2023 State of the Future of Work – A Report Summary

Written by Astriid Volunteer Sabeeha Kassam

Last year the Work Futures Hallmark Research Initiative, a research team from The University of Melbourne, surveyed 1,400 Australian employees to understand their perspectives two years into the pandemic. Here’s all you need to know about their findings.

They asked the following questions:

  • How is talent coping?
  • Are certain groups experiencing discrimination? 
  • Has talent’s health and productivity been impacted?
  • What are talent’s thoughts on future advancements in technology (AI, automation and gig economy expansion)?
  •  And critically – silver linings around new ways of working?

Some interesting statistics from the report highlighted the distribution of workloads among certain groups:

  •  In Australia, before the pandemic, women were undertaking 41% of all hours worked. Now, post-pandemic, they account for 56% of the decrease in hours worked – effectively they have been ousted from the workplace in the downturn.
  • The proportion of unpaid work undertaken by women has rocketed and this has a knock-on effect on burnout and impedes career mobility.
  • COVID-19 significantly disadvantages employment prospects for talent with chronic illnesses, especially those who are mature or women.
  •  Modelling post COVID-19 scenarios predicts further polarisation of the jobs market, with
    the impact of job losses disproportionately affects women, immigrants, low-wage earners, younger talent, and talent that has spent less time in the education system.


Report findings, two years post COVID-19

  • Younger (18-34 year olds) and middle-aged talent (35-54 year olds) report having poorer mental health than older talent (aged 55 plus).
  • 50% of talent aged between 18-54 feel exhausted at work.
  • 33% of younger talent have difficulty concentrating at work in comparison to 11% of older talent.
  • 1/3 of prime-aged talent are considering quitting in contrast with 1/5 older workers.


  • Over half of talent with caring responsibilities are exhausted.
  • They are also twice as likely to find it difficult to concentrate at work.
  • 40% report being more productive now than pre-pandemic in comparison to 32% of those without caring responsibilities at work.
  • They are more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs, limited career opportunities, and consider quitting (4/10) in contrast to those without caring responsibilities (2/10).

Chronic Illness

  • 38% of those surveyed had a chronic illness – this reflects the effect of Long COVID and mental distress on talent working through the pandemic, as this is a higher proportion than the census captures in Australia.
  • 73% stated that their condition was worsened or caused by stress from their job.
  • 50% said they felt less motivated and had fewer opportunities for career advancement.
  • 2/3 said they felt exhausted.
  • 40% want to quit their jobs. These statistics further confirm recent findings that those with a chronic illness in work report poorer health than their unemployed counterparts. People with a chronic illness are 60% less likely to be employed full-time and more likely to be unemployed than their counterparts without a condition.
  • They also fared worse with discrimination – 63% reported being rejected from a job, 65% treated unfairly in the workplace, 40% reported trouble searching for or retaining a job, 52% reported harassment and 70% said they avoided workplace socials with their peers.


  • 75% of those surveyed under 54 years of age and 60% of those over 55 years of age reported that a lack of flexibility was an imputes for searching for a new job.
  • 50% reported that flexible working made them feel less exhausted, happier and more productive.


  • 1/10 feel their jobs may be at risk due to automation/ AI. The Dunning-Kruger effect states that people often fail to identify areas for growth. This is a prompt for equal access to up/re-skilling, especially in underrepresented groups.


Report Recommendations

  • Employers need strategies to address burnout and mental distress. Equal access to flexibility and working from home have been shown to lessen this for talent. Strengthening employees’ rights to access this would also be beneficial.
  • Removing mandatory periods served or the need to disclose a disability before being able to request flexible working.
  • Government investment in recruitment programs to target talent with a chronic illness, getting them into work.
  • Governments need to prioritise mental health services with annual mental health checks. This protects today’s workers who maintain the health of our current economy and support its future.
  • Paid parental/ caregiver leave for diverse cases.
  • Universal high-quality free childcare.
  • Equal access to professional development and career progression.
  • Educate employers on effective D & I strategies, so they can spot and effectively manage talent with a chronic illness, with thought to the pre-recruitment process and workplace accommodations. This would encourage attraction and retention of this cohort of talent.

In conclusion, the report identified four critical themes. These were Unsafe in the workplace – due to discrimination against women, carers and people with chronic illnesses. Unwell – talent of working age reporting more exhaustion than pre-pandemic, effectively work is making them unwell. Uncertain – about the future of AI, automation and advancing technology on job security long-term. Opportunity – talent views this time as a huge opportunity for supporting employees to build happy, meaningful work environments with the use of flexible working practices and workplaces.

A more equitable work future for all can be achieved with a concerted effort from talent, employers, government, and communities – free from bias and discrimination. If you hope to improve disability inclusion in your organisation, head to Astriid Consulting to find out more about the support we can offer!

Written by Astriid Volunteer Sabeeha Kassam