More than half of Canadians work despite being unwell, at least one day a week: report

TORONTO – A new report has found that more than half of Canadian employees report working while feeling unwell at least once a week, a trend according to LifeWorks experts is contributing to lost workplace productivity and declining employee mental health.

According to LifeWorks Monthly Mental Health Index published Wednesday, 54% of those polled said they do their job feeling badly, physically or psychologically, at least once a week.

The report found that the mental health scores of these Canadians are “considerably lower” than those who report never working and feeling unwell.

Additionally, 64 percent of parents reported working when they were feeling unwell at least one day a week.

Presenteeism, where employees show up for work when they’re not feeling well, was a problem in workplaces before the pandemic. However, Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president of research and total well-being at LifeWorks, says COVID-19 has changed attitudes about it, raising awareness among employers of the increased number of employees working while on the move. feeling bad.

“We know that when people don’t feel well, their productivity at work suffers. We also have clear data that indicates that an organization’s culture of well-being and investments in workplace mental health make a difference. difference in the overall health of the workforce, ”Allen said in a statement. Press release.

The report found that 46 percent of Canadians said they never worked when they didn’t feel well. This group had the “most favorable” mental health score, according to LifeWorks, coming in nearly four points from the pre-pandemic benchmark (+3.7).

LifeWorks uses a response scoring system that turns individual responses to each survey question into a point value. Higher point values ​​are associated with better mental health, according to the report.

Respondents’ scores are added and then divided by a total number of possible points to get a score out of 100. To demonstrate the change, the scores for the current month are then compared to the baseline and the previous month.

LifeWorks has published its Mental Health Index monthly since April 2020, and the benchmark includes data collected in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

LifeWorks said those with a mental health score of -40 or less have an estimated productivity loss of 27%, compared to those with a mental health score of +10 or higher with a productivity loss of 10. %.

As more employees return to their workplaces amid COVID-19, Allen said it was crucial that employers take note of their employees’ mental health.

“As we move forward into the next phase of the pandemic, there will be more changes and additional tensions as a result. Now is not the time to focus more on employee mental health and well-being. The need persists and the productivity risk is significant. , she said in the statement.


The report found that working from home also contributes to the isolation and negative mental health of Canadian workers.

According to LifeWorks, 73% of those polled said that before the pandemic they felt a sense of belonging and acceptance at work, while only 65% ​​felt the same in the past month.

The report found that 68 percent of employees who work on a construction site feel a greater sense of belonging compared to those surveyed who work from home or a hybrid workplace.

Among people working from home full-time or splitting their time between home and work, their sense of belonging and acceptance fell from 73 percent before the pandemic to 61 percent, according to LifeWorks.

Respondents who felt a sense of belonging and acceptance at work had the highest mental health score at -3.1 and the best isolation score at -3.4 compared to those who did not. not sure or did not feel the same.

In addition, isolation scores among those working exclusively from home are worse (-9.6) than those working in a hybrid model (-7.6) or from the job site (-7.3)

“While remote or hybrid working offers flexibility and saves time on the move, there is a risk that people will feel less connected to their organizations and colleagues over time,” Stephen explained. Liptrap, President and CEO of LifeWorks, in a press release. “In transitioning to a virtual environment during the pandemic, many employees lost the spontaneity of conversations that they perhaps found invigorating. “

This trend is seen across all age groups, according to LifeWorks, but the proportion of employees who report feeling a sense of belonging at work increases with age.

To ensure a successful return to the workplace, Liptrap said employers should consider “innovative ways” to help reduce feelings of isolation to create a “bias-free work environment” regardless of location. working “.

“The connections and the social support they provide are important for well-being and we must ensure that this is not lost,” he said in the statement.


All of LifeWorks Mental Health Index for August 2021 was down for the 17th consecutive month, with the index score hitting -9.7 against the benchmark before the pandemic. However, LifeWorks noted that this is the highest mental health score recorded since the index launched in April 2020.

The index also monitors sub-scores against pre-pandemic benchmarks, including financial risk, psychological health, isolation, work productivity, anxiety, depression and optimism.

The report found that the optimism and general psychological health sub-scores declined from those reported in July, while the financial risk sub-score saw the most significant improvement, gaining 1.1 points. compared to the previous month.

LifeWorks said financial risk continues to be the highest of any sub-score and remains above the pre-2020 benchmark.

LifeWorks’ latest monthly index is based on a survey in English and French with 3,000 responses collected online between July 30 and August 5, 2021. All respondents reside in Canada and have worked in the past six months, according to the index.

The human resources company, formerly known as Morneau Shepell, says the data was “statistically weighted” to ensure that the regional and gender makeup of the sample reflects the population of Canada.

LifeWorks added that online surveys cannot be given a margin of error because they do not sample the population at random.

Edited by Senior Producer Mary Nersessian and Producer Sonja Puzic

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