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5 min read - May 28, 2024

Top 5 Employment Challenges Impacting Employee Wellbeing - Part 1

At the recent NZ National HR Summit held in April, the agenda was packed with topics ranging from ‘how to cultivate high performing teams’, ‘how to find true purpose’, ‘how to successfully retain employees’, through to ‘Psychological safety and positive workplace culture’. One thing was clear, employee wellbeing is a ‘top of mind’ topic across the NZ business and on the HR scene at the moment.

As we enter into Q2 of 2024, we thought it was worthwhile exploring the top 5 challenges we believe are impacting on Employee Wellbeing facing employers in NZ (and similarly overseas).   

1. Ongoing Economic Uncertainty: According to the latest NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion NZ’s post-election bounce in business confidence and activity was short-lived, with a net 24% of businesses preparing for “a deterioration in the general economic outlook over the coming months on a seasonally adjusted basis”.

Global financial challenges, coupled with our own domestic economic concerns, create a sense of uncertainty for many employers and employees alike. Many of us have felt the impacts of the current public sector shakeup, with NZ businesses facing funding cuts and public projects being delayed or shelved, impacting on the pipeline of work for many public and private organisations. This in turn can lead to stress, anxiety, and a decline in morale within the employees of a business. Leaving many employers trying to juggle the demands of keeping their business economically sustainable whilst providing stability for their employees to ensure they can retain talent and deliver their business outcomes.

For employees a lack of job certainty, and rising personal costs, can leave them feeling in a precarious situation.

2. Remote Work and Work-Life Balance: A lot has been said both for and against remote work over the past 2 years. Where you can offer remote work, it continues to be in demand, with more employees wanting or expecting flexibility in where they work. According to survey data from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, in March 2022 almost half of New Zealand workers had a choice about working from home outside of pandemic restrictions.

However, remote working can also blur the lines between work and personal life, which in turn can lead to feelings of isolation, burnout, and difficulty switching off, as well as bringing about new challenges for managers to navigate, such as maintaining effective team dynamics and ensuring open communication with their team members.  Employees still need support and consistent processes to support their most effective work arrangements.

3. The Great Resignation: The recruitment market is ever changing. New Zealand, like many countries, has been bouncing between the impacts of voluntary turnover with “the Great Resignation” and the continued “Brain Drain” with many overseas employers advertising vigorously in our media, with potentially unmatchable offers. With the grass looking greener on the other side, New Zealanders are on the search for more income and reduced costs of living.

When the talent market is tight, remaining employees can weather the load of additional duties as roles take time to fill, feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated, and/or left evaluating a lack of fair remuneration and/or a lack of investment in their development.

This leaves employers with a need to focus on employee retention strategies, such as competitive compensation, professional development opportunities, and a positive work culture.

4. Mental Health and Wellbeing: Mental health concerns are on the rise in New Zealand. Once a taboo discussion point, times have changed, and employers are now expected to participate in discussion on these sensitive subjects and create a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable talking about mental health challenges and can access support to face these challenges head on.

In recent times, examples have included enhanced provisions for miscarriage/stillbirth support, policy and procedures to address the symptoms of menopause, resilience development, and additional family violence support. The landscape is expanding on the topics that leaders and organisations need to be equipped to handle and respond to, for employees.

5. Evolving Workplace: The nature of work is constantly changing, and employers need to ensure their workforce has the skills to keep pace and support to navigate the changes themselves.

For example, we are seeing a rise in businesses assessing the impact on their existing workforce of ‘AI’, determining what roles and responsibilities are essential in terms of the ‘human touch’ and what activities can be replaced by technology.  Unless managed well, this can leave employees feeling uncertain of their value and contribution.

Where to from here?

In summary it's clear to see there is a lot impacting on how our people show up to work, their engagement levels, how focused they are during work times and what they may be juggling to ensure business objectives can be met.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub was recently quoted in an RNZ article that “businesses realise that it's expensive to recruit, train and get someone implemented into the workforce." Employers have long been aware of the financial and intangible costs of recruitment, development and engagement of team members. Bringing us to the questions ‘What is an investment in Employee Wellbeing worth to your organisation, and could it be a critical lever in retaining talent and driving business performance through an economically tough time?’

Check out our next article where we share our answer to this question - Has Employee Wellbeing become an essential component for today’s Employers or is it still just a nice to have?

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