A recent management survey has identified workload pressure as a major factor driving anxiety among CSIRO staff, alongside stress due to project delivery and unrealistic deadlines.
The results come as the Staff Association prepares a national workplace health, safety and wellbeing report aimed at identifying issues of concern for CSIRO employees.
Meanwhile, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has joined with several peak bodies calling for an overhaul of work health and safety (WHS) laws to protect mental health at work.
Overall, the results of CSIRO’s March 2021 Pulse survey have stabilised, following a dip in ratings sought last September.
However, the report acknowledges that ‘wellbeing, fatigue, anxiety are still a concern due to high workload in a constrained environment.’
Nearly half (42 per cent) of respondents reported often feeling anxious over the previous month (February).
An analysis of the responses offered by those staff who identified as feeling anxious nominated excessive workloads (25 per cent), project delivery (17 per cent) and unrealistic deadlines (14 per cent) as the major stressors.
The survey results hint at growing fatigue, most keenly felt by CSIRO staff working on site, as compared to those working from home exclusively or through hybrid or blended arrangements.
Staff Association delegates and organisers are in the process of visiting workplaces to seek the views of CSIRO employees who remain on site, covering issues such as workloads, stress and mental health.
These responses will inform a national workplace health, safety and wellbeing report, aimed at identifying priority issues to make CSIRO workplaces safer.
Elsewhere the ACTU has joined with mental health groups and academics – including the Australian Psychological Society and the Black Dog Institute – backing law reforms to protect mental health at work.
Two recent, high-profile reports – from the Boland Review of Model WHS Laws and the Respect at Work inquiry into workplace sexual harassment – have recommended the inclusion of a psychological hazard regulation into health and safety law.
If adopted, the change would require employers to treat hazards to mental health – such as stress, occupational violence and aggression as well as bullying and sexual harassment – in the same way as physical hazards in the workplace by identifying specific risks and addressing them.
Commonwealth, State and Territory WHS Ministers meet later this month and require a two-thirds majority (six out of nine) to secure agreement for the change with Federal Minister for Industrial Relations Michaelia Cash tipped to hold the deciding vote.