Statistics on mental health and wellbeing in New Zealand workplaces

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Summary

  • One in four New Zealand workers is flourishing.(1
  • 33% of users of mental health services did not apply for jobs because they expected discrimination.(2
  • 1 in 5 New Zealand workers report always or often being stressed by work.(4)  
  • In 2020, New Zealand lost 7.3 million working days and $1.85 billion due to work absence. 22% of workers still go to work sick. 64% of organisations report stress is increasing, with Covid-19 as a significant contributor. (5)

Bullying and cyber bullying at work

Bullying is quite common in workplaces across Aotearoa. Nearly two in ten respondents of the 2020 Workplace Barometer Survey said they had experienced bullying (up from 1 in 10 in 2018) and nearly 40% had seen others being bullied (up from 23% in 2018).(6,7

Another report from the same year revealed that 84% of surveyed workers had experienced cyber abuse, and 48% more than one form of it. 75.5% didn’t report the abuse to their organisation, believing it wouldn’t make a difference.(8

According to another source from 2013, one fifth of workers didn’t feel secure in their jobs and 30% experienced bullying in the previous six months.(9)
In 2019, one in 10 workers in Aotearoa felt discriminated against, harassed, or bullied at work (10)

Harms from bullying are shown below: (11)

Harms from bullying

Diversity issues and challenges

The New Zealand workplace diversity study found the three most important diversity issues to firms and organisations in 2020 were:  

  • Wellbeing/wellness (75.4%) 
  • Gender (56.1%) 
  • Bias (54.6%) (12

The same research showed the three biggest workplace wellbeing challenges to firms and organisations in 2020 were: 

  • Employees’ mental health (74%) 
  • Work/life balance (70.6%) 
  • Stress (69%) (13

44.9% respondents believed that Māori were underrepresented in their organisations, and 41.5% believed the same was true for Pasifika. (14

37.5% of those surveyed said that bias affects recruitment, promotion or pay decisions in their organisations – this is a decrease from 53.6% in the year before. 48.9% also indicated there was unconscious bias in their organisations, up from 41.4% in 2019. (15

Inclusion 

A survey of Australian and New Zealand workplaces by Hays found that 56% of respondents felt their chance of being accepted for a job was lowered because of their sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, gender or disability, and 63% felt the same about their chances for career progression. (16

Half of those who participated in the survey believe their leaders have a bias towards those who look, think or act like them. For people with disabilities, the percentage is even higher, at 66%.17 The survey found a lack of Māori role models – only 1% of respondents had a Māori line manager. (18

Detail - New Zealand

Flourishing 

In a 2015 study, “One in four New Zealand workers were categorised as flourishing. Being older and married, reporting greater income, financial security, physical health, autonomy, strengths awareness and use, work-life balance, job satisfaction, participation in the Five Ways to Wellbeing, volunteering, and feeling appreciated by others were all positively associated with worker flourishing independent of sociodemographics.” (19

Depression and psychological distress at work 

The 2018 NZ Workplace Barometer survey revealed that 27% of respondents felt depressed most of the time, and 64% experienced restless sleep disturbance, which is a symptom of depression. This research also concluded that:

  • Work-family conflict, workplace bullying, and lack of inclusion increased the risk of depression.
  • Where levels of the PSC (psycho-social safety climate) were highest, psychosocial health problems, depression, and psychosocial distress, were lowest. (20)

Discrimination at work

A third of surveyed users of mental health services did not apply for jobs because of anticipated discrimination. (21

Stress at work

Statistics New Zealand’s Survey of working life found that 1 in 5 New Zealand workers report always or often being stressed by work. (23

A survey by Southern Cross Health Insurance and Business New Zealand found that in 2020:

  • New Zealand lost 7.3 million working days due to work absence. This is down 7.4 million working days in 2018. 
  • The cost of absence to the economy was $1.85 billion, up from $1.79 billion in 2018.
  • 22% of workers still go to work sick, down from 35% in 2018.
  • 64% of organisations report stress is increasing, with Covid-19 as a significant contributor. (24,25)

Bullying and cyber bullying at work

Nearly two in ten respondents of the 2020 Workplace Barometer Survey said they had experienced bullying (up from 1 in 10 in 2018) and nearly 40% had seen others being bullied (up from 23% in 2018). (26,27)  The most frequently reported negative behaviours associated with bullying were “someone withholding information which affects your performance” and “being ignored by people at work (being ignored, excluded).” (28

Bullying seems to be more common in some industries than others. A 2009 study found that one in five employees experienced bullying in hospitality, health, education, and travel industries.

  • Of those, 86.7% of respondents had experienced at least occasional negative acts in the previous six months at work.  
  • 7.7% self-reported that they had witnessed bullying behaviours by others in their workplace either “several times per week” or “almost daily.”  
  • Bullying was most prevalent in the education sector (22%), followed by health (18%), hospitality (15%), and travel (11%).  
  • 81% of those working in education sector said they were under high stress. 77% of those in health, 75% in travel and 50% in hospitality reported the same. (29

In a 2013 survey by the PSA, one in five workers did not feel secure in their jobs and 30% had experienced bullying in the previous six months. (30

A 2018 survey of workers in Aotearoa found that 84% of those surveyed had experienced cyber abuse, and 48% more than one form of it. 75.5% didn’t report the abuse to their organisation, believing it wouldn’t make a difference.(31

According to another 2018 report, those employed in the construction industry are at a higher risk for experiencing mental distress. A toxic masculine environment; drug and alcohol use; high-risk worker population; an undervalued career path; intergenerational issues on worksites; intolerance of diversity; well-informed and demanding customers - all point to a higher risk environment. Unfortunately, this is reflected in the high prevalence of suicide among the construction industry workforce in New Zealand. (32

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) 

According to a Xero research from 2019, only about a third of small business owners think their team would benefit from improved wellbeing, and two out of every five don’t feel any responsibility for their staff’s wellbeing. (33

Of the 1,001 small business leaders Xero surveyed, almost two-thirds said they would like support or advice when it comes to workplace wellbeing – a figure that roughly corresponds with the 60% who believe staff wellbeing is their responsibility. (34)

Diversity issues and challenges

The New Zealand workplace diversity study found that the three most important diversity issues to firms and organisations in 2020 were:  

  • Wellbeing/wellness (75.4%, down from 79.6% in 2019)
  • Gender (56.1%, down from 66.8% in 2019) 
  • Bias (54.6%, down from 63% in 2019) (35)

The same research showed that the three biggest workplace wellbeing challenges in 2020 were:

  • Employees’ mental health (74%, up from 72% in 2019)
  • Work/life balance (70.6%, down from 71.2% in 2019)
  • Stress (69%, down from 70.7% in 2019) (36

According to the study, women are represented at the governance level in 88% of organisations (up from 82.6% in 2019), and 91.7% at the leadership/decision-making level (similar to 91.6% in 2019). Large organisations were more likely to have female representation at governance level. (37

41.3% believe that their organisation fostered an institutional culture of inclusion, equity, and respect, although that has slightly decreased from 43.8% in 2019. (38)

44.9% respondents believed that Māori were underrepresented in their organisations, and 41.5% believed the same was true for Pasifika. These findings are similar to 2019 data – 44% thought Māori were underrepresented and 43.8% thought that for Pasifika. (39

37.5% of those surveyed said that bias affects recruitment, promotion or pay decisions in their organisations – albeit a concerning figure, it points to an encouraging decrease from 53.6% in the year before. 48.9% also indicated there was unconscious bias in their organisations, up from 41.4% in 2019. (40

Organisations address ethnicity from a diversity issue lens in a variety of ways, with the most popular method being ‘cultural competence training’ at 24.8%, up from 14.9% in 2019. (41

Inclusion

The recruitment company Hays undertakes a diversity and inclusion survey of working professionals every two years in Australia and New Zealand. The most recent (2018/19) survey found that:

  • 56% of respondents said there had been an occasion where they felt that their chance of being accepted for a job was lowered because of their sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, gender, or disability.
  • 40% believe they are more likely to be promoted if they have a similar socio-economic background to the organisation’s management.
  • 45% said they have experienced bullying or harassment at work due to their gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability. 
  • 38% said their employer takes every opportunity to create a workplace culture that is more diverse and inclusive.

The survey also found that there is a lack of Māori role models: only 1% of respondents have a line manager who is Māori, and 0.79% said the most senior person in the organisation is Māori. Half of all surveyed said their organisation’s leaders have a bias towards people who look, think, or act like them. (42)

Mental health and absenteeism

  • A 2018 survey of New Zealanders by Seek (released to Stuff) found that: 
  • 44% of respondents had never taken a mental health day but 66% said they had wanted to. 
  • 27% had lied about taking a mental health day. 
  • Only 37% of workplaces are known to provide a workplace policy for mental health. (43)

International

Mental health in the workplace

The UK’s Mental Health at Work survey uncovered that: 

  • 45% of employees believe their organisation does well in supporting those with mental health issues.
  • 61% of employees have experienced a mental health issue (fully or partly) due to work. 
  • 37% of those aged 18-29 have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition, compared with 29% of employees over 50. 
  • More than four in five (81%) of LGBT+ people have experienced a mental health condition, with 72% attributing mental health issues to work. (44)

Mental distress and employment rates or productivity 

A 2015 study concluded that “workplace bullying is a significant predictor for subsequent mental health problems, including depressive-, anxiety-, and PTSD symptoms and other stress-related psychological complaints”. (45

We now know that mental distress can lead to lower employment rates or productivity. One OECD report found that 55% to 70% of people with mental disorder work in paid employment, about 10 to 15 percentage points lower than people without a disorder. (46) On the other hand, happy employees are 12% more productive, as shown by a study by the University of Warwick (UK). (47

Mental health and prevalence in industries 

An Australian study by PwC found that the three industries with the highest rates of any mental health condition in the previous 12 months were:  

  1. finance and insurance 
  2. electricity, gas, and waste  
  3. information, media, and telecommunication. (48

Benefits of mental wellbeing programmes 

The same study found that “mental health conditions present substantial costs to organisations.” The opposite is also true – by successfully creating a mentally healthy workplace, organisations can expect a positive return on investment (ROI) of 2.3. In other words, for every dollar spent towards improving mental wellbeing in the workplace, employers will gain $2.30 in return through improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism (reduced productivity at work), and lower numbers of compensation claims.(42

According to Deloitte UK49, investing in workplace wellbeing goes an even longer way – employers get an average of £5 back for every £1 invested.  

These estimated return figures can vary widely, but generally speaking, interventions that achieve higher returns tend to:

  • Offer a large‑scale culture change, or organisation‑wide initiatives supporting large numbers of employees.
  • Focus on prevention or building employee resilience.
  • Use technology or diagnostics to tailor support for those most at risk. 

The report found the top three issues that caused employees concern are:  

  • Pressure - too many priorities or targets etc due to workload.
  • Working overtime and/or rarely taking leave.
  • Not being supported in the role.  

Last reviewed/links checked: October 2021

References

1 Hone, L. C., Jarden, A., Duncan, S., & Schofield, G. M. (2015). Flourishing in New Zealand workers: associations with lifestyle behaviors, physical health, psychosocial, and work-related indicators. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 57(9), 973–983. https://doi.org/10.1097/JOM.0000000000000508


2 Wyllie, A., & Brown, Ralph. (2011). Discrimination reported by users of mental health services: 2010 survey. Auckland, N.Z.: Phoenix Research. Retrieved from https://mentalhealth.org.nz/resources/resource/discrimination-reported-by-users-of-mental-health-services


4  Statistics NZ. (2019) Survey of working life 2018, cited in WorkSafe New Zealand (2021). Improving Work-Related Health: Mentally Healthy Work   (https://www.worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/work-related-health/improving-work-related-health/ File: WSNZ_4147_Mentally-healthy-work-A4-Two-Pagers-v4.pdf).

5 Southern Cross Health Insurance, & Business NZ. (2021). Workplace wellness report 2021. Business New Zealand. https://www.businessnz.org.nz/resources/surveys-and-statistics/wellness-in-the-workplace-survey/Southern-Cross-Health-Insurance-BusinessNZ-Workplace-Wellness-Report-2021.pdf


6 Forsyth, D., Ashby, L., Gardner, D., … Tappin, D. (2021). The New Zealand Workplace Barometer Psychosocial safety climate and worker health – findings from the 2020 NZ Workplace Barometer. Massey University. https://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/fms/school_of_management/HWG/The%202020%20New%20Zealand%20Workplace%20Barometer%20Report%20FINAL.pdf?5D42AA029903C7C6B61C5F948507BCE6


7 p. 17. Bentley, T., Tappin, D., Blackwood, K., Bone, K., Forsyth, D., Gardner, D., … Ashby, L. (2019). The New Zealand Workplace Barometer: A report on findings from the 2018 survey of the New Zealand Workplace Barometer. Retrieved from http://www.massey.ac.nz/shadomx/apps/fms/fmsdownload.cfm?file_uuid=6B533D7B-63EB-4D20-B80A-E14A64C0F8E5


8 D’Souza, N., Blackwood, K., & Forsyth, D. (2018). Breaking barriers: a report on cyber abuse in New Zealand workers. [Auckland]: Massey University. Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/document/390420632/Breaking-Barriers-Report


9 Plimmer, G., Wilson, J., Bryson, J., Blumenfeld, S. B., Donnelly, N., Ryan, B., & New Zealand Public Service Association. (2013). Workplace dynamics in New Zealand public services: a survey report prepared for the Public Service Association (PSA), Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.


10 Statistics New Zealand. (2019). One in 10 workers feels discriminated against, harassed, or bullied at work. Statistics New Zealand. https://www.stats.govt.nz/news/one-in-10-workers-feels-discriminated-against-harassed-or-bullied-at-work


11 WorkSafe New Zealand. (2018). Bullying at work: Advice for workers. WorkSafe. https://www.worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/bullying/bullying-at-work-advice-for-workers/ 


12 p.6. Roy, R. P., Terruhn, J., & Spoonley, P. (2020). New Zealand workplace diversity survey 2020. Diversity Works NZ; Massey University. https://diversityworksnz.org.nz/media/4187/0420-diversity-survey-report-hr.pdf


13 p.15. Roy, R. P., Terruhn, J., & Spoonley, P. (2020)


14 p.22. Roy, R. P., Terruhn, J., & Spoonley, P. (2020).


15 p.25. Roy, R. P., Terruhn, J., & Spoonley, P. (2020).  


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17 p. 11, 28. Hays. (2019).  


18 p. 28. Hays. (2019).  


19 Hone, L. C., Jarden, A., Duncan, S., & Schofield, G. M. (2015). Flourishing in New Zealand workers: associations with lifestyle behaviors, physical health, psychosocial, and work-related indicators. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 57(9), 973–983. https://doi.org/10.1097/JOM.00000000000005088


20 p. 14. Bentley, T., Tappin, D., Blackwood, K., Bone, K., Forsyth, D., Gardner, D., … Ashby, L. (2019). The New Zealand Workplace Barometer: A report on findings from the 2018 survey of the New Zealand Workplace Barometer. Retrieved from http://www.massey.ac.nz/shadomx/apps/fms/fmsdownload.cfm?file_uuid=6B533D7B-63EB-4D20-B80A-E14A64C0F8E5


21 Wyllie, A., & Brown, Ralph. (2011). Discrimination reported by users of mental health services: 2010 survey. Auckland, N.Z.: Phoenix Research. Retrieved from https://mentalhealth.org.nz/resources/resource/discrimination-reported-by-users-of-mental-health-services 


22 p. 7. WorkSafe New Zealand. (2017). Attitudes and Behaviours Survey 2017. WorkSafe New Zealand. Retrieved from https://worksafe.govt.nz/data-and-research/research/attitudes-and-behaviours-survey-2017/ 


23 Statistics NZ. (2019) Survey of working life 2018, cited in WorkSafe New Zealand. (2021). Improving Work-Related Health: Mentally Healthy Work   (https://www.worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/work-related-health/improving-work-related-health/ File: WSNZ_4147_Mentally-healthy-work-A4-Two-Pagers-v4.pdf).


24 Southern Cross Health Insurance, & Business NZ. (2021). Workplace wellness report 2021. Business New Zealand. https://www.businessnz.org.nz/resources/surveys-and-statistics/wellness-in-the-workplace-survey/Southern-Cross-Health-Insurance-BusinessNZ-Workplace-Wellness-Report-2021.pdf 


25 Southern Cross Health Society, & Business New Zealand. (2019). Wellness in the workplace: survey report 2019. Auckland: Southern Cross Health Society. Retrieved from https://www.businessnz.org.nz/resources/surveys-and-statistics/wellness-in-the-workplace-survey/2019-Workplace-Wellness-Report.pdf 


26 Forsyth, D., Ashby, L., Gardner, D., … Tappin, D. (2021). The New Zealand Workplace Barometer Psychosocial safety climate and worker health – findings from the 2020 NZ Workplace Barometer. Massey University. https://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/fms/school_of_management/HWG/The%202020%20New%20Zealand%20Workplace%20Barometer%20Report%20FINAL.pdf?5D42AA029903C7C6B61C5F948507BCE6 


27 p. 17. Bentley, T., Tappin, D., Blackwood, K., Bone, K., Forsyth, D., Gardner, D., … Ashby, L. (2019). The New Zealand Workplace Barometer: A report on findings from the 2018 survey of the New Zealand Workplace Barometer. Retrieved from http://www.massey.ac.nz/shadomx/apps/fms/fmsdownload.cfm?file_uuid=6B533D7B-63EB-4D20-B80A-E14A64C0F8E5 


28 p. 23. Forsyth, D., et al. (2021).


29 Bentley, T., Catley, B., Cooper-Thomas, H., Gardner, D., O’Driscoll, M., & Trenberth, L. (2009). Understanding stress and bullying in New Zealand workplaces final report to OH&S steering committee. Auckland, N.Z.: Massey University. Retrieved from http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/fms//Massey%20News/2010/04/docs/Bentley-et-al-report.pdf 


30 Plimmer, G., Wilson, J., Bryson, J., Blumenfeld, S. B., Donnelly, N., Ryan, B., & New Zealand Public Service Association. (2013). Workplace dynamics in New Zealand public services: a survey report prepared for the Public Service Association (PSA), Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.


31 D’Souza, N., Blackwood, K., & Forsyth, D. (2018). Breaking barriers: a report on cyber abuse in New Zealand workers. [Auckland]: Massey University. Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/document/390420632/Breaking-Barriers-Report


32 Bryson, K., & Duncan, A. (2018). Study Report SR411 Mental health in the construction industry scoping study (BRANZ Study Report SR411) (p. 32). Judgeford, N.Z.: BRANZ. Retrieved from https://www.branz.co.nz/pubs/research-reports/sr411/ 


33 Section 2. 2019 Small Business Wellbeing Report | Xero NZ. (n.d.). Retrieved from Xero website: https://www.xero.com/nz/wellbeing-report/ 


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35 p.6. Roy, R. P., Terruhn, J., & Spoonley, P. (2020). New Zealand workplace diversity survey 2020. Diversity Works NZ; Massey University. https://diversityworksnz.org.nz/media/4187/0420-diversity-survey-report-hr.pdf 


36 p.15. Roy, R. P., Terruhn, J., & Spoonley, P. (2020)


37 p. 20. Roy, R. P., Terruhn, J., & Spoonley, P. (2020).


38 p. 23. Roy, R. P., Terruhn, J., & Spoonley, P. (2020).


39 p.22. Roy, R. P., Terruhn, J., & Spoonley, P. (2020).  


40 p.25. Roy, R. P., Terruhn, J., & Spoonley, P. (2020).  


41 p. 23. Roy, R. P., Terruhn, J., & Spoonley, P. (2020).  


42 Hays. (2019).  


43 Quinlivan, M. (2018, October 12). Still stigma in workplace around mental illness, but improving says Chamber of Commerce. Stuff.Co.Nz. Retrieved from https://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/national/107794728/Still-stigma-in-workplace-around-mental-illness-but-improving-says-Chamber-of-Commerce 


44 Business in the Community. (2018). Mental health at work 2018 report: seizing the momentum. London, U.K.: Business in the Community. Retrieved from https://wellbeing.bitc.org.uk/system/files/research/mental_health_at_work_-_survey_report_2018_-_compressed.pdf 


45 Verkuil, B., Atasayi, S., & Molendijk, M. L. (2015). Workplace bullying and mental health: a meta-analysis on cross-sectional and longitudinal data. PLOS ONE, 10(8), e0135225. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0135225 


46 OECD. (2012). Sick on the job? - myths and realities about mental health and work. Paris: OECD. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/els/mental-health-and-work-9789264124523-en.htm 


47 Sgroi, D. (2015). Happiness and productivity: understanding the happy-productive worker (SMF-CAGE Global Perspectives Series) (p. 20). Warwick: University of Warwick. Retrieved from https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/dsgroi/impact/hp_briefing.pdf 


48 PwC. (2014). Creating a mentally healthy workplace: Return on investment analysis. [Sydney]: PwC. Retrieved from https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/beyondblue_workplaceroi_finalreport_may-2014.pdf 


49 Mental health and employers Refreshing the case for investment. (2020). Deloitte UK. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/consultancy/deloitte-uk-mental-health-and-employers.pdf