The latest research into the mental and financial health of workers reveals COVID-19 is causing significant stress on employees in the retail and hospitality industry.
One study focused on mental health found 68% of workers in the hotel and food services industry have experienced a mental health condition this year, followed by 66% of retail workers.
In those industries, casual workers were most likely to experience mental ill health, with 70% saying they suffered from a condition this year.
Commissioned by SuperFriend, the study highlights how retail jobs have become increasingly stressful, with anecdotal evidence revealing the general public are a major source of this stress due to verbal and physical abuse.
Unsurprisingly, nearly one in four retail workers have considered a career change to a different industry since the pandemic emerged.
Compounding the stress caused by COVID-19 is the fact that retail and hospitality are low-paid industries.
AMP’s 2020 Financial Wellness research, which combined data from 2,100 Australian workers between June and July 2020 with figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, ranked the industries with the highest levels of financial stress.
The study found 26% of hospitality workers were severely or moderately stressed by their financial situation, followed by 23% of retail workers.
Overall, the study found COVID-19 is amplifying financial anxiety for the 42% of employees who believe their finances have been affected by the pandemic.
What’s more, a disproportionate number of women workers reported severe levels of financial stress in 2020 compared to their male counterparts.
About one in five female employees said they experienced severe or moderate levels of financial stress in 2020 — almost double the figure recorded for male employees.
According to AMP, these rates of financial stress affect productivity and cost Australia’s economy $30.9 billion annually due to employee distraction and absenteeism.
Commenting on the findings, AMP director of workplace super Ilaine Anderson said financial stress is a systemic issue that takes a huge toll on mental and physical wellbeing, particularly for younger women and single parents.
“This is spilling into work with stressed employees worried and distracted, and not performing at the levels they’re capable of, or they don’t turn up at all. The combined effect is costing Australian businesses billions each year,” Anderson said.
Anderson said one way employers can address this reduced productivity is by offering financial education programs to their employees.
“The research shows that financial education is one of the most used employee benefits when available,” Anderson said.
“Yet only 10 per cent of employees report that they’re being offered this kind assistance by their employer”.
Anderson said some of the benefits of financial literacy are improved wellbeing, a more present and engaged workforce and, ultimately, better business and economic performance.
“There is a very real opportunity for employers to offer more financial literacy and education programs to their people, and increase awareness if they already exist.”