Financial services workers more stressed and less engaged than average


Margo Lydon

Over a quarter of people in the financial services industry experience very high levels of stress in their job, according to SuperFriend, the workplace mental health and wellbeing partner for the superannuation and insurance industry.

The Financial and Insurance Services Industry Profile Reportan industry snapshot taken from SuperFriend’s annual Indicators of a Thriving Workplace survey of 5,000 workers, found that mental health awareness and prevention in the industry is still very much a work in progress.

The research found that workers in Financial and insurance industries are less engaged, with only 13% feeling highly engaged compared to the 19% national average. Almost a third of financial services workers report experiencing job insecurity, rising to four in ten of those working in the insurance sector.

The report was conducted shortly after the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was announced.

Margo Lydon, SuperFriend CEO and Victorian finalist in the 2019 Telstra Women’s Business Award For Purpose and Social Enterprise, said this was likely to have affected stress levels for employees and influenced perceptions of mental health and wellbeing across the sector.

“Our research was carried out at a time of unprecedented change and uncertainty for the industry. Many employees in the sector have felt the effect of this scrutiny on a very personal level, and this could have potentially had an impact on their mental health,” noted Ms Lydon.

“Not only is the Financial Services sector a highly competitive market, the current environment has made workers feel ambiguous about where the industry is headed, and they worry about job security.

“With the prospect of greater regulation and compliance pressures in the industry making roles more complex, a key focus for employers should be creating job designs that enable employees to bring their best self to work,” added Ms Lydon.

Time and training key barriers to taking action

A third (34%) of financial services employees believe that lack of time is the biggest barrier to employers improving mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, while 29% said their managers lacked the appropriate skills.

This perception is supported by the belief that workplace mental health is not a large enough problem to address, especially when there are more important business issues to deal with.

“While many financial services employers have clear policies in place and offer positive employee benefits such as confidential counselling and employee assistance programs (EAPs), businesses should also ensure individual front line managers are given the time and the training to help prevent workplace mental health issues occurring in the first place,” Ms Lydon said.

Need to actively cultivate positive leadership

According to the study, leadership is the biggest opportunity for improvement in this sector, with only 8.4% of those surveyed feeling their leaders create a sense of cohesion within work teams, well below the national average of 16.3%.

“One of the most important factors will be cultivating positive leadership within organisations. Leaders who understand the need to evolve and update their mental health and wellbeing practices post the Royal Commission will lead the way for innovative workplaces where employees can thrive,” concluded Ms Lydon.

Read the report: The Financial and Insurance Services Industry Profile Report

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