In mid March of 2018, Aon, a global professional services firm, released a survey on global employee engagement results. Aon's data compared opinions from more than 5 million employees around the world. While Canada remained relatively high compared to other countries surveyed, it dropped in employee engagement from 70 percent to 69 percent, which still remains 4 points above the global average.
Exploring the Drop
One of the key triggers for the drop in engagement is believed to be related to workplace disruption resulting from the introduction of new technologies and ways of doing business. In the Aon survey, employees shared that they felt more uncertain about the future of their work and experienced higher degrees of stress as a result. Employees appear to be struggling with the change needed to drive efficiencies and what that might mean to the type of work they are asked to perform.
The Digital Age
Beyond the decline of the industrial revolution, companies face adapting to the digital age where pressure to be more efficient, competitive and relevant means looking at ways technology can enhance the customer experience as well as changes to how work gets done.
Thinking through the longer term digital strategy from end to end becomes more complex with the rapidity of change and the pressure from other organizations who might be seen as disrupting their industry through innovation and digital enhancements and upgrades faster than the competition.
While technological advancements can work wonders for business development, in itself, it can't be the isolated response to solving employee engagement issues. Technology and creating a collaborative digital workplace needs to improve human connections in meaningful ways. Introducing technology without addressing what might be fundamentally broken in terms of organizational design or culture, creates only short term fixes that will fall short over time.
According to Gallup, McKinsey and other engagement survey organizations, worker engagement is declining in our always-on society. When introducing technology or digital enhancements, considering how they might influence employee collaboration is key.
Questions to Ask
In a recent Deloitte white paper, The Digital workplace: Think, share, do. Transform your employee experience, they suggest asking specific questions in order to create a fuller engagement picture:
1) How can I best understand how my employees work and how can the digital workplace support this?
2) How can I best leverage my existing tools to deliver a truly valuable user experience and what other tools do I need to supplement this with?
3) How do I manage cultural change, rollout and adoption?
4) How can I measure success and ensure continuous improvement?
In order to respond to changes in the emerging digital age, answers to these and other questions are an important filter when exploring:
- How to support more transparent working styles and social networks;
- How to provide not just customers, but employees with flexibility, choice and personalization so their personal digital experiences outside of work are aligned with what happens for them at work;
- How to keep employees connected virtually with collaboration tools that work best for them (e.g., instant messaging).
The Bigger Picture
Adapting digital technology for the sake of system upgrades and process efficiencies doesn't automatically equate to higher employee engagement. It includes keeping a pulse on how employees can continue to work better together with the right tools at the right time. We have a pool of resources with a depth of knowledge in this area. We're eager to help you develop the plan you need to support your engagement and productivity goals and invite you to contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Like a coin has two sides, every decision has two choices — yes or no. Perhaps it isn’t quite as simple as more and more employers begin to explore some grey areas when the topic of bringing a dog to work comes into play.
Why is this even a consideration?
Let’s look at the statistics for starters. There are approximately 7.9 million cats and 5.9 million dogs in Canada. According to Ipsos Reid, approximately 35% of Canadian households have a dog and 38% have a cat. For some, they have both a cat and a dog or multiples of each.
There are two sides to look at when considering if implementing a pet-friendly policy is right for your workplace.
One side of the coin — bring pets (dogs) to work.
Likely one of the main reasons employers are pondering whether to introduce a pet-friendly workplace policy has to do with the results of recent studies. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association's (APPMA) study, allowing dogs in the workplace can reduce staff stress. Another study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University found that employees who were able to bring their dogs to work produced lower levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. The stress levels of employees who brought their dogs to work fell about 11 percent, while that of those who didn’t rose by 70 percent.
Why else should employers allow dogs in the workplace? The APPMA study also revealed that allowing employees to bring their dogs to work:
What employers have adopted a pet-friendly workplace? It might not come as a surprise, but companies like Google, Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s, Nestle and Esty are pet-friendly workplaces. They are among the current 17% of North American employers to go down this pet-friendly path.
Who are employers hoping to attract?
The answer is Millennials. So much attention is paid to Millennials and for good reason. Since, their opinions will be the key drivers that influence workplace decisions.
Recent surveys show that 25% of millennials say that companies with dog-friendly policies are more attractive and 74% of millennials say they can see the benefits of bringing one’s dog to work. Millennial pet-owners tend to feel about their pets as parents do about their children. The thought of leaving them at home alone all day is stressful and guilt inducing. Creating a pet-friendly work environment helps to eliminate that stress and makes things a bit easier for pet owners.
The other side of the coin - the downside of a pet-friendly workplace.
Not everyone is a pet lover or thinks that allowing dogs in the workplace is a walk in the park. There are some downsides that warrant exploration.
Considering a pet-friendly workplace? If the pros outweigh the cons after you consider whether your workplace should introduce a pet-friendly policy, here are some tips to help you prepare and ensure a happy and safe work environment for you and any welcomed four-footed friends.
While pet-friendly policies remain a relatively new trend that has been embraced by more forward-thinking and Millennial-centric firms it is a benefit or perk that may quickly become in demand over time. Considering both sides of the question early is a helpful step to prepare you for when and if the question arises. Keeping in mind alternate benefit strategies and methods for improving employee productivity and engagement are as important to us as they are for our clients. We invite you to contact us should you have questions on this topic or others. We’re here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
I've written on a few occasions over the last few years on the topic of absenteeism in the workplace.
What is absenteeism costing you?
What is absenteeism costing you - Part 2?
HR Lens - Presenteeism in the workplace
Why? Because it is an issue that continues to plague employers as they search to find ways to improve productivity and reduce the number absences they continue to see surfacing year over year.
Many employers have tried varying methods to address the reasons workers are absent. For a long period of time, the emphasis on addressing absenteeism involved tracking lost time and enforcing requirements for doctor's notes along with reprimands by supervisors for too frequent requests for unscheduled time off. While most employers have introduced some form of absence tracking or elaborate attendance management systems, their results with haven't proven that tracking alone triggers a reduction in missed time.
With absence tracking, employers have been able to capture trends when higher percentages of absences occur. This can provide helpful when looking to staff up and manage customer service or project scheduling. According to CareerBuilder, January to March saw 34% absenteeism with July through September coming in a 30%. The lowest percentage applied to the months of April to June at 13% and October to December at 23%.
Employees are notifying their employers of their absence via a phone call ( 84%), email (24%) and text messages (11%). Some of the most frequent reasons for absences include excess work pressure leading to stress, personal problems (marital or involving childcare), serious illness or accident, lack of engagement in work (not happy with current job role), workplace conflict, issues with managers, and commuting challenges.
Several reasons employees give for their absence are quite diverse. CareerBuilder.com shared results of their recent survey highlighting some of the most unusual excuses for missing work:
1) Employee’s 12-year-old daughter stole his car and he had no other way to work. Employee didn’t want to report it to the police.
2) Employee said bats got in her hair.
3) Employee said a refrigerator fell on him.
4) Employee was in line at a coffee shop when a truck carrying flour backed up and dumped the flour into her convertible.
5) Employee said a deer bit him during hunting season.
6) Employee ate too much at a party.
7) Employee fell out of bed and broke his nose.
8) Employee got a cold from a puppy.
9) Employee’s child stuck a mint up his nose and had to go to the ER to remove it.
10) Employee hurt his back chasing a beaver.
11) Employee got his toe caught in a vent cover.
12) Employee had a headache after going to too many garage sales.
13) Employee’s brother-in-law was kidnapped by a drug cartel while in Mexico.
14) Employee drank anti-freeze by mistake and had to go to the hospital.
15) Employee was at a bowling alley and a bucket filled with water crashed through the ceiling and hit her on the head.
Regardless of the reason for the absence, many research and wellness providers believe that absences boil down to work-related stress. That hypothesis makes sense from many perspectives. When work is going well, everything seems easier to manage, but when there are challenges; be it workplace culture, manager or colleague conflict, task-related pressure, commuting or a dislike of the role itself, it all generates additional stress. Stress is what leads to physical illness accordingly to Stanford School of Medicine's Center on Stress and Health. Chronic stress wears down the immune system and that can trigger an avalanche of illness leading to chronic disease.
While attendance tracking helps to monitor trends and workflow scheduling, it doesn't address the individual root causes of absenteeism or get at the heart of workplace culture and the influence of employee engagement on missed work time. (Read my blog on top employee engagement tips). Many studies show that when employees are truly engaged in their work, they miss fewer work days.
Along with an existing war on talent, employers are looking for more ways to improve the absence management results and drive better outcomes for group benefits extended health claims costs. Contact us today. We are your well equipped resource ready to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
There was a time when top health issues in Canada were more physical in nature and relatively easy to identify. They ranged from musculoskeletal disorders to high blood pressure. In the last few years, more discrete and difficult to easily identify illnesses such as depression, anxiety and stress disorders top our country’s health issue charts.
When Morneau Shepell conducted their second annual national mental health survey in the fall of 2015, they received responses from over 1000 employees, 100 employers and 100 physicians. The report revealed that mental health issues and extreme stress — both workplace and personal — negatively impact an employee’s work.
The facts pertaining to mental health in the workplace continue to demonstrate staggering financial implications. In 2013, the Mental Health Commission of Canada reported that of the total economic burden caused by mental illness in Canada, $20 billion of the $51 billion per year relates directly to workplace losses due to disability claims, absenteeism and lost productivity. This data also highlights that 500,000 Canadians are unable to work in any given week due to mental health issues with 20% wrestling with mental health issues in any given year. The Morneau Shepell report highlights that mental health absenteeism is significantly underreported. This means that 500,000 Canadians unable to work in any given week due to mental health issues might actually be significantly higher.
Knowing the facts is important. It generates the need for further conversations about what is actually happening in the workplace and the importance of understanding organizational culture. Culture isn’t something you can see on the surface, it is felt and experienced by the employees who work in an organization. Similarly, workplace stress might not appear like a broken arm or someone recovering from surgery. It can be more difficult to identify. The Morneau Shepell report highlights that 60% of respondents said emotional/interpersonal issues were a source of workplace stress; these issues correspond directly to workplace culture. In the past, leaders were trained to bring greater attention to ensuring workers have a safe environment to work and the right equipment to do their jobs effectively. While these needs remain important, they ranked only at 14% as a cause of workplace stress in the Morneau Shepell report.
Emotional/interpersonal workplace stresses may also be triggered by the behaviour of the person’s direct supervisor, their colleagues as well as feelings of isolation. Perhaps surprisingly, these stressors proved to be far more prominent than any stress generated by deadlines or a dislike for one’s job.
As workplace stress and mental health issues continue to rise, action can be taken to stem the tide. The 2015 Morneau Shepell report demonstrates that employees would benefit from managers knowing what to do when an employee shows signs of distress.
Leader training on mental health can address the fear employees have about bringing their issues forward. Many report fearing the existing stigma associated with mental health. Removing the unhealthy barriers preventing services from being accessed and much needed help provided can be achieved through this type of specific management training.
Equipping front-line supervisors can be achieved through the implementation of an in-house program or through working with external vendors who provide the framework and/or the training itself.
The key components to a leader’s mental health training program include:
Training and educating leaders is an action organizations can take when looking to reduce absenteeism, turnover, disability duration and frequency. Doing so helps to create healthy conduits for employees while enabling them to connect with much needed stress management and mental health resources.
If you are looking to positively impact your disability management outcomes as well as increase productivity through employee engagement, please contact us — we have the resources and expertise to support your goals.
We’re here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
For many employers, there has been an emphasis on managing absence-related costs. A critical component of attendance management that tends not be factored into the cost equation pertains to presenteeism. It is defined as the act of attending work while sick or the tendency to stay at work beyond the time needed for effective performance on the job and it is believed to be more costly than its well-studied counterpart, absenteeism.
According to Patricia Schaefer, a staff writer for Business Know-How, the total cost of presenteeism to US employers ranges between $150 and $250 billion annually. In Canada, presenteeism costs Canadian businesses $15-25 billion per year.
While some may believe that presenteeism relates to workers who are slacking off, it is more about workers who come to work with an illness that negatively affects their productivity and could potentially infect co-workers and even customers. Depending on the industry, infected employees who show up to work may seriously compromise the health and safety of the general public.
In 2004, an excellent article written by Paul Hemp for the Harvard Business Review highlighted the results of a study on presenteeism and the impact of 28 medical conditions on productivity at Lockheed Martin Corp. The big reveal was that employees who showed up to work with allergies, headaches, lower-back pain, arthritis and cold symptoms cost the company $34 million in one year. Surprisingly, allergies and sinus trouble weighed in at 1.8 million of the productivity drain.
There is a bit of a double-edged sword when employers try to address absenteeism; it can tend to drive up the incidence of presenteeism where productivity losses remain harder to quantify.
Here are five employer solutions to help address the rising cost of this all to often hidden employment issue:
1) If possible and if the organization is resourced accordingly, work with Human Resources professionals to train people leaders about the realities of presenteeism, its effects on productivity, how to recognize it, how to coach direct reports and manage the business so that work continues in a safe and healthy manner.
2) Create or update the absence management policy to include presenteeism. It is important for employees to understand the company's position on presenteeism and that coming to work sick can negatively impact others. When employees know the guidances and the employer's position, they will make better choices because they are clear on what is acceptable.
3) Allow for paid sick leave and avoid disciplinary action that pressures sick employees to come to work. Encourage employees to go home if they are sick or stay home without fear of compromising their employment contract or the view the company has of them as a good worker.
4) Remind employees about hand washing and ways to avoid spreading germs. Read my blog on tips for avoiding colds and flus for specific suggestions.
5) Promote wellness programs and health clinics where possible. Promote free flu clinics and help employees become aware of the symptoms, duration of contagion, and ways to reduce existing symptoms. Read my blog on workplace wellness trends for details.
Presenteeism doesn't drive up productivity or profits and employees shouldn't feel like they are doing something positive by coming into the workplace when they are unwell. From presenteeism policies to specific employee engagement tactics, there are many ways to foster a healthy workplace. Contact us for more ideas. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Aside from celebrating Valentine’s Day, February is a time when people either embrace winter sports or look to venture to warmer climates to escape snow and cold temperatures.
It is also Heart Health Month and one that finds the Heart and Stroke Foundation busy promoting its mission to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. Did you know that heart disease and strokes cost the Canadian economy more than $20.9 billion each year in physician fees, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity?
Employers who focus on heart health — whether through their wellness program or otherwise — can make a huge contribution toward awareness that creates a heart smart work environment. Up to 80 percent of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable by adopting healthy behaviours.
Sometimes I believe we think we’re making healthy choices without realizing our own negative contributing factors. Weekend health warriors who enjoy an oatmeal breakfast or a fruit smoothie may be tricked into believing they are heart healthy. What happens consistently during the work week can make the biggest difference.
Employees who sit most of the day and find themselves hunched over a computer and who are dealing with high levels of daily stress are not doing themselves a favour when it comes to heart disease and stroke prevention.
Helping employees pay attention to the benefits of a healthy weight and an awareness regarding managing their blood pressure can delay the onset of heart disease or stroke by as much as 14 years. Top heart smart tips include being active on a regular basis, maintaining a healthy diet and reducing levels of ongoing stress.
While some think it is difficult to be active at work without changing into fitness clothes, there are plenty of opportunities that don’t require a change of clothes such as taking stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible, parking a car at a distance that maximizes exercise on the way to and from the office or walking around the workplace during a short 15 minute break. Starting a casual walking group or a more formal and larger scale one can make a positive impact on both workplace health and employee engagement.
Tackling a healthy diet involves planning ahead and avoiding quick, convenient, processed sources of food. Encourage employees to introduce five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and if a workplace cafeteria exists, ensure that the menu supports a heart healthy meal plan.
Stress reduction can be encouraged by promoting time management best practices, regular daily breaks and the introduction of mindfulness exercises and ways to effectively communicate work expectations, project roadblocks and deliverables.
While there isn’t a one size fits all approach to creating a heart-healthy workplace, focusing on a few that you know your organization will value is key. There are number of free resources available including a cardiovascular risk assessment through the Heart and Stroke Foundation. We are focused on helping companies find ways to encourage employees to put their health first. We invite you to contact us to find out what other heart-healthy resources are available. We’re here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Bullying in the workplace can take many forms and cause workers to react in uncharacteristic ways especially if they are fearful of being victimized, embarrassed or harassed. Bullying has been defined as repeated, persistent, continuous behaviour as opposed to a single negative act. It is often associated with a power imbalance between the victim and the perpetrator.
Worker-to-worker workplace bullying has increasingly been the focus of research in order to better understand the dynamics at play and to explore additional strategies to create healthy and safe work environments
Recent news about the Volkswagen scandal saw finger-pointing within the executive ranks along with the resignation of the Company’s CEO. Volkswagen is alleged to have been caught cheating on American air pollution tests. Their software called “defeat devices” in the electronic control module of diesel vehicles issued between 2008 - 2015 only emitted 10 to 40 times the legal amount while on the road. These emission levels were incorrectly reported as the engines emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the US.
What does all this have to do with workplace wellness and bullying? Imagine what it must be like to work inside the ranks of Volkswagen before and now after this “diesel dupe”. In all likelihood, there were employees who knew something wasn’t adding up, but were too concerned about what do and who to tell.
Specifically in manufacturing companies, employee orientation includes mandatory employees WHMIS and Health & Safety training that addresses workplace violence, harassment, and bullying prevention. Yet a recent cross border survey of 2000 respondents by Mental Health America (MHA) and the Canadian Association for Mental Health (CAMH) reveals that corporate offices in Canada and the US experience widespread workplace bullying. Specifically, 67 percent of respondents reported that they feel their company might fire them at any time and that 83 percent report that their company is overly focused on trivial activities. More importantly, the report showed that 80 percent of respondents believe their workplace is unhelpful or hostile, and as a result, they tend to work alone.
Employees fear being retaliated against for whistle-blowing. They often stay quiet and try to survive the negative effects of an unhealthy workplace. Prevention of workplace bullying requires a different step of management mechanisms including eduction and training as well as regular assessment and review of employee performance and feedback. Bullying is often linked to poor or absent management styles.
Employers are encouraged to watch for signs and symptoms of bullying — not only for the mental and physical health of the worker, but for the overall health and reputation of the company. The cost that Volkswagen will pay for not doing so will be in the billions. Whether they can survive this maelstrom, only time will tell.
Such dramatic events can and should be avoided. Bullying tends to be seen as more obvious in terms of verbal comments and negative physical contact, but it also includes more covert actions such as: the silent treatment, rumours, personal attack on attributes or one’s private life, unjustified criticism, over-monitoring of work, verbal aggression and withholding information.
When employees seem anxious, choose to work alone, avoid colleagues and report higher rates of absenteeism, there is likely something more that the employer may wish to explore. Workplace bullying could be a factor. There are various resources and reference guides available including:
OSH Answers Fact Sheet:
Huffington Post: Tips for potential victims
Forbes: How to stop workplace bullies in their tracks
Please feel free to contact us for more information, resources and tips. We’re here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Employers continually look for ways to improve productivity, increase efficiencies and enhance engagement levels. It begs diving deeper into the answers sought when management asks of their HR business partners, “How do I help employees get more done during their work day?”
Research findings by FlexJobs reveal some surprising results. Of the 2,600 employees who completed the survey, a mere 24 percent said that they do their best work during office hours. The remaining 76 percent reported that they were more productive elsewhere. This "elsewhere" includes: at home, at coffee shops, libraries, and other public spaces. The survey also reported that 14 percent of respondents said they could be productive at work, but not during office hours.
Employees reported several reasons why trying to be productive during office hours was so difficult. Their reasons included - a distracting atmosphere, co-worker interruptions, uncomfortable workspace, stress of commuting and office politics. What was even more surprising? If given the opportunity to have an outside the office workplace, employees were willing to take a 10 to 20 percent pay cut and 40 percent were willing to forego company perks.
Perhaps it is time to revisit where employers are placing emphasis when looking for increases in productivity levels. There might be some remaining biases toward the thinking that employees can’t be trusted or productive when they aren’t in the employer's line of sight. Survey results differ significantly when employees report that they don’t consider their normal workday in the office to be the optimal place or time to complete important work assignments.
Perhaps it is time to consider asking:
Introducing telecommuting options may be a potential solution and one where it could be tested first as part of a small pilot project. Another consideration may be to create ‘do not disturb’ signs for workstations where employees need to really keep their heads down and focused on the completion of important projects.
There are many creative ways to tweaks your current environment to enhance your employees’ ability to be more productive while making your office a more health-supportive environment. We’re here to help you explore these options along with other ways to customize solutions right for your workplace. I invite you to contact us. We’re here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Have you gone to work and felt so tired that you found it difficult to stay awake at your desk or in meetings? Perhaps you called in sick or needed large quantities of caffeine to help you make it through what soon became an extra long day of fighting your fatigue. If this scenario has happened to you, rest assured, you're not alone. In a recent study by Sleep-Centre.ca and IPG Mediabrands, roughly 3.9 million Canadians or 26 percent of our nation's workforce have called in sick to catch up on sleep.
Based on this new study's findings, sleep deprivation costs employers close to three-quarters of a billion dollars in lost work hours. The study reported that 62% of Canadians suffer from a sleep problem and 20 percent have this issue on a frequent basis.
The study surveyed over 3,000 respondents and Kitchener-Waterloo topped the list at 76 percent of respondents reporting how often they suffer from sleeplessness. Ottawa-Gatineau landed at 56 percent and Toronto at 47 percent. Cities with a higher percentage of kids living at home reported greater frequently of sleeplessness.
Pain, uncomfortable room temperature, and work stress were listed as the top three reasons. They were were followed by illness, partner's snoring, too much caffeine and indigestion. One in six respondents admitted to falling asleep at their desk or during meetings or conferences.
When employees call in sick because of sleeplessness or show up but are not productive, it costs the company in significant and tangible ways. Employers who look to promote their Employee Assistance Program, and help employees understand the signs of stress and anxiety can make a difference in terms of reducing a major cause of sleeplessness.
Employers will also benefit from helping employees find ways avoid sleep issues by promoting their awareness of the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise three times a week for at least 30 minutes. Allowing for flexible work arrangements may limit the number of employees calling in sick or sleeping on the job. Providing employees with tips for sleep and foods to eat and avoid around bedtime are beneficial as many people have no idea that certain foods can trigger sleeplessness.
These are just a few examples of tips to consider on this topic. Please contact us for more resources on trigger points that affect workplace productivity and put pressure on a group benefits plan. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.