Insight into the health and wellbeing of Canadian workers

Young people in the city running together, photo by Halfpoint/Adobe Stock

Halfpoint/Adobe Stock

What is the issue?

Evidence shows that people’s lifestyle choices can have a significant effect on their health, mortality, and productivity. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and insufficient sleep are all important but modifiable lifestyle risk factors.

A recent study by RAND Europe suggests that lifestyle behaviours are significant drivers of short-term productivity loss for employers. To counteract this trend, organisations interested in supporting employees to make healthier choices could ensure that a part of their human resources and productivity management strategies address lifestyle choices.

How did we help?

Building on our extensive body of research for Britain’s Healthiest Workplace and Asia’s Healthiest Workplace, RAND Europe, along with our collaborators, help insurance company Manulife to develop Wellness Reports for a broad range of Canadian organisations.

Wellness Reports draw on data from an online employee survey and provide organisations with an understanding of the overall health and wellbeing of their workforce, and how their results compare to the average, and to the ‘healthiest’ organisations.

To do this, RAND Europe researchers analyse data on employee lifestyle, mental health and other areas of concern, assessing the associated impact these areas have on the health and productivity of an organisation.

A better understanding of the associations between employees’ lifestyle choices and general health, and the effect these have on the workplace, as well as critical and measurable business outcomes like employee engagement and productivity, can support employers to create better workplaces for the individuals who spend time there.

What did we find?

In 2020, 70 Canadian organisations participated in the Wellness Report and 7,251 employees responded to the online surveys.

  • Physical health and lifestyle habits

  • Eighty per cent of employees had a ‘Vitality Age’ higher than their actual age - a Vitality Age gap is the difference between a person’s Vitality Age and their actual age. The gap corresponds to people’s lifestyle choices and shows how they affect predicted life expectancy. If someone is particularly fit and healthy, their Vitality Age could be lower than their actual age. However, for most people, their Vitality Age will be higher than their actual age.
  • Forty-eight per cent of people with four or more risk factors – such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, physical inactivity or insufficient sleep - thought they are in good or very good health.
  • The number one factor affecting employees’ sleep was work-related stress.
  • A third of employees got less than the recommended seven hours of sleep a night.
  • Forty-five per cent of people said their sleep is very poor to fair
  • Forty per cent were at risk due to low physical activity levels. Research shows that even doing 120 minutes of at least moderate-intensity physical activity per week may reduce the risk of developing certain disease.
  • Thirty-five per cent of employees were binge drinking at least once a month, which means they consume three or more units of alcohol in one occasion for women, and four or more units in one occasion for men at least once a month.
  • The top three barriers for employees to adopt healthy choices were:
    • lack of motivation (66%)
    • lack of time (50%)
    • work commitments (36%)
  • Mental health

  • Forty-eight per cent of employees were experiencing feelings of loneliness.
  • Fifty-six per cent of employees were experiencing at least one work-related mental health risk factor.
  • Financial health

  • Fifty-four per cent of employees were worried about their financial situation.
  • One in four said worrying about money distracts them at work.
  • Presenteeism and absenteeism

  • Sixteen per cent of working hours, which equates to 40.8 days per employees per year, were lost due to health-related absences and presenteeism. Presenteeism refers to when employers experience productive time loss not by the employee being absent from work, but rather from the effect the employee’s chronic health conditions have on their ability to perform the tasks while at work.