Bored at work? Your sanity isn’t the only thing at risk

A recent study in Finland has illustrated that being bored at work can be a contributing factor to poor health and well-being. The study looked at 87 Finnish organisations and how being physically present but unmotivated at work can have be as costly to your workers as it can be to your organisation.

Boredom at work can take many forms. We’ve all caught ourselves staring out the window on a sunny Friday afternoon and wishing we were elsewhere, or wondered if that grass is indeed greener on the other side of the career fence.

The odd ho-hum day is a reality we all know but usually it’s nothing a good laugh with colleagues or a lunchtime gym session won’t pull us out of. But when the boredom grows and the issues associated with chronic job dissatisfaction increase, it’s time to re-evaluate.

For your workers, boredom at work can be characterised as passiveness, lack of interest in tasks in a given situation, and an inability to concentrate (again, this sounds like many a tired Monday morning but if this is every day, then Houston…).

Prolonged boredom at work can offset an array of negative consequences such as depression, drug and alcohol abuse and decreased job satisfaction and performance.

Staff retention can also be affected, with boredom amongst staff leading to stressed workers who spend as much time planning to leave their job as they do actually in their job. The study showed that retirement ages are younger for people bored at work, stress levels are higher – particularly in professional vocations – and permanently employed staff are more likely to be bored than temporarily engaged workers.

Bored workers also considered themselves to be less healthy. Employees experiencing boredom were one and a half times more likely to rate their health as poor.

In terms of work health and safety, boredom is clearly a factor in terms of managing the wellbeing of your staff. When this expands into workplace safety, boredom on the job could lead to risk-taking, lack of concentration and ultimately, injury.

This is not to say that repetitive or low skilled work can lead to boredom. In fact the study found quite the opposite. Jobs that were excessively demanding, or had intangible goals (and therefore lack of purpose) fostered boredom more than jobs that had tight and specific deadlines. High levels of control and/or bureaucracy also left workers feeling less than impressed.

Lack of autonomy leaves people without control over their work life, leading to dissatisfaction.

In many ways, being bored at work is personal – some of your workers will always find ways to keep themselves busy and motivated, just as some will avoid work like the plague. Everyone experiences some level of boredom after doing anything for long enough – it’s our nature to explore, to be challenged and to be creative. But let’s face it, work can knock all that out of you after a bad day in the office!

How we, as individuals and employers, choose to manage that boredom is key. Here are a few simple ways to change your workers’ mood and stop their jobs, or your business, from going as stale as the bread left in the workplace fridge:

  • Provide workers with new projects and responsibilities in areas that interest them.
  • Encourage workers to swap tasks with colleagues and undertake new challenges.
  • Allow workers to take breaks and get some fresh air.
  • Facilitate training courses, or provide access to online training.
  • Encourage the creation of employee groups such as fundraising committees and social clubs.
  • Make meetings worthwhile!
  • Provide plants and appropriate lighting to make workspaces more inviting.

Insurance reforms put the customer at the centre

The Government announced a $1 billion reform package that will have significant benefits for employers, workers and the way we do business.

With a workers compensation system in the black for a number of years now, the Government made a commitment to return one-third of the annual surplus to employers and two-thirds to injured workers by way of enhanced benefits.

What does it mean for employers?

This financial year, businesses across NSW can expect between $170-$200 million returned via a new premium performance discount. Businesses that perform well in terms of good safety systems, low injury claims costs and good return to work rates can expect a discount off their premiums by between 5 and 20 per cent (7.5 per cent for small employers).

For medium to large businesses, this is just one of a number of financial incentives recently introduced that directly links safety with financial rewards.

You can read more about the other incentives for medium to large businesses on the WorkCover website.

What does it mean for injured workers?

Legislation was passed on 13 August 2015 that will see a number of enhanced benefits for injured workers including lifetime access for all workers who require artificial aids, such as prosthetics and hearing aids, and lifetime medical benefits for injured workers with high needs.

Other benefits include return to work assistance to help all injured workers to accept a job with a new employer and an education and retraining assistance of up to $8000 to help those longer term unemployed workers who can’t return to their pre-injury career.

There are other benefits; doubling the medical benefits for all workers from 12 months to two years, from when weekly payments stop or date of claim, and generous increases in lump sum payments for permanent impairment and death benefits. You can read more about benefits for workers here.

Changes to the system

In response to various inquiries and reviews into the workers compensation system that highlighted a conflict of interest with one organisation having both a regulatory and insurance function, new legislation to bring about structural reforms has also been passed.

Two new organisations are now operating to regulate the State’s insurance schemes and regulate work health and safety.

The structural changes relate to Safety, Return to Work and Support, which was the government ‘umbrella’ organisation that encompasses WorkCover, Motor Accidents Authority, Lifetime Care and Support and the Dust Diseases Board.

There are now three discrete agencies:

  • Insurance & Care NSW (icare) – a single customer-focused insurance and care service provider
  • State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) – a new independent insurance regulator
  • SafeWork NSW – an independent workplace safety regulator.

All existing agencies have been brought under the banner of one of these three.

icare is the organisation that is delivering customer-centred services to those served by the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer, Lifetime Care and Support Authority, Dust Diseases Authority, SICorp and Sporting Injuries Compensation Authority.

It is a centre of excellence for long-term care needs, care for people with the most severe injuries (road or workplaces), helping people return to work and improving quality of life outcomes.

Insurance & Care NSW means that the workers compensation scheme will be less adversarial, there will be fewer forms and less bureaucracy, and injured workers will have much more say in their treatment and return to work pathway.

It will make it easier for people to receive their benefits, be treated as quickly as possible, track claims and return to work. icare will be the agent of change to simplify the workers compensation scheme. It will roll out a range of online and other tools, including mobile apps, to make the customer’s journey simpler and more transparent.

SafeWork NSW is the state’s workplace health and safety regulator. Its focus is on harm prevention and improving the safety culture in NSW workplaces. SafeWork NSW also includes the establishment of a centre of excellence for work, health and safety.

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) has assumed the regulatory functions of WorkCover NSW in relation to workers compensation insurance, the Motor Accident Authority in relation to Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance and the regulatory functions relating to Home Building Compensation.

SIRA focuses on ensuring key public policy outcomes are being achieved in relation to service delivery to injured people, affordability, and the effective management and sustainability of the insurance schemes.

The new organisations commenced on 1 September 2015. Some reforms to benefits for injured workers have already commenced while others are yet to be proclaimed by the government, but planning work is underway. The insurancereforms.nsw.gov.au website is updated regularly with the latest information.

Fair, sustainable and customer-centred – the end result will be a simplified workers compensation system for workers and employers.

Safety in the saddle – do you know when to call it?

If you work with horses, you probably know someone who has been badly hurt, or you might have had a run-in yourself.

It’s not surprising given one worker is hospitalised every day in Australia due to a horse-related injury.

For every injured worker, another nine people are hurt.

New or inexperienced riders are particularly vulnerable in workplaces like riding schools, equestrian centres and trail riding businesses but even experienced riders can be caught off guard.

If someone gets seriously hurt at your business, you will have to make a call on whether the incident is notifiable, and if so, let SafeWork NSW know.

An incident might be unrelated to the type of work being carried out, like a severe electrical shock in the staff kitchen. Or it might involve horses directly such as being thrown or crushed, however, if someone is seriously injured – it’s notifiable.

A notifiable incident involves serious injury, illness, dangerous incidents and death.

If you are an employer, or other person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you should make sure you’re clear on what these four things are. Some examples of notifiable horse-related incidents include:

  • if someone falls off a horse and loses any bodily movement or consciousness (even momentarily) or suffers head trauma requiring medical treatment or hospital admission
  • if someone is badly cut and requires stitching or has any sort of spinal injury
  • if someone gets an infection through contact with animals you work with or come into contact with at work, e.g. Hendra Virus
  • if someone is bitten by a horse and is admitted to hospital or requires medical treatment
  • if someone has a ‘near miss’ which seriously endangers their or someone else’s health or safety.

In all cases – treat the injured person first – and then call SafeWork.

SafeWork’s Director of Business, Strategy and Performance, Christine Tumney, said notification results in better outcomes for prevention.

“Common injuries can be seen as normal risks of the job, but really, no one should be getting injured as a normal part of their day,” Ms Tumney said.

“In the three year period from 2008-11 there were 1,108 workers’ compensation claims for horse related-injuries and this picture of risk depends largely on notification.

“We need to know who is getting injured and why – and then we can work on reducing those risks and keeping people safe at work.

“Make sure you give us a call whether the injury happens to you, an employee, contractor or a member of the public.”

For further information about incident notifications visit safework.nsw.gov.au or call 13 10 50.

1 in 5 take stress sickies

One in five of us take a mental health ‘sickie’ every year.

Findings also suggest almost half the nation’s workforce believe their workplaces are mentally unhealthy.

That’s half of the people you work with – or maybe even you – who feel their mental health is compromised by their working environment.

These workers, and you, are three times more likely to take sick days due to mental health problems.

Statistically speaking, a staggering six million-plus working days are lost in Australia every year due to untreated depression.

National organisation beyondblue, which commissioned the research, said the results showed too many workers faced an unacceptable risk of developing depression and anxiety from job stress.

Situations that might lead to psychological injury are stress, fatigue, prolonged or excessive work pressures, harassment, bullying, exposure to traumatic or violent events at work, or a mixture of these things.

We are all aware of the effect that bullying and stress has on our state of mind, however often overlooked are the physical factors in the work environment that can push us over the edge.

For example, constant exposure to unhealthy or unsafe work environments may cause stress and strain over a long period of time and make us feel, not just bad about where we work and what we do, but lead to a mental injury.

Data from SafeWork NSW shows 15,902 people made mental injury claims for workers compensation in the three years from 2011 to 2014, at a cost of $250 million.

Ron Keelty, Director of SafeWork NSW’s Specialist Services said employers can encourage good mental health and reduce absenteeism at the same time by understanding the value in creating a mentally healthy workplace.

‘Healthier, happier workers create a better, more productive work environment, and employers are responsible under work health and safety obligations for making improvements to minimise psychological risks,’ Mr Keelty said.

‘We spend large amounts of our time at work, so it really needs to be a place where we can be supported to function properly.

‘There are resources available to help you set up an environment that people want to be in and feel good about.

‘It’s in everyone’s interest to recognise and take action on psychological injury – mental illness costs people their wellbeing, but doing nothing also costs business.’

Visit the SafeWork NSW website for resources to help businesses and individuals plan and manage mental health in the workplace.