2023-2024 Inclusion@Work Index: Workers are feeling disillusioned post-pandemic

In our first ‘normal’ year post-COVID, Australians are feeling less connected, valued and included at work. But organisations focused on diversity and inclusion are bucking the trend, according to a new report released today by Diversity Council Australia (DCA).  

The 2023-2024 Inclusion@Work Index is uniquely positioned to capture the state of inclusion and diversity in post-pandemic Australia, drawing comparisons with previous releases in 2021-2022 (during-pandemic) and 2019-2020 (pre-pandemic).

Despite discrimination, harassment and other forms of workplace exclusion easing off for many workers during the pandemic, data from the 2023-2024 Index shows these trends reversing in post-pandemic workplaces.  

The data revealed nearly 1 in 5 (19%) Australian workers didn’t feel valued, respected or able to contribute and progress at work in 2023, a figure that has nearly doubled since 2019.

Likewise, more workers feel their manager does not behave in an inclusive way, with 27% reporting their managers did not value differences, treat everyone fairly or deal with inappropriate behaviour, a 9% increase from 18% in 2021 and up 6% from 21% in 2019.

Worryingly, discrimination and harassment are also on the rise with nearly 1 in 3 (30%) workers experiencing discrimination and/or harassment at work in 2023, up by 8% from 22% in 2021, and 4% higher than the pre-pandemic figure of 26% in 2019.

The good news is D&I active organisations are bucking this trend.

Workers who indicated their organisation is taking action to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace were twice as likely to belong to an inclusive team and have an inclusive manager, and nearly twice as likely to report their work has a positive effect on their mental health. On top of this, they are also more than twice as likely to provide excellent customer service, collaborate effectively, solve problems in an innovative way, and work extra hard.

“While many behave as though the global pandemic is firmly behind us, Australians are still recovering from the shared trauma of these past few years,” DCA CEO Lisa Annese said. 

“Workplaces are adjusting to the latest ‘new normal’, grappling with questions around flexible working, AI technology, inflationary pressures, and growing skills shortages.”

“Meanwhile, employees are still processing the trauma and disruption of the past few years, fuelling a growing disillusionment with traditional working arrangements.

“With all this in mind, it is unsurprising that DCA’s 2023-2024 Inclusion@Work Index finds workers feeling less connected, valued and included post-pandemic.

“In a time of so much disruption and division, a focus on diversity and inclusion is more important than ever. This report addresses the unique problems of the post-pandemic workforce and lays out a case for D&I action as a proven solution.”