60% of Canadian employees face increased workplace stress in 2023

New survey reveals alarming levels of workplace stress among employees

60% of Canadian employees face increased workplace stress in 2023

In a recent survey conducted by global recruitment firm Robert Walters, it was found that three out of five Canadian employees experienced heightened workplace-related stress compared to the previous year. Factors contributing to this rise include heavy workloads, job instability, and a lack of support from employers.

The survey, which involved over 2,500 Canadian employees, shed light on a significant disparity between the amount of money companies invested in wellness initiatives and the actual sentiments of employees. Results showed that 60% of respondents reported suffering from workplace-related stress, with 34% stating that they felt stressed "very often". On the other hand, 10% claimed to have experienced no recurring stress throughout the year.

“There’s this dichotomy of employers thinking they are doing enough and employees thinking they are not,” Martin Fox, managing director at Robert Walters’ Canadian branch, told CTVNews.ca.

Despite companies allocating an estimated $400 to $600 per employee on wellness initiatives since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, 62% of employees believed that their employers were not doing enough to address workplace stress.

The survey also revealed that 45% of respondents believed that senior leaders and human resources departments should take responsibility for reducing workplace stress, while 19% felt that line managers should play a key role.

Fox emphasized the need for a balanced approach, suggesting that employees should communicate their concerns while managers and leaders should receive proper training and resources to support mental health.

“I think employees also need to be able to regulate themselves during stressful periods and communicate their concerns or worries,” he said.

What is stressing employees out?

The survey delved into the root causes of elevated stress levels in 2023. It identified several triggers, including the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life, mounting workloads, and tight deadlines. The biggest cause of stress among office workers was job stability concerns, driven by news of layoffs and reduced confidence in job security.

“This isn’t really surprising considering the rolling coverage we see in the news about the turbulent economy, mass layoffs at large firms and when it comes to candidate and client confidence,” Fox said.

Additionally, pressure from management was cited as a significant factor by 23% of respondents, while 19% expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of pay increases.

“Feeling underpaid is a fast track to demotivation,” he said. “Unfortunately, the rising cost of living and inflation is making any sort of pay rise or proposed pay rise feel insignificant.”

A talent shortage and constant adaptation also contributed to stress, with 13% of respondents reporting increased workloads and the need to excel in their roles.

Fox attributed this surge in post-pandemic stress to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and a return to in-person work, compounded by rising inflation. The combination of these factors created a "perfect storm" of stress in the workplace.

Managing workplace stress

To address this issue, Fox emphasized the importance of both employers and employees adopting effective coping strategies. Failure to manage workplace stress could lead to increased turnover rates, employee burnout, reduced motivation, and decreased productivity.

He recommended fostering a supportive and open workplace culture, encouraging employees to voice their concerns, and providing managers with additional training in soft skills to lead with empathy.

Employees were also encouraged to seek support from colleagues and establish a healthy work-life balance by “switching off fully” from work outside of working hours.