Australian Workers Unprepared For Technology Driven Workplace Issues
Working carers are more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs and consider quitting than their non-carer counterparts, and four in 10 believe their career opportunities are limited.
A new report from the University of Melbourne Work Futures Hallmark Research Initiative reveals that Australian workers are overworked, ill, in danger of quitting, and largely unprepared for challenges at workplace in the future driven by technology like automation and artificial intelligence.
Regarding their experiences at work since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1,400 Australian workers participated in a thorough survey that was conducted in June 2022.
The results, which were published in the 2023 State of the Future of Work Report, show that Australian workers have suffered from worsening physical and mental health since the pandemic started. Prime age workers (those between 25 and 55 years old) have been particularly hard hit, with one-third of them having thought about quitting.
Over a third of prime-age workers in Australia are considering leaving their jobs, according to Dr. Brendan Churchill, co-author of the report and a sociologist. This is not surprising given the high rates of fatigue and exhaustion among younger and middle-aged workers. Workplaces in Australia need to put employees’ wellbeing first in order to support them more effectively in overcoming burnout and mental distress.
Future work practises for Australians are anticipated to be significantly impacted by automation and the application of AI, including the introduction of ChatGPT, which can write language with efficiency comparable to that of a human.
Although the report found that Australian workers are largely unprepared for these technology driven Workplace challenges, AI advancements are poised to reduce the need for human decision-making. Professor David Bissell, a human geographer and report co-author, said: “We found that most Australians aren’t overly concerned about being replaced at work by AI and automation and believe that their skills are sufficient to meet the challenges ahead.
“Our research reveals that Australians, however, are slow to adopt new technologies in the workplace. We must comprehend the causes of this and encourage inclusive technology use because one in five workers claim they only adopt new technologies in the workplace when forced to”.
Caretakers, or people who look after others in their lives, were severely impacted by the pandemic. They cited school closings, working from home, and decreased access to outsourced care as additional stressors of working in a difficult pandemic environment.
Working carers are more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs and consider quitting than their non-carer counterparts, and four in 10 believe their career opportunities are limited. Gender inequality expert Professor Leah Ruppanner found that caregiving men are also exhausted, less productive, and seeing fewer opportunities for advancement.
Workplaces must take a more holistic approach to caregiving, including ensuring men have access to flexible work and employment policies. In 2021, 32% of workers had a chronic illness, higher than the 32% found in the most recent Australian Census in 2021. Over 40% of people with a chronic illness want to quit their jobs, and almost three-quarters of workers with chronic illness said their illness is made worse by their job.
Discrimination at work is widespread, particularly against women, people with chronic illnesses and caregivers, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Almost two-thirds of respondents were turned down for a job because they were Indigenous, and those with chronic illness reported similar rates of being turned down due to their illness.
Australian workers found flexible ways of working during the pandemic made them happier and more productive, and the majority say ongoing flexible work arrangements are critical to staying with their current employers.
Professor Leah Ruppanner said that in-person work was ideal for most prior to the pandemic, but not for mothers, caregivers, and people living with chronic illnesses are critical to staying with their current employers.
The pandemic has highlighted the personal and professional benefits of flexible and remote ways of working for many, and it is clear that most Australian workers don’t want to go back to a traditional work environment.
The report urges governments to better prepare Australia for the future of a technology driven workplace by offering free universal high-quality childcare, legislating workers’ access to flexible and remote work as a workplace right consistent with other OECD nations, and granting equal access to technological upskilling, especially for traditionally underrepresented groups – to address the demographic, technological, and geographic changes facing Australia.