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3 in 5 Canadian employees experiencing more workplace stress this year, new survey finds


A new poll shows three in five Canadian employees are now experiencing more workplace-related stress compared to last year, due to hefty workloads and a lack of job stability. Many say they are also feeling unsupported by their employers.


Robert Walters, a global recruitment firm, asked more than 2,500 employees in Canada last month about their workplace conditions and found a large discrepancy between how much money companies spend on wellness initiatives, and how employees are genuinely feeling at work.


According to the company’s poll results, 60 per cent of respondents said they are suffering from workplace-related stress, with a third of these employees, or 34 per cent, stating they feel this way “very often.” On the other end of the scale, 10 per cent of respondents said they had not experienced any “recurring stress” at work this year.


Martin Fox, managing director at Robert Walters’ Canadian branch, said employers have been spending an estimated $400 to $600 per employee on wellness initiatives since the pandemic started in March 2020.


“There’s this dichotomy of employers thinking they are doing enough and employees thinking they are not,” Fox told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday.


According to the poll results, 62 per cent of employees said they don’t think their employers are doing enough to help manage workplace stress. Meanwhile, 14 per cent said they think the company’s efforts are enough.


When trying to determine who should be responsible for reducing workplace stress, 45 per cent of respondents said this is a job for senior leaders and human resources departments. Meanwhile, 19 per cent of those surveyed said it is up to the line managers.


Fox said this conversation should not be one sided.


“I think employees also need to be able to regulate themselves during stressful periods and communicate their concerns or worries,” he said, adding that managers and those in leadership positions should receive proper training and the correct inventory to support mental health concerns.


WHAT IS CAUSING HIGH LEVELS OF STRESS IN 2023?


Increasingly blurred lines between a person’s work and personal life, as well as mounting workloads and tight deadlines can all trigger stress among employees, the survey shows.


According to the poll, the largest cause of stress among office workers involves concerns around job stability.


“This isn’t really surprising considering the rolling coverage we see in the news about the turbulent economy, mass layoffs at large firms and when it comes to candidate and client confidence,” Fox said.


So far in 2023, there have been layoffs by companies such as Meta, Amazon, Google, Lyft, Shopify and Bell in Canada and the U.S. as corporations say they are downsizing and restructuring post-pandemic. CTV News is a division of Bell Media, which is part of Bell Canada Enterprises Inc.


Other stress triggers highlighted in the poll results include pressure from management, with 23 per cent of respondents identifying this as the largest factor contributing to their workplace stress, followed by the lack of a pay increase, flagged by 19 per cent of respondents.


“Feeling underpaid is a fast track to demotivation,” said Fox. “Unfortunately, the rising cost of living and inflation is making any sort of pay rise or proposed pay rise feel insignificant.”


One last trigger identified in the poll was increased workload, noted by 13 per cent of respondents, with employees feeling as though they need to “step up” due to a talent shortage and constant pivoting.


Fox said this new wave of post-pandemic stress stems from COVID-19 restrictions being lifted and a return to in-person work, as well as rapidly rising inflation, creating a “perfect storm.”


HOW TO REDUCE STRESS AT WORK?


Fox said it’s crucial that employers and employees explore effective coping strategies to manage workplace stress.


If this stress is not managed properly, it can snowball into higher turnover rates, employee burnout, lack of motivation and lower levels of productivity.


In the poll, 49 per cent of professionals indicated that their company’s output is high, but 17 per cent said it is low quality.


Fox recommended that companies try to foster a supportive and open workplace culture where employees feel safe to voice their concerns. He added that managers should also receive more training on soft skills in order to lead with empathy and communicate with staff who are having a difficult time at work.


For employees, Fox said they should not be afraid to reach out for support or seek advice from their colleagues. He also suggested implementing a better work-life balance by “switching off fully” outside of work hours.


The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) also has an extensive list of advice for employers and employees on how to deal with workplace stress. 

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