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Morneau Shepell finds employees would accept lower pay for enhanced well-being support

New research reveals risk of lower collaboration and higher turnover for organizations that do not invest in employee mental health

TORONTO, Jan. 28, 2020 /CNW/ - Morneau Shepell is pleased to announce the results from its global survey of employees, finding that more than three quarters (77 per cent) of Canadian employees would consider leaving their current organization for the same pay if their new workplace offered better support for their personal well-being. When analyzing to what extent compensation affected the decision to leave, the majority (60 per cent) of employees claimed to still be more likely to leave their current employer if they were offered less money but better support for personal well-being. This trend was seen even among those reporting high financial stress (51 per cent).

For the first time, the annual research has been expanded to also survey employees in the United States and United Kingdom. Across all geographies, employees ranked mental health as the top factor in their overall well-being, rising above physical health and personal health. Employees also cited their employers' support for mental health as critical to how they view the workplace; in each country, close to three quarters of employees (76 per cent in Canada, 71 per cent in the United States and 69 per cent in the United Kingdom) said that the way an organization supports mental health was a key factor when deciding whether to stay with their current organization.

Despite mental health being cited as the main priority, employees in Canada and the United States ranked their employers support of physical health issues above both mental and financial well-being.

"Canadians are telling us that mental health support is most important to them and yet, many employers are primarily focusing on the compensation side of recruitment and retention strategies and providing well-being support for physical health first," said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer. "What worked in the past is no longer the primary path to success. Mental health is not the same taboo topic it once was, and employees are not only prioritizing their own mental health but also expecting employers to do the same."

Increased demands in the workplace becoming a critical factor in mental health
The need for mental health support is largely driven by the continued stress that Canadians experience in their personal lives and in the office environment. When focusing on the primary sources of extreme mental stress, work or workplace (22 per cent) and financial well-being (21 per cent) were cited as the top issues that employees dealt with in the past six months.

Workplace stress continues to be one of the top stressors. Close to half (45 per cent) of employees indicated that mental demands of their current job have increased over the past 18 to 24 months, including concentration and problem solving to the need for creativity and adapting to change. Conversely, a very small number (four per cent) of employees indicated a decrease in mental demands during the same time frame.

When asked about the type of support they would be most willing to engage in for anxiety or depression resulting from added stressors, more than half (53 per cent) indicated talk therapy. Meanwhile, employees also would make use of digital mindfulness or meditation (43 per cent) and digital skill building or cognitive behavioural therapy (38 per cent) – demonstrating a shift to digital programs being more widely accepted. In comparison, one in three (39 per cent) indicated a willingness to take prescription medication.

Canadians are feeling increased financial strain at all income levels
Managing financial well-being also plays an important role in the mental health of Canadian employees. Four in 10 employees (42 per cent) indicated that they believe they struggle more with finances than others with the same income. While the number is similar in the United Kingdom (41 per cent), this rises for employees in the United States, with close to half (47 per cent) concerned about the proper management of their personal finances.

Like many drivers of mental health, financial well-being has a direct impact on performance in the workplace. The research found that a large number of Canadian employees indicated that concerns with financial issues had a negative impact on both productivity (36 per cent) and attendance (24 per cent) in the workplace. Internationally, respondents cited financial stress as significantly higher in the United States, with close to one-third (27 per cent) reporting finances as an extreme source of overall stress.

"When it comes to financial stress, the surprising reality is that it's an issue affecting individuals at all income levels," said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. "As well, the fact that Canadians are feeling extreme financial strain but are still willing to accept less money for mental health support speaks volumes. Mental health support needs to be about seeing the full picture and providing the support necessary to help Canadians deal with difficulties across all areas of their well-being, including physical, financial and social, as well as mental."

Relationship with coworkers critical to feeling a sense of belonging in the workplace
Workplace stress and organizational culture are contributing to employees' sense of value and belonging in the workplace. Across all employees, one in four (25 per cent) currently feel that they do not have a sense of belonging in the workplace, largely due to their relationship with coworkers. Employees also cited respect, collaboration and feeling valued as critical to belonging in the workplace.

Feeling out of place in the organization and struggling to find one's place can have a significant impact on employees' feelings of isolation – the state of feeling alone and without friends, support or help. Continuing the trend witnessed last year, of those who reported excellent mental health, only a small number (11 per cent) indicated a sense of isolation at work. For employees indicating extreme or very poor mental health, close to half (47 per cent) reported high isolation at work.  

"Supporting the culture and behaviour of employees is critical to ensure that individuals have a positive experience and show up to work each day, both physically and mentally," continued Allen. "Organizations have a responsibility to provide training that encourages collaboration and inspires employees to treat each other with kindness and respect. Fostering peer support is one of the most important investments an organization can make and, beyond improving an employee's everyday experience, this is a great strategy to contribute more value to the bottom line."

Over the past two years, Morneau Shepell found that employees who indicate that their company strongly supported mental health were also significantly more likely to report improved collaboration, while organizations lacking mental health support demonstrated a more negative relationship.

Diversity and inclusion contributing to positive well-being in the workplace
Diversity and inclusion are critical components to a sense of belonging in the workplace. The majority (82 per cent) of employees indicated that diversity and inclusion had a positive impact on their personal well-being. In Canada, the research found that employers are doing well among age groups, genders, races and ethnicities, while there was room for improvement for religions, sexual orientations and abilities or disabilities.

"While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health support, we hope the research helps organizations understand the importance of well-being in the workplace," said Allen. "Support for financial well-being, co-worker relationships and diversity and inclusion are just stepping stones within a broader mental health strategy. By listening to the needs of employees, organizations can eliminate feelings of isolation and drive the organization forward in a way that is beneficial for all."

About the survey
The survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted in English and French in August and September 2019, with 8,000 respondents in total. The purpose was to understand and compare the perspective of employees in Canada, the United States and United Kingdom regarding workplace mental health. 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 +/- 3.2 per cent, valid 19 times out of 20.

The company is presenting the initial findings of the survey at Employers Connect, Morneau Shepell's 9th  annual summit on workplace mental health being held in eight cities across the country, including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax on Wednesday, January 29, 2020; in Edmonton and Ottawa on Thursday, January 30, 2020; in Montreal on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 and in Quebec City on Wednesday, February 26, 2020.

Media invitation: Employers Connect events across Canada
Members of the media are invited to attend to be among the first to learn more about the research findings at Morneau Shepell's 9th 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 #EmployersConnect2020 #MentalHealth

About Morneau Shepell
Morneau Shepell is the leading provider of technology-enabled HR services that delivers an integrated approach to well-being through our cloud-based platform. Our focus is providing everything our clients need to support the mental, physical, social and financial well-being of their people. By improving lives, we improve business. Our approach spans services in employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement and benefits consulting, actuarial and investment services. Morneau Shepell employs approximately 6,000 employees who work with some 24,000 client organizations that use our services in 162 countries. 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, 416.390.2625, hmacdonald@morneaushepell.com; Catherine Snider, Kaiser Lachance Communications, 647.725.2520 x212, catherine.snider@kaiserlachance.com