Characteristics and wellbeing of the NSW non-government AOD Workforce

October 2018
Roche, A., Kostadinov, V., Hodge, S., Duraisingam, V., McEntee, A., Pidd, K., & Nicholas, R. (2018). Characteristics and wellbeing of the NSW non-government AOD Workforce. Adelaide: National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, Flinders University.

In 2017, NCETA collaborated with the Network of Alcohol and Other Drugs Agencies (NADA) and Matua Raki to conduct a comprehensive survey of the alcohol and other drugs workforces in New South Wales (NSW) and New Zealand (NZ). The project aimed to inform future capacity building activities and policy decisions and to support individuals and organisations meet the needs of their clients.

This report highlights the findings of the NSW survey which mapped the demographic profile of NSW non-government AOD workers and gauged their level of health and wellbeing.

To inform the development of the survey, NCETA undertook a literature review in 2016 to identify the factors impacting worker wellbeing and the challenges they face in their contemporary work roles. The outcomes of the literature review were highlighted in the June 2017 edition of Drug and Alcohol Research Connections newsletter.

A custom online survey co-designed by NCETA, NADA and Matua Raki was administered between September and November 2017. The survey instrument contained a total of 74 multiple-response and open-ended questions assessing participants’ demographic information, organisational characteristics, health and wellbeing. The majority of questions were developed specifically for the current study, however 13 validated scales were also included to examine wellbeing levels.

A total of 294 workers responded to the survey. Most were women (66%) and aged 40+ years (60%). However, a large proportion of the sample (40%) were relatively young (aged 20-39 years). Most (72%) had been in their current role for less than five years and 38% had been in their current role for less than one year. Just under half the sample (44%) had been in the AOD sector for less than five years.

The majority (68%) were employed full time, with slightly more than half in permanent positions (58%).

Rates of personal health and wellbeing in the NSW non-government AOD workforce were generally high. Most respondents reported positive quality of life and moderate-high levels of resilience, engagement, job satisfaction, and confidence, with burnout very rare. Work-related factors such as work / life balance, social support, job feedback, and job clarity were also favourable. However, a considerable proportion felt that workloads were too high, and found their job to be stressful and cognitively demanding.

Remuneration levels and job security were additional issues of concern for a substantial proportion of participants. There was also an identified need for a range of expanded worker and management support strategies (e.g., clinical supervision, mentoring and professional development).

In analysing the findings of the survey, NCETA highlighted a range of workforce development strategies that can be implemented to support and retain workers with limited AOD work experience, stabilise their employment and improve working conditions to optimise client service provision. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Enhanced organisational communication
  • Professional development opportunities aimed at improving leadership quality
  • Strategies to identify and reduce workplace stress and bullying
  • Ensuring adequate staffing levels and job security
  • Appropriate remuneration
  • Manageable workloads.

A brief infographic summary of the findings, developed by NADA, is available for download here. The survey findings are also highlighted in the September 2018 issue of NADA’s Advocate newsletter which specifically focuses on worker wellbeing.