Work life balance the single greatest pressure in the public sector

Work life balance, health and wellbeing and handling fatigue are the top three pressures public sector employees face in Australia

Despite differences in their day-to-day responsibilities, new research from Microsoft Australia released today has revealed that public sector firstline workers – the people who engage with customers directly – and business managers are facing an increasing amount of pressure at work. The greatest pressures identified by public sector workers are work life balance, fatigue and workload.

In an online survey commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by research firm, YouGov, over 1,000 working adults employed in four industry sectors – health, retail, manufacturing and public sector were surveyed. The research looks to establish what the greatest challenges and pressures workers face and to identify the types of solutions employees want to help alleviate them.

Public sector under pressure

Seventy-four per cent of firstline workers and 71 percent of business managers had difficulties in handling fatigue and workloads in their workplaces. More than four out of five (81 per cent) business managers surveyed identified the pressure of work to meet deadlines or expected outcomes as a significant challenge compared to firstline workers (67 per cent).

Culture in the workplace creates the greatest pressure for public sector workers. Close to three quarters of firstline workers (73 per cent) who engage with customers directly and business managers (78 per cent) cite work life balance as their biggest challenge. This is followed by the desire for firstline workers and business managers to maintain their health and wellbeing on their jobs (73 percent).

The research further reveals firstline workers and business managers share the same strategic priorities in the public sector. Both groups ranked growing their skillset highly (66 per cent compared to 59 per cent), improving their customers’ experience (52 per cent compared to 42 per cent) and improving the culture in their workplace (48 per cent compared to 38 per cent) as their top three priorities in the next 12 months.

Taking technology beyond work and collaboration

For many organisations, being on the firstline creates distance from decision makers. Despite efforts to create a more connected and collaborative workforce, the research reveals a quarter of firstline public sector workers (25 per cent) are committed but not engaged in the workplace with a similar number of business managers agreeing (24 per cent).

Ian Heard, Modern Workplace Lead, Microsoft Australia said, “Employee engagement goes right to the heart of a business and does not just make a business unique, but also successful. A workforce that is passionate, connected and engaged helps to drive innovation and propels the business forward. At Microsoft, we empower firstline workers by providing them with digital tools to exercise greater creative and strategic freedom, bringing real value to their work. Organisations which create an engaged, connected and collaborative workforce will be better poised for success in the long-term.”

While technology can play a strategic role in helping to alleviate the pressures firstline workers and business managers face in workplaces, the desire for clearer communication from their leadership teams was highly rated among business managers (45 per cent) and firstline workers (40 per cent). More than half of the respondents indicated the need to have greater access to training with business managers (64 per cent) expressing lack of appropriate training as a significant pressure over firstline workers (52 percent).

“At Microsoft, we recognise the value of having access to the latest technologies including devices as a tool to alleviate workplace pressures. Microsoft’s Surface Go which is now available in Australia, has been purposely designed to improve employee engagement and satisfaction, making it easier for workers to collaborate. This improves on the transparency and timeliness for critical communications that supports their work.”

The public-sector spearheads mobile workforces

The public sector led in the survey of mobile workforces with 28 per cent of firstline workers and 20 percent of business managers saying they work in a mobile workforce that operates in a number of different locations. This places the public sector ahead of the manufacturing, health and retail industries in terms of mobility.

“There are clear benefits for mobile workplaces and the desire for mobility and agile working is high amongst employees. What the public sector has demonstrated is the ability to manage a mobile workforce spread over metropolitan, regional and rural Australia,” Heard said.

“Many employees now expect to be able to take advantage of agile working capabilities. By providing staff with flexible working options, they feel empowered to be more productive by being able to work anytime and anywhere, alleviating some of the existing everyday pressures in the workplace.”

The findings of this research could not come at a better time with the launch of new capabilities into Microsoft Teams, facilitating streamlined communication and collaboration between business managers and firstline workers. This includes Shifts, a new feature which enables managers to create schedules and employees to swap shifts and request time off. Workers will also have access to Teams via a mobile app, giving them access to rostering, to-do lists and important organisation-wide announcements.

In addition, live and on-demand events, now generally available in Microsoft 365 enable staff to create and stream events including training sessions in Microsoft Stream, Teams, or Yammer informing and engaging employees from the firstline to management.

Leading by example

For Queensland Ambulance Services (QAS), one of the largest ambulance services in the world, its deployment of Microsoft Teams during the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast enabled its management to provide clear communication and real-time updates to its firstline workers, enhancing collaboration within the organisation.

By leveraging Microsoft 365 solutions including Office 365, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, QAS has fostered a completely new way of working. Instead of being required to attend command centres for scheduled briefings, staff can receive instant updates from anywhere at any time.

Christine Stower, Director ICT Governance and Strategy said, “Teams demonstrates an effective and functional solution which can meet a broad range of organisational communication needs, now and into the future. It provides a sound platform for real-time communication. It also provides an easily-accessible, consolidated communication hub enabling the minimisation of phone calls and emails. This is of benefit particularly in the QAS environment where a real-time consolidated communication capability is essential.”

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