One in five Australians are reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress associated with the COVID pandemic. 

Two years of on-and-off-again social isolation, closed schools, job insecurity and every other bleak pandemic experience has left many of us traumatized.

A survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics into the household impact of COVID amid the recent Victorian outbreak highlights a surge in psychological distress. With almost a third of the state reporting feelings of depression and anxiety.

Mental health in the workplace

A new study from Allianz has expounded the distinct challenges faced by those attempting to navigate mental health in their workplace.

The new data reveals that workplace mental health injuries are on the up, with active psychological claims increasing by five percent for the last financial year.

The study found that 69 percent of Australian employees surveyed have not had a conversation about mental health with their employer since the start of the pandemic. With 43 percent saying their workplace has not introduced new mental health initiatives.

Love Health & Wellness?

Get the latest Health & Wellness news, features, updates and giveaways straight to your inbox Learn more

The “Balance in the Modern Workplace” report researched both employees and employers about the challenges in the workplace throughout the pandemic.

67 percent of employees reported struggling to balance work and personal life, 31 percent noted increased pressure and workload, 27 percent reported ineffective or unfair management.

Employers are chiefly concerned with their staff working remotely (68 percent), maintaining a positive culture (28 percent), and completing targets or deadlines (28 percent).

Maintaining a work life balance

Tuning in and checking out completely after work feels like an impossible task. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that there’s this weird guilt I’ve been carrying around with me since the beginning of lockdown in the way of… not immediately responding to emails at 9 pm when you’re in the midst of a pivotal episode of Sex and the City. It’s so hard to allow yourself even brief windows of not being responsive to the beckoning calls of Gmail.

Mitch Wallis, Founder of Heart On My Sleeve, said, “Since the pandemic, it has become harder to learn how to balance work and personal life – it is an ongoing issue that employees and employers are trying to get right.”

He continues, “We no longer have those physical cues when we finish work for the day, the leaving of a building, closing of a laptop or a social interaction with colleagues.

“As humans, we crave this certainty, we crave knowing what to do, how to do it and when to do it. However, the pandemic has presented challenges in the workplace that have increasingly blurred the lines between professional and personal, across all industries.”

Wallis has stressed the importance of employees feeling supported in their decision to “switch off and transition to their personal life at the end of a day.”

“It’s more important than ever to foster an open, empathetic and educated culture that respects work-life balance by providing a space that nourishes and supports mental health and wellbeing,” he explains.

Statistics show that 45 percent of Australians feel as though the line between work and personal life has been blurred, with 46% percent of those surveyed chalking this inability to detach to not having a transitional space and 40 percent feelings s though there is an expectation to work longer hours due to the pandemic.

Additionally, 77 percent of Australian employees claim to work some form of overtime to complete assigned tasks.

The Third Space… or lack thereof

Dr Adam Fraser, author of The Third Space, chalks up this struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance with the loss of the ‘Third Space.’

As he explains, “The ‘First Space’ is what you’re doing now. The ‘Second Space’ is what you’re about to do and the ‘Third Space’ is the gap in the middle.”

Dr Fraser has emphasised the importance of employers fostering a work environment that rewards people for making time for themselves and their Third Space.

“Despite this needing to be a priority, individuals and organisations are struggling to find a healthy balance as industries respond to the changing demands of the pandemic,” he says. More so than ever, employers feel obliged to not only support employees during the working hours of the day, but also feel responsible for making sure their team finds time to switch off and transition from work to personal life.”

There are a number of immediately contactable hotlines that you can call if you or anyone you know needs help: