Personal finances affecting workplace stress, survey finds

Canadians’ personal finances have an impact on their health, with just 26 per cent of people in poor health describing their financial situation as excellent or very good. That compares to 59 per cent of those in excellent or very good health, according to the 2018 Sanofi Canada health-care survey.

In addition, the survey found 71 per cent of plan members took at least one day off work due to personal or family illness in the past year. That group took an average of 5.5 days off work, a number that increases to 7.5 days among those in poor financial health.

A third (33 per cent) of plan members said they’ve experienced high levels of stress on a typical day over the past three months. That figure rises to 50 per cent among those in poor financial health and 46 per cent among those in poor physical health.

Read: Financial well-being affecting work performance, stress levels

The biggest sources of stress, according to survey respondents, are personal finances (38 per cent) and workload (37 per cent), followed by work-life balance (31 per cent), personal relationships (29 per cent) and personal or family health issues (29 per cent).

Speaking at the survey’s launch event in Toronto on Wednesday, advisory board member Adrian Ebrahimi noted stress levels were high again this year. “I think there are a lot of individuals out there not doing a great job budgeting and living paycheque to paycheque,” said Ebrahimi, an account executive at SSQ Life Insurance Co. Inc. 

Indeed, more than a quarter (26 per cent) of plan members said they’ve taken time off or left work early due to stress in the past year. While that group reported doing so an average of 13.8 times, the number jumped to 34.7 among those in poor financial health and 33.4 among those taking three or more medications.

“People with health issues are more likely to have financial challenges, and stress levels can also go through the roof,” said Mary Ann Baynes, account executive at Desjardins Insurance and an advisory board member.

“The survey tells us these plan members do not value their health benefit plan as much, so we need to figure out what we can do differently. Anything that helps them keep track of their health and improves personal access to services definitely seems to be a step in the right direction.”

Read: Financial woes distracting Canadians at work: survey

On the plan sponsor side, 71 per cent of respondents with wellness programs said they feel their organization effectively helps employees manage their stress issues, compared with 57 per cent of those without wellness offerings. That figure rises to 75 per cent among plan sponsors that believe they have a workplace wellness culture. However, plan members are as likely to report high levels of stress whether or not a wellness program is available.

Where plans sponsors offer workplace wellness programs, 49 per cent said they offer training to help managers recognize and appropriately respond to signs of depression or other mental illnesses. In addition, 45 per cent said they offer similar training for all staff. That compares to just 14 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively, among organizations without a formal wellness program.

Read: Mental-health focus leads to culture change at CGI Group

“We are learning that the main objective of mental-health training is to help people understand that mental health is very much tied to how to work in a business with other people,” said Paula Allen, vice-president of research and integrative solutions at Morneau Shepell Ltd. and an advisory board member.

“It’s about recognizing that there are stressors that you as an individual will have and building coping skills that are integrated into the business, not separating that out as a program.”

Read more articles from the 2018 Sanofi Canada health-care survey