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Aussies have an unhealthy relationship with work

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

Research has revealed that workplace happiness is lacking. If employers don’t recognise and eliminate these issues, the flow-on effects can be damaging.

Knowledge workers are being hit hard by this. According to IBM, a knowledge worker is “a professional who generates value for the organisation with their expertise, critical thinking and interpersonal skills”.

Clearly, a crucial component of any business. However, just 22 per cent of knowledge workers across Australia claim to have a healthy relationship with work, according to HP’s Work Relationship Index.


Furthermore, 81 per cent of knowledge workers across the country reported experiencing negative impacts in their personal lives due to their relationship with work.

Specifically, these negative impacts were:

  • Personal passions (69 per cent)
  • Physical health (69 per cent)
  • Mental wellbeing (65 per cent)
  • Daily life (55 per cent
  • Relationships (54 per cent)

“There is a huge opportunity to strengthen the world’s relationship with work in ways that are both good for people and good for business,” commented HP Australia managing director Bradley Pulford.

“As leaders, we must always reject the false choice between productivity and happiness. The most successful companies are built on cultures that enable employees to excel in their careers while thriving outside of work.”

The effects of these ongoing issues were severe, with respondents listing some of them as:

  • Being unable to sleep well.
  • Experiencing a decline in self-esteem.
  • Having less energy to complete personal tasks.
  • Becoming unmotivated to invest in themselves.
  • Being unable to be the friend they want to be.

The importance of strengthening employees’ relationship with work is clear, as 81 per cent of respondents said they’d be willing to earn less money if it meant loving what they do. Younger workers were more passionate about this, with 92 per cent of Gen Z agreeing, followed by 85 per cent of Millennials.

It isn’t just affecting the individuals, however. Unhealthy relationships with work are damaging in a business sense, too. In fact, those with poor work relationships were 26 per cent more likely to switch jobs, 18 per cent more likely to be disengaged, 22 per cent more likely to do the bare minimum, and 56 per cent less likely to see themselves working at the same company in two years’ time.

Increased workloads may be playing a part in these damaging results, with 55 per cent of knowledge workers claiming their work expectations have increased over the last few years.

Talent attraction and retention should be top of mind for employers in the current work climate. In fact, HP found that 64 per cent of business leaders highlighted struggles with retaining top talent, and 71 per cent said attracting talent has become more difficult.

Strengthening the relationship between organisations and their employees is a great way to build a healthy workplace and boost attraction and retention.

HP highlighted six core considerations that leaders should understand when trying to improve employees’ relationships with work:

  1. Fulfilment
  2. Leadership
  3. People-centricity
  4. Skills
  5. Tools
  6. Workspace



Employees experience burnout when their physical or emotional reserves are depleted. Usually, persistent tension or dissatisfaction causes this to happen. The workplace atmosphere might occasionally be the reason. Workplace stress, a lack of resources and support, and aggressive deadlines can all cause burnout.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.