Workplace Profiles

2021 Thriving Workplace Score



of 19

Health Care and Social Assistance






The Health Care and Social Assistance Industry includes hospitals, general practice, specialist, pathology, dental, optometry, physiotherapy, chiropractic, ambulance, aged care and child care services.

Graph – Thriving Score and Domain Scores for the Health Care and Social Assistance Industry over time

Progress over Time

The Health Care and Social Assistance Industry is ranked 13 out of 19 in terms Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing in 2021. It scored 65.1 for their overall Thriving Index, which is below the National Average of 65.6. This is a drop of 1.6 points from 2020.

This industry has been particularly hit by the pandemic, so it understandable that there is a dip across all domains this year. Although there has been an overall decline across all five domains, there has been growth in some elements within the capabilities, culture and policy domains.

In this, we can see team leaders are making sure workers have the resources to do their work even though it is reported that workers feel their leadership is not seen to be encouraging, or accessible to their workers. It appears that team leaders have taken on this task to build strong connections and cohesion.

At ground level, this has subsequently led to a rise in one of the indicators in the culture domain, where workers are reporting they are committed to their work team. With so much on the plate within this industry at this time, there was still a rise in the indicator within policy outlining there was easy access to private counselling and support, which is an important asset considering the times.

Graph – Thriving Score and Domain Scores for the Health Care and Social Assistance Industry over time

What’s working well

When we reflect on the pandemic and the front line workers of this industry, it is good to note that there was a rise of 1.9% in the policy domain where workers reported that it was easy to access to confidential counselling and support.

This has been further supported by a 1.7% in an area of the capability domain where team leaders have been reported to be making sure their workers have the resources they need to do their work well, and would include other resources aligned to practice and further to counselling support.

These positive factors have translated into a rise of 1.4% in the culture domain where workers reported being committed to their team. If you feel like someone has your back, there is more connectedness to the shared vision of the team.

Areas to focus on

Practise the policies you preach

54.2% of workers feel their workplace is supportive of workers’ Mental Health and Wellbeing, however this year there has been a decline of 6.0% in the leadership domain outlining that leaders have been dropped off from 2019 in proactively encouraging and promoting good mental health policies and practices. It’s one thing to have a policy and another to have this in practice.

What you can do?

Leaders play a vital role in creating a mentally healthy work environment. Research consistently tells us that one of the most influential factors on a workplace’s ability to thrive is regular mental health and wellbeing training for leaders.

As the leader sets the tone for the team, learn more about how you can be a visible, approachable leader by reading our blog, Leadership is action, not position.

Read Leadership is action, not position

Leaders can also enrol in our course, Workplace Mental Health Essentials for Leaders for a better understanding of how to support a cohesive team and promote a mentally healthy workplace.

Workplace Mental Health Essentials for Leaders course
Learn more about this course

Make sure leaders are available

With 60.1% of workers in this industry indicating they have experienced a mental health condition in the last 12 months – the second highest across all 19 industries, it would be beneficial for leaders to be accessible when workers need them and they feel they are listened to. In 2020, there has been a 5.1% drop in this area of Leadership.

What you can do?

Read about reflections on positive actions that build connectedness and an inclusive culture in our blog, Trust + respect = actions, not words.

Read Trust + respect = actions, not words

SuperFriend’s Peer Support Booklet provides practical suggestions to individuals for listening to and supporting work colleagues who may be experiencing issues with their mental health.

Download the SuperFriend Peer Support Booklet

Teams need to feel championed by leaders

Leadership and connection overall scores show the greatest decline of the five domains. With what the pandemic brought to this industry, leaders and staff were equally stretched and disconnected to their usual work and each other. Leaders championing their work teams strongly supports connection and is an area workplaces can focus in the next 12 months.

What you can do?

A positive leader is interested in their team’s strengths and motivations, not just the bottom line. Applying positive leadership at work has wide-ranging benefits for an organisation and has been shown to improve productivity, satisfaction and wellbeing. SuperFriend’s course, Elevate Your Leadership: Positive Strategies for Successful Teams can teach you how to apply positive leadership in your organisation.

Elevate Your Leadership: Positive Strategies for Successful Teams
Learn more about this course

Within this industry…


of workers have experienced a mental health condition* in the last 12 months
*Refer to Technical report notes


of workers feel their workplace is highly supportive of workers’ mental health and wellbeing


of workers plan to stay with their workplace for the next 12 months

Psychosocial Risk Profile

Psychosocial risks are workplace operations that increase stress and reduce mental wellbeing.
Read more

Inappropriate workload


Low recognition


Poor change management


Poor management support


Low job control


Poor role clarity


Poor workplace relationships


Poor working environment


Traumatic events



Table – Psychosocial Risk Profile for Health Care and Social Assistance industry

Highest Psychosocial Risk

The highest psychosocial risk facing the Health Care and Social Assistance Industry is low recognition and inappropriate workload.

How can you manage this risk?

Leaders play an important role in managing psychosocial risks. In this industry leaders can focus on recognising workers for their efforts and making sure workloads are manageable.

Consider creating a culture of recognition by:

  • Ensuring adequate skill mix and staffing numbers on all shifts
  • Investing in/encouraging staff who wish to pursue education and training
  • Leadership making time to provide positive feedback, e.g., what has gone well, as opposed to negative feedback e.g., what to fix
  • Leaders trained in leadership and coaching to support positive feedback
  • Learning opportunities for leadership that focus on its people, not just the process in promotion of a positive work environment, rather than from a deficit model
  • Rewarding staff for protecting patients, the ward and themselves even when process may have been deviated from
  • Formal recognition programs or monthly awards e.g.., certificate, coffee voucher, free lunch, shout-out in meetings
  • Opportunities for peer-to-peer recognition of skill or excellence where colleagues or managers can nominate others for their good work and positive culture contribution
  • Meetings to begin with successes to elevate and celebrate good practice and excellence before exploring solutions to problems.

When considering an inappropriate workload, whether that is too much or too little, explore actions such as:

  • Prioritising the most important tasks to be completed where workload is too high
  • Teaming up workers where workload is low, to support (and build connections) and perhaps learn new skills to add to your own skillset, or share some of your skills with others
  • As an individual, learn about stress levels and know when you are being pushed to the limit
  • Learn to switch off at the end of a day/shift to relax and unwind to ensure you have enough reserves for the new workday/shift
  • Focus on what is controllable and realistic when workload is high
  • Team leader/leadership check-ins with workers on a regular basis to see how they’re going
  • Encourage respectful and open communication with team leader/leadership.

Key Insight 

Hospital workers are struggling, especially with leadership

The hospital sector moved further away from thriving in every domain, resulting in an overall thriving workplace score of 64.7 out of 100 (down 2.4 points compared
to 2020). Leadership was a particular challenge, dropping 3.7 points to 59.9. Hospital workers report that fewer leaders are encouraging good mental health practices and acting as champions for their teams. Recognition of their hard work has also dropped over the last 12 months as the pandemic drags on.

What workers say

Glad that I’m at the end of a 45 year career in nursing. It’s all about $$$, and how the company can make more by squeezing their employees dry.

As an emergency nurse the past year has been tough. A new manager, new department, COVID and severe trained staff shortage is tiring.

Collegial support has been amazing, but that isn’t done by the workplace.

Everyone at work is burned out. The workloads are becoming unreasonable and the acuity of clients has increased. It seems there is little that management is doing to retain experienced staff, which then compounds the burnout on those left behind to constantly retrain new starters.

My immediate manager is great. Upper management is the problem. They don’t really support us.

People working in medical and other health care services, and in residential care services, also experienced a drop in their overall thriving workplace scores (down 1.7 points and 1.5 points respectively). While leadership proved a challenge for both sectors, connectedness was actually the biggest issue for those in medical and other health care services (down 3.4 points since 2020.

People working in social assistance services (including childcare) reported the only improvement in the industry with an overall thriving workplace score of 68.4 (up 1.2 points on 2020), largely driven by policy improvements (up 3.4 points to 63.3).

Learn More

As leaders, we always need to make sure we’re prepared to adapt and respond calmly to any unforeseen turbulence along the journey but this is not straightforward.

Explore resources to support you as a leader
SuperFriend’s Leading Teams Well package is designed to grow leadership capability across a range of areas.

HeadsUp ‘Developing strategies for a healthy workplace’ provides a framework for your workplace to promote mental wellbeing, minimise workplace risks to mental health, support people experiencing mental health issues and reduce stigma associated with mental health conditions.

Heads Up: Strategies for healthy workplaces here

Check out WorkSafe Victoria’s page on how to promote workplace recognition and reward.

WorkSafe Victoria: Work-related stress – low recognition and reward

Explore a TED Talk by Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction.

TED: Make stress your friend

SuperFriend’s Be Your Best at Work: Positive Strategies for Success course provides individual team members with clear knowledge and practical ways to foster a positively engaged and thriving workplace.

Be Your Best at Work: Positive Strategies for Success course
Learn more about this course