo, PwC and Deloitte, have started to implement worthwhile flexible working policies in an effort to make it easier for employees to create their own work-life balance, it is clear more needs to be done.

For individuals, work-life balance is still marred by the perception that it means being perfect at everything, all the time.

In our mind, the work-life balanced individual has the perfect job in the perfect career, the perfect family and perfect relationships against a backdrop of the perfect house in the perfect suburb.

They excel at work, they are completely present partners and parents, they pursue hobbies and find time to exercise, relax, read and learn.

It is no wonder work-life balance can seem mythical at times. This is because these priorities inevitably clash – you have to work late on your partner’s birthday or you have neglected doing laundry because work has left you so exhausted. And that often fills us with guilt.

Kanter says perfection myths have a “do-it-yourself flavour” which is what makes them so appealing. The “do-it-yourself” mentality says you can have the perfect life if you continue to stretch yourself.

However, that can only lead to burn out and cynicism that work-life balance does not exist at all.

We should not give up on being balanced, instead workers must learn that work-life balance is imperfect. Instead of striving for perfection, we should be striving to make choices that are purposeful.

If we inform all our decisions with purpose, we can afford to let certain things slide for something that has higher priority. Purpose can seem like a vague concept, however if you know what is most important to you, you have purpose.

Today, purpose has an increasingly important role to play in the workplace too.

Work with purpose is becoming increasingly important for business leaders looking to attract and retain great employees. More workers are looking for jobs that fit with their life goals and more people are likely to see work as a calling rather than an occupation.

A perfect work-life balance is unattainable, but for those looking to have it all, I strongly recommend aiming to have a work-life balance that is purposeful instead.



The secret to employee happiness and workplace success


By Dr Lindsay McMillan

A happy employee with purpose and meaning in their work will be the best advertisement any company could possibly hope for.

In Newsmodo’s latest episode of Brand Storytelling, I explored the concept of employees as brand ambassadors.

The most effective approach to getting employees to promote their workplace is by aligning their role with the organisation’s narrative.

Giving employees genuine purpose and meaning in the work negates the need for employee advocacy.

An employee that understands the organisation’s goals is more likely to enjoy coming to work which will lead to a positive workforce and organisational brand.

It is vital that employees feel like they are valued and contributing to the goals of the business.

If employees know how their role fits into the broader organisational objectives, they will be happier and more productive. 

It may sound like a basic step – but it is surprising how often business leaders take this for granted, especially when the results are extremely beneficial.

An employee that does not understand how they are contributing to a broader goal is more likely to be disengaged and unhappy in their job.

This isn’t good for them or the reputation of the business.

In order to create a workplace where employees are happy and engaged, a number of principles must be adopted as outlined in Reventure's research piece Renewing Australian Workplaces.

We should be ensuring workplaces prioritise inclusion, staff development, teamwork and positive and constructive feedback to ensure the future workplace is founded on good principles.



Casual workers “put up and shut up” about workplace bullying


By Dr Lindsay McMillan

A pilot study of the Australian hospitality industry has found casual workers “put up and shut up” about workplace bullying, because they are afraid of losing their jobs. 

Professor Michael Quinlan from UNSW Business School found employees with insecure, casual employment were under increased pressure to tolerate bullying because they needed the work. 

Workplace bullying is a major concern, with one in ten workers having experienced verbal abuse or bullying in 2016.

Bullying has a devastating effect on the mental health of victims especially if their claims are being dismissed by senior management.

However, this new study has found that many casual employees are not even getting to the point of telling their managers.

It is the responsibility of business leaders to create healthy workplace cultures and to not treat casual workers as ‘second-class citizens’. 

Business leaders need to build workplace cultures that encourage everyone to speak out against bullying, otherwise they will end up with systemic turnover issues and seemingly no reason for it.

The casualisation of the workforce means more people have less job security, and that makes people afraid of making mistakes or ‘stepping out of line’, because they feel expendable.

Regardless of what contract an employee has with an organisation, they need to be afforded an opportunity to have a meaningful and purposeful experience at work.

Casualisation of work is one of seven overarching trends affecting the Australian work landscape according to Reventure’s latest research report, Renewing Australian Workplaces.

In 2012, the Productivity Commission estimated the cost of workplace bullying to the economy as being between $6 billion and $36 billion annually. 



Robot redundancy risk for over 35s


By Dr Lindsay McMillan

A top-tier tech executive at Westpac Bank has warned that workers aged over 35 are at risk of facing redundancy if their organisations fail to adapt to changes from automation.

According to Dave Curran, CIO at Westpac Bank, current business structures are not preparing to re-skill workers for the future, putting those who have been in the workforce for longer at risk as being under-skilled as automation claims more jobs.

Automation would affect workers of all ages, but those over 35 may be resistant to change and face barriers to re-skilling.

Automation underlines the importance of relationships, and that there are a number of benefits to keeping on older staff in new capacities.

Long-time, loyal employees should be retained as much as possible; they know the business well and can be a real stabilising asset if an organisation restructures.

The first point of order is to identify who has what skills, but not in a malicious way. You may find some of your most valuable workers now, do not have the skills needed in the next five or ten years.

This is a really valuable pick-up to make sooner rather than later, and allows leaders to be conscious of weaknesses and gives them the opportunity to update employee skills and better prepare for the future.

The fact is, unpreparedness for these changes are widespread – leaders of businesses are not exempt and they should be open to the areas where they themselves might need a lesson or two.

More businesses should take a proactive approach to up-skilling employees rather than making redundancies.

I encourage businesses not to make the mistake of making workers redundant whilst recruiting at the same time, even if they are for different jobs that require different skills.


The Future Workplace is Part Human Part Machine


By Dr Lindsay McMillan

Automated machines and artificial intelligence (AI) are set to become the favoured option for certain tasks in the workplace. Bookkeeping and supermarket cashier work are two areas at high risk of being completely computerised in the next twenty years, according to a report by the Productivity Commission.

Previously on this blog, I gave a couple of Australian examples where automation and artificial intelligence were changing the workplace. Brick-laying robots and self-driving cars are becoming a more efficient choice in construction and mining than human labour.

Increasingly we can expect workplaces to be part human and part machine, where tasks are shared between people and robots. So how can businesses make this work? Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy and Future of Work, Ed Husic co-wrote an opinion piece in the AFR recently describing Australia as being “spectacularly unprepared for automation”.

Part of this inadequate preparation is linked to the lack of strategic planning. Reventure’s own research found  two-thirds of 50 CEOs surveyed said they wished they could step back from day-to-day matters to focus on long term planning – the big picture.

Here are two big picture items to consider before transitioning your workplace to part-machine.

1.       Look at ways to retain experienced employees.

Unsurprisingly, most of the pain will come from redundancies. The biggest mistake businesses can make is to think automation will be purely a logistical question of increasing efficiency and output. Redundancies will be painful and emotional, especially for those who have made a career out of their current job.

However, a redundancy does not have to mean leaving an industry for good. One thoughtful approach at General Electric (GE) looks at retaining experienced workers in a new capacity, training them to oversee the machinery that replaced them. Although not all jobs can be saved this way, it is clearly beneficial to both parties; GE benefits from employees that have an understanding of the manual process and can identify when machines get it wrong, and employees retain a job they have experience in.

2.       Check the value of doing tasks manually.

Not to suggest businesses do a U-turn on automation and AI, however there is a need to examine what value you obtain from performing tasks manually.

An example is the value of repetitive tasks for employees as a training device. Entry-level work may be mundane; however, it often gives employees a basic understanding of an industry – paralegals for example cut their teeth on trawling through legal documents.

Identifying and filling a training gap will ensure your employees’ skills will not diminish over time.

There is an argument to be made that mechanical maintenance is a lot easier than “maintaining employees” so to speak – particularly given the fact our research shows 72 per cent of workers are still looking for purpose and meaning in their work. However automation and AI could only serve to increase this statistic, with employees questioning their value if a piece of machinery could do the same work.

Delivering Purpose and Meaning provides proactive strategies that looks at effectively managing an integrated workforce that are increasingly looking to contextualise their work in a bigger organisational narrative. Before workplaces think about introducing AI into their workplace, they need to check whether they have the basics down including an effective and collaborative culture. Machines are knocking at the door, is your workplace ready to open it?