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Morneau Shepell finds increase in workplace and personal stress, while sense of stigma declines

Employees and managers report increased stress, in part led by an increased feeling of workplace isolation

TORONTO, Jan. 29, 2019 /CNW/ - Workplace stress is on the rise and employees are feeling the pressure, according to new research announced today by Morneau Shepell. In a survey of employees and employers across Canada, the company found that more than one third of employees report that they are more stressed now from work (35 per cent) and personal issues (36 per cent) than they were five years ago. In the workplace, one quarter (27 per cent) of employees rated their stress from work during the last six months as high to extreme, compared to 34 per cent among people managers.

According to the research, one of the main contributors to stress today is an increased feeling of workplace isolation – the state of feeling alone and without friends, support or help. Employees (64 per cent) and managers (73 per cent) reporting a high level of workplace isolation are more likely to say they also have a high level of workplace stress. This is concerning as approximately one in six employees reported a high to extreme feeling of isolation at work (15 per cent) during the previous six months, with one in four employees (23 per cent) and managers (24 per cent) reporting increased feelings of isolation at work when compared to five years ago.

"In recent years, organizations have evolved to prioritize employee well-being and management of workplace stress, yet reports of stress continue to increase," said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer. "This is cause for concern as stress is now contributing to a decline in employees' physical and mental well-being. In addition to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, we found that employees suffering from high levels of workplace stress are also more likely to suffer from issues such as physical pain and sleep troubles."

Sense of stigma associated with mental health issues decreases

Despite the increase in workplace stress, the research found a decline in the sense of stigma associated with mental health issues, demonstrating an improvement in normalizing conversation around the issue.

While two thirds (67 per cent) of employees report that they would be concerned their career options would be limited if their workplace was aware of their mental health issue, the number has declined when compared to 2014, when more than three quarters (77 per cent) concurred with this view. Self-stigma – feeling negatively about oneself for having a mental health issue – also declined over the last five years, from two thirds (65 per cent) in 2014 to 56 per cent today.

This trend shifts when factoring in workplace stress. The research found that employees who report suffering from high (79 per cent) and medium (68 per cent) levels of workplace stress were more likely to agree that they are worried about the impact on their careers if their workplace knew about any mental wellness issues.

Improved workplace approaches to mental health positively impact employees

Morneau Shepell also researched the correlation between workplace stress and organizational culture, finding that improvements have been made as a result of changes in workplace approaches to mental health. The survey found that more than two thirds of employees (67 per cent) and managers (71 per cent) agree that their organization creates an environment that supports mental wellness on the job. When comparing to five years ago, a quarter of employees report better resources for mental health issues (26 per cent), support for mental wellness (25 per cent) and workplace/corporate culture (23 per cent).

Taking everything about the workplace into consideration, two thirds of employees (68 per cent) stated that their workplace has a positive impact on their personal mental health. One of the contributing factors that has proven to be successful is an organization's recognition of employees. The research found that employees and managers who feel their organization does not recognize or value them are significantly more likely to report high levels of workplace stress (50 per cent of employees and 55 per cent of managers), compared to those who do (21 per cent of employees and 29 per cent of managers).

"Organizations are beginning to recognize that prioritizing mental health support has a positive impact on their bottom line," said Paula Allen, vice president, research and integrative solutions. "A mentally healthy workplace goes hand-in-hand with a productive one. We found that to be successful, there are a number of emotional and organizational factors contributing to positive mental health in the workplace, including freedom from harassment, positive relationships and control over an employees' day-to-day job and workload."

Managers and employees have confidence in supervisors' role in supporting mental well-being

Looking to the future, four in five (83 per cent) people managers indicate they are confident they know how to support a mentally healthy workplace and a resilient work group, which is unchanged from last year. Employees agree with this; the survey found that more than half of employees (51 per cent) viewed immediate supervisors as helpful in maintaining mental well-being.

"While it's not surprising that employee stress is increasing due to growing demands in the workplace, it is reassuring to see the positivity around organizational support," continued Liptrap. "With more of an emphasis on mental health support and inclusivity in the workplace, organizations have the potential to improve feelings of isolation, stress and overall employee well-being."

About the Survey
The survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted in English and French between September 7 and September 16, 2018, with 1,591 respondents in total. The purpose was to understand and compare the perspective of working Canadians regarding workplace mental health. Of the respondents surveyed, 1,005 were Canadian employees who do not manage other people, and 586 were Canadians who manage others either informally or formally. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure the regional and gender composition of the sample reflect this population. The margins of error for the survey are +/-3.1 per cent, valid 19 times out of 20.

The company is presenting the initial findings of the survey at Employers Connect, Morneau Shepell's 8th annual summit on workplace mental health being held in eight cities across the country, including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax on Wednesday, January 30, 2019; in Edmonton and Ottawa on Thursday, January 31, 2019; in Montreal on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 and in Quebec City on Tuesday, March 19, 2019.

Media Invitation: Employers Connect, January 30, 2019
Media are invited to attend to be among the first to learn more about the research findings at Morneau Shepell's 8th annual Employers Connect seminars. For more information and to RSVP, please contact Catherine Snider at Catherine.snider@kaiserlachance.com or 647.725.2520 ext. 212.

The event is open to media and Morneau Shepell clients by invitation only.

To join the conversation online, tweet us @Morneau_Shepell #EmployersConnect2019 #MentalHealth

About Morneau Shepell
Morneau Shepell is the only human resources consulting and technology company that takes an integrated approach to employee well-being, health, benefits and retirement needs. The Company is the largest administrator of retirement and benefits plans and the largest provider of integrated absence management solutions in Canada. LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell is a total well-being solution that combines employee assistance, wellness, recognition and incentive programs. As a leader in strategic HR consulting and innovative pension design, the Company also helps clients solve complex workforce problems and provides integrated productivity, health and retirement solutions. Established in 1966, Morneau Shepell serves approximately 24,000 clients, ranging from small businesses to some of the largest corporations and associations. With more than 4,500 employees in offices worldwide, Morneau Shepell provides services to organizations around the globe. Morneau Shepell is a publicly-traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: MSI). For more information, visit morneaushepell.com.

SOURCE Morneau Shepell Inc.

For further information: Heather MacDonald, Morneau Shepell, hmacdonald@morneaushepell.com, 416.390.2625; Catherine Snider, Kaiser Lachance Communications, catherine.snider@kaiserlachance.com, 647.725.2520 ext. 212