Worker wellbeing in a risk-averse, compliance-based workplace culture

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Workforce wellbeing is becoming a key element of workplace discourses. It is measured and analysed and linked to productivity improvement and return on investment. More recent critical literature has acknowledged the socio-political and organisational context of individual wellbeing, recognising that gender patterns and diverse cultural experiences of work impact on individual experiences of wellbeing (Guest, 2017; Ravenswood, Harris, & Wrapson, 2017).This paper aims to explore the impact of organisational culture on the efficacy of employer wellbeing initiatives. A number of recent, high-profile cases, including the Victorian Auditor General’s report into child protection workers, and the theft and use of pain relief drugs by Ambulance drivers in NSW and Victoria, demonstrate the need to take a more sophisticated approach to monitoring the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of workers. However, we argue that in a risk-averse, compliance-based organisational culture, a focus on individual wellbeing may exacerbate the situation.A risk-averse organisation that focuses on the impact of worker wellbeing on the delivery of services to clients, to the detriment of a focus on work quality, runs the risk of creating a punitive environment that discourages employees from identifying early warning signs and taking preventative action. Similarly, a focus on compliance and measurement of individual wellbeing, may identify superficial elements of poor wellbeing without addressing the underlying causes.Drawing on a recent project with a large public sector organisation, this paper explores the processes of undertaking a systemic analysis to identify how organisational culture and the socio-political environment impact on worker wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2019
EventAssociation of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand (AIRAANZ): 2019 Annual Conference - RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 12 Feb 201914 Feb 2019
Conference number: 33rd


ConferenceAssociation of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand (AIRAANZ)
Abbreviated titleGlobal work, quality work
Internet address


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