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Morneau Shepell finds organizational change linked to physical and mental health sick leave

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Corporate / Canada

Morneau Shepell finds organizational change linked to physical and mental health sick leave

Two thirds of Canadian employees have experienced an organizational change at their current workplace; among them 40 per cent say it negatively affected their health and well-being  

TORONTO, Jan. 24, 2017 /CNW/ - New research announced today by Morneau Shepell found that organizational changes have led to employees taking sick leave from work. In a recent survey of employees and employers across Canada, nearly half (46 per cent) of employees have taken time off work and/or noticed other employees take more time off work following workplace changes.

The survey found that two thirds (66 per cent) of respondents have experienced at least one organizational change with their current employer – this included team restructuring (39 per cent), downsizing/layoffs (35 per cent), job re-design (35 per cent), re-design of the physical office space (29 per cent) and mergers (15 per cent).

Of those employees who have experienced a change, 43 per cent said it had a negative impact on their perception of the company, 40 per cent said it negatively affected their health and well-being and 30 per cent indicated that it impacted their job performance. Across the country, Alberta employees experienced the most workplace changes, with nearly three quarters (74 per cent) facing at least one workplace change with their current employer during the time of their employment.

"We have found that among the types of organizational changes, job re-design has the strongest correlation to sick leave for both physical and mental health," said Alan Torrie, President and CEO, Morneau Shepell. "This type of change sometimes gets less focus than things like mergers, but it is clearly important to the day-to-day experience of employees."

"The reality is that organizational change is more likely to increase than decrease over time. With technology advances, new business models and global economic forces, change is the new normal," Torrie explained. "With this, it is important for organizations to understand the impact on people and consider the best way to support their workforce through on-going change."

Depression and anxiety remain the most common mental health conditions in the workplace

Morneau Shepell also assessed workplace mental health issues in general and found that the most common conditions remain depression and anxiety, with 31 per cent and 28 per cent of employee respondents having indicated a current or past mental health condition, respectively.

Additionally, sick leave for mental health concerns is more than two times as likely for employees age 30 and under, compared to the average likelihood of employees older than age 30. "On the positive side, many employees are turning to their co-workers as an important source for social support. We found that 61 per cent of employee respondents indicated their co-workers had a positive impact on their mental well-being," said Stephen Liptrap, Chief Operating Officer, Morneau Shepell. "Employer support and resources, such as an employee and family assistance program, were also noted as valuable by employees."

Workplace culture top concern for employees and employers

Through its research, Morneau Shepell found that 75 per cent of all respondents indicated work culture as the most important issue to address regarding mental health in the workplace. This issue ranked above the importance of employees' willingness to get help (71 per cent), employees' coping skills and resilience (70 per cent), reducing stigma among employees (65 per cent), reducing stigma among managers (65 per cent) and concerns about employees returning from disability leave (62 per cent).

"We know that employees who report a positive work culture are less likely to have taken mental health sick leave in the past two years," said Paula Allen, Vice President, Research and Integrative Solutions. "We also found that employees were less likely to indicate negative impact to their job performance, view of the company or their own health and well-being after an organizational change when they report a positive and supporting work culture."

That said, among people managers, nearly half (47 per cent) indicated negative workplace culture as the top issue in the workplace. This issue was ranked higher than absenteeism (36 per cent), presenteeism (32 per cent) or employee engagement (21 per cent). While the national average is 47 per cent, the number of people managers across the country that identified negative workplace culture as the top issue varies with 58 per cent in Alberta, 49 per cent in British Columbia, the territories and Ontario, 48 per cent in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 47 per cent in the Atlantic and 36 per cent in Quebec.

About the Survey

The purpose of the survey by Morneau Shepell, conducted in October 2016, was to understand and compare the perspective of working Canadians regarding workplace mental health and absence, with 1,018 respondents in total. 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, the 6th annual Morneau Shepell summit on workplace mental health being held in six cities across CanadaVancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, in Edmonton on Wednesday, February 15, and in Montreal on Wednesday, February 22.

Media Invitation: Employers Connect, January 25, 2017

Media are invited to attend to be among the first to learn more about the new research findings, which are being presented at Morneau Shepell's 6th annual Employers Connect seminars. For more information and to RSVP, please contact Heather MacDonald at or 647.725.2520 ext. 207. 

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

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

About Morneau Shepell
Morneau Shepell is the only human resources consulting and technology company that takes an integrative approach to employee assistance, health, benefits and retirement needs. The Company is the leading provider of employee and family assistance programs, the largest administrator of retirement and benefits plans and the largest provider of integrated absence management solutions in Canada. Through health and productivity, administrative, and retirement solutions, Morneau Shepell helps clients reduce costs, increase employee productivity and improve their competitive position. Established in 1966, Morneau Shepell serves approximately 20,000 clients, ranging from small businesses to some of the largest corporations and associations in North America. With approximately 4,000 employees in offices across North America, Morneau Shepell provides services to organizations across Canada, in the United States, and around the globe. Morneau Shepell is a publicly-traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: MSI). For more information, visit


SOURCE Morneau Shepell Inc.

For further information: Heather MacDonald, Kaiser Lachance Communications, 647.725.2520 ext. 207,; Cathren Ronberg, Morneau Shepell, 416.355.5632,