Who Are Australia’s Most Resilient Workers?

Who Are Australia’s Most Resilient Workers?

BY Michelle McQuaid

New research suggests that 42.1% of Australian workers are “living well, despite struggle” in the face of the unprecedented disruption workplaces are experiencing. Even when facing bushfires, a global pandemic, and a significant economic downturn, it appears that it is possible to thrive despite struggle, and it is possible to not experience wellbeing even in the absence of struggle.

The study conducted by The Wellbeing Lab, The Australian HR Institute, and The David L. Cooperrider Center of 1,400 workers representative of the Australian workforce in August 2020, found that the number of workers who have reported that they were “consistently thriving”, has halved from 14.7% to 7.4% from December 2019 to August 2020.  In contrast, the number of workers who are “living well, despite struggle” has remained relatively steady (41.7% compared to 42.1%).

“The data appears to suggest that despite reporting high levels of thriving in good times, when struggles escalate, workers who lack the resilience to live well, despite struggles, find their wellbeing and performance can quickly diminish,” explained Danielle Jacobs, a psychologist and one of the report’s co-authors.  “This was evident in the almost 5% increase during this period in the number of workers who reported that they are now “not feeling bad, just getting by” and the significantly lower levels of engagement, performance and thriving they reported.”

How can we help more workers be resilient?

Helping workers to care for their wellbeing is not a solo endeavor.  Associate Professor Aaron Jardon notes that our wellbeing perceptions, experiences, and behaviors are diverse and spread through a complicated web of social connections at the Me (individual workers), We (teams), and the Us Level (the entire workplaces and the communities that surround them).

The report found that workplaces who took a systems approach to supporting wellbeing, were significantly more likely to have workers who were “consistently thriving” or “living well, despite struggle”.  The actions they prioritized included:

  • Me Level – providing a variety of wellbeing workplace support including: fruit, fitness and flu shots, wellbeing workshops, mental first aid training, wellbeing coaching and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) to help workers improve their ability and motivation to care for their wellbeing. While EAPs remained the most common form of wellbeing workplace support provided in Australian workplaces, workers who were “consistently thriving” reported a statistical decline in EAP services and an increase in workplace coaching.
  • We Level – workers who reported that their managers often expressed care, compassion, gratitude, and appreciation towards them were statistically more likely to be able to manage their wellbeing, and reported higher levels of job satisfaction, performance, and commitment to their organizations. While all workers appear to perform better and be more engaged with managers who express care and compassion, lack of care and compassion appears to be particularly problematic for workers with moderate to high levels of anxiety about COVID-19. It appears that caring and compassionate managers may be able to buffer the negative effects of anxiety that workers may experience during challenging times.
  • Us Level – workplaces that support people’s basic psychological needs of autonomy (having a sense of freedom of choice), competence (able to do one’s work, learn, and grow) and relatedness (connecting deeply with others), make it easier for people to thrive consistently. The extent to which these needs were being met, continued to help distinguish those who were “consistently thriving” and “living well, despite struggles” from other workers.

How are you helping your workers care for their wellbeing?

To download the full report, visit

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