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Morneau Shepell finds strong correlation between workplace stress and employee retention

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Corporate / Mental Health / Canada

Morneau Shepell finds strong correlation between workplace stress and employee retention

One half of employees and managers are more stressed by work than personal factors; both types of stress up three per cent from just two years ago with high performers at risk

TORONTO, Jan. 30, 2018 /CNW/ - New research announced today by Morneau Shepell found that organizational stress is the highest source of stress for Canadian employees and is presenting strong correlations to employee retention. In the survey of employees and employers across Canada, a significant number of people managers (40 per cent) and employees (34 per cent) reported suffering from extreme levels of stress over the last six months, with both groups ranking workplace stress higher than personal stress. 

According to the research, a number of factors are contributing to this growing trend in workplace stress, including workload and long hours, co-workers and job responsibilities. When broken out by demographic, female employees are more likely to report being under higher levels of workplace stress than their male counterparts. On a personal level, both employees and managers cited financial issues, aging parents and feelings of isolation as the main sources of stress.

"More employees and managers are experiencing extreme levels of stress than ever before," said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer, Morneau Shepell. "In the last two years, both personal and workplace stress have increased by three per cent. This is particularly alarming as increasing workplace stress is contributing to heightened risk of employee retention in addition to the absence and disability risks we are aware of."

The survey found that many managers (20 per cent) and employees (18 per cent) with high workplace stress would be likely to leave their organization due to the situation. Across the country, employees in Ontario (41 per cent), Manitoba and Saskatchewan (38 per cent) and Alberta (36 per cent) were the most likely to report high levels of stress, when compared to individuals in Atlantic Canada (31 per cent), Quebec (29 per cent) and British Columbia and the Territories (29 per cent). 

"It is clear that the traditional workplace is changing and Canadian organizations need to begin prioritizing the mental well-being and engagement of employees," continued Liptrap.

Mental health issues may go unrecognized until there is a crisis
Through its research, Morneau Shepell found that the majority of employees and managers have dealt with a mental health issue or sleep-related disorder, with more than half (57 per cent) of both groups indicating that they are currently suffering or have at some point in the past. Within this group, 27 per cent of employees and 32 per cent of managers report being able to perform daily routines despite mental health issues.

"Organizations need to be aware of the issue of high performance depression, which is often an issue among high performers. Those with high functioning depression are more likely to delay seeking care, resulting in health concerns being identified far too late and increasing the possibility of a mental health crisis," noted Liptrap. "It is increasingly important for employers to recognize high levels of stress and identify solutions before crises occur. Fostering positive responses to stress and ensuring that employee support programs are well understood are necessary to improve engagement and better position organizations for healthier futures."

Increased stress placing heightened impact on workplace productivity
Morneau Shepell also assessed the level at which stress correlates to productivity in organizations. In the research, it was found that one quarter of employees (24 per cent) and managers (23 per cent) used vacation or sick days to deal with stress in the past two years, revealing that productivity lost due to stress may be underestimated. When broken down by age, employees (34 per cent) and managers (52 per cent) under 34 were the likeliest to take time off from work due to stress.

"Productivity and stress often have a tenuous relationship, yet many organizations are still having difficulty managing engagement and productivity due to mental health concerns," said Paula Allen, vice president, research and analytic solutions, Morneau Shepell. Only 16 per cent of employees felt their organizations were strong across all four key areas of support: resources for distress, support for family issues, coping skills development and preventative measures. This presents a clear opportunity for Canadian organizations."

Regionally, respondents in Manitoba and Saskatchewan (88 per cent), Alberta (80 per cent) and British Columbia and the Territories (77 per cent) felt their employers should take a more active role in supporting distressed employees, compared to only 71 per cent in Ontario, 67 per cent in Quebec and 69 per cent in Atlantic Canada. When looking at how employees' ranked employers on providing the four factors of mental health support, Quebec (58 per cent) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (57 per cent) ranked their employers the lowest, followed by Ontario (49 per cent), Alberta (47 per cent), British Columbia and the Territories (47 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (41 per cent).

About the Survey
The purpose of the survey by Morneau Shepell, conducted between August 28 and September 7, 2017, was to understand and compare the perspective of working Canadians regarding workplace mental health, with 1,510 respondents in total. Of the respondents surveyed, 1,001 were Canadian employees who do not manage other people, and 509 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 per cent, valid 19 times out of 20.

The Company is presenting the initial findings of the survey at Employers Connect, the 7th annual Morneau Shepell summit on workplace mental health being held in eight cities across Canada, including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax on Wednesday, January 31, 2018; in Edmonton on Thursday, February 15; in Montreal on Wednesday, February 21; in Quebec City on Wednesday, March 21; and in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 4.

Media Invitation: Employers Connect, January 31, 2018
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 7th annual Employers Connect seminars. For more information and to RSVP, please contact Catherine Snider at 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 #EmployersConnect2018 #MentalHealth

About Morneau Shepell
Morneau Shepell is the only human resources consulting and technology company that takes an integrated 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. As a leader in strategic HR consulting and innovative pension design, the Company helps clients solve complex workforce problems and provides integrated productivity, health and retirement solutions. Established in 1966, Morneau Shepell serves approximately 20,000 clients, ranging from small businesses to some of the largest corporations and associations. With more than 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: Catherine Snider, Kaiser Lachance Communications, 647.725.2520 ext. 212,; Heather MacDonald, Morneau Shepell,, 416.390.2625