wellness programs

Wellness programs down, overtime work up

Survey finds health and fitness supports less accessible as employees clock longer hours
Thursday, June 9, 2016

Some employers appear to be scaling back wellness programs at a time when employees are facing rising job demands, according to the second annual Staples Business Advantage Workplace Index.

Of the 1,110 Canadians surveyed, 43 per cent reported clocking more than eight hours per day to stay on top of increasing workloads while 55 per cent reported lacking access to health and fitness supports such as ergonomic furniture, fresh foods and on-site gyms. Last year only 32 per cent reported clocking overtime while 49 per cent reported working for companies that didn’t offer wellness programs.

That the survey suggested a dip in the availability of health and fitness supports was one of the findings that stood out to Michael Zahra, president of Staples Business Advantage Canada.

“I’m a little surprised that companies have done that because wellness in general has become a big trend over many years, whether it’s to reduce absenteeism or to make the work environment more attractive to new hires,” said Zahra. “I understand why people would want to cut the cost, but I don’t understand why they would cut the cost in those areas because those areas have been identified as very important to employee engagement.”

Indeed, 66 per cent of the business decision makers and general office workers reached by the survey said that access to a wellness program was a selling point during a job hunt.

The business supplier partnered with Jacob Morgan, best-selling author of The Future of Work, on the survey, which also revealed uninspired design and outdated technology as areas for improvement with the potential to raise employee productivity.

“This study shows that there is a tremendous opportunity for organizations to focus on and design employee experiences where employees truly want to show up,” said Morgan. “Offering employees health and wellness programs, well-designed office environments and up-to-date modern technologies are all a part of that employee experience.”

This year’s survey found that workload represented the top source of stress in the office for roughly one in four Canadians. What’s more, the workplace itself contributed to the stress of close to seven in 10 Canadians.

Although 23 per cent of managers considered their offices to be “inspiring,” the majority of respondents characterized the design of their workplaces as “dull, plain or standard.” Sought-after features included flexible furniture, natural light and private spaces.

A lack of private spaces might explain the finding that loud co-workers rated as the number-one distraction in offices, as identified by 65 per cent of respondents. Email overload and colleagues stopping by to chat rounded out the list of the top interruptions.

More than 70 per cent of Canadians said that they’re not provided with the latest technology that would allow them to work more efficiently.

“People are being asked to do more with less, so how do we make people more productive?” said Zahra. “As we have millennials moving into the workforce, they’re looking for better technology because they tend to grasp technology and use technology more than my generation … they’re looking for innovative things like electronic white boards.”

The survey also reached 1,995 employees in the U.S., whose responses largely aligned with those of employees in Canada. A couple of exceptions include that Canucks are less inspired by different styles of working locations than Americans and that a greater share of Canadian employees would like to telecommute due to weather than their U.S. counterparts.

As telecommuting grows in popularity, most Canadians — three out of four — reported that they’re most productive working in the office.

Morar Consulting administered the online survey, which has a +/- 1.8 per cent margin of error at 95 per cent confidence limits, in March, 2016.

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