I've seen a huge amount of positive change in the time I've been working in the industry, but was disappointed to learn that more than a quarter of people in financial services experience very high levels of stress in their work. We discovered this in our Financial and Insurance Services Profile Report—an industry snapshot taken from SuperFriend's annual Indicators of a Thriving Workplace survey of over 5,000 Australian workers.

Our research found that workers in the financial and insurance services industry are less engaged and that mental health is still very much a work in progress, with only 13% feeling highly engaged compared to the 19% national average. Almost a third of financial services workers also reported experiencing job insecurity, rising to two in five for those working in the insurance sector.

The Banking Royal Commission commenced just as our research began, and is likely to have both affected stress levels for employees, and influenced perceptions of mental health and wellbeing across the sector.

The survey 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.

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.

Although 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 frontline managers are given the time and training to help prevent workplace mental health issues occurring in the first place.

Need to actively cultivate positive leadership

Our research highlighted leadership as 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.

Margo Lydon
Chief Executive Officer