Canadian Employees Are Overworked and Burnt Out, But Surprisingly Happy at Work

Nearly half of employees report feeling overworked (43 per cent) and burnt out (49 per cent), but the overwhelming majority (89 per cent) are still happy at work and motivated to rise in their organization. These results are from the inaugural Workplace Index conducted by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc.

“With the rise of the mobile workforce and the resulting ‘always on’ work culture, it’s not a surprise that employees are feeling overworked and burnt out,” said Schawbel. “While many are still happy at work, we have to ask whether it’s because they’re truly inspired and motivated, or simply conditioned to the new reality? Either way, employers need to retain talent and optimize productivity, engagement and loyalty with employees.”

Longer days and constant connection leading to burn out

Employees are working longer days, and a quarter of them regularly work after the standard workday is done. Furthermore, about four out of 10 work on weekends at least once a month. Breaks are becoming rare as well – half of employees feel like they cannot get up for a break at all and four out of 10 eat lunch at their desk.

According to the Staples Advantage Workplace Index, the driving force behind the “always on” work culture is the need for employees to complete work they don’t have time to do during the day, followed by a desire to get ahead for the following day. A drive to advance in the organization plays a role as well, with more than two-thirds of respondents seeing themselves as managers in the next five years.

Additional research reveals almost four out of 10 employees acknowledge that burnout is a motivator for a new job search. Burnout is also eroding productivity, according to 63 per cent of Canadian employees. The biggest culprits in burnout include workload (64 per cent), personal pressures employees put on themselves to perform (37 per cent) and time pressures (44 per cent).

Half of employees surveyed acknowledge they receive too much email, with nearly four out of 10 of those saying that email overload hurts productivity. Inefficient meetings also appear to be a major productivity drain, with some employees spending more than two hours a day in meetings. About a quarter of employees say meetings are inefficient. The majority of employees also say a distraction-free environment would increase productivity by at least 20 per cent, citing loud coworkers as the top distraction.

Also, half of employees said decreasing work load or providing more time to complete tasks would minimize burnout. That may seem daunting to employers, but employees said some simple steps would help:

  • Provide a more flexible schedule
  • Encourage employees to take breaks
  • Improve technology

Employees are happy despite long hours, but still pose a flight risk. Flexibility is key.

Though employees are happy, about one in five employees still expect to change jobs in the next 12 months. This flight risk is slightly higher for millennials. With employees working longer days and on weekends, the biggest request for employers is to provide more flexibility. Other steps employers can take to improve happiness include:

  • Add more office perks
  • Improve office technology
  • Provide better office design

Of particular note is that all of these softer benefits are more important to millennial happiness than any other age group.

Flexibility is also critical to the recruitment and retention of top talent. In fact, work-life balance was one of the most important aspects to employees when looking for a new job (56 per cent), which is even more important than increased salary. Additionally, one in five employees cited work-life balance issues as a reason for considering a job change while nearly four out of 10 identified it as a leading contributor of loyalty.

Differences between U.S. and Canada

In most cases, findings for the U.S. and Canada were similar; however there were a few notable differences. A higher percentage of Canadians cited work-life balance and workplace flexibility as the most important workplace motivators. Following a similar pattern, more Canadian employees identified work-life balance as one of the most important considerations when looking for a new job and a higher number of Canadians reported they would actually leave their job if their telecommuting benefits were taken away.

“The perception is that salary is the most meaningful workplace motivator. However, our research shows that work-life balance and flexibility have emerged as the most important drivers of loyalty among Canadian employees. They are also some of the most important considerations as workers look for a new job,” said Michael Zahra, President, Staples Advantage Canada. “This is a game changer for the Canadian workforce, especially when you consider that almost one-third of Canadian employers do not offer telecommuting or flex-time programs and have yet to acknowledge the strategic importance of workplace flexibility to their bottom line. We are committed to understanding how the workplace is evolving so we can effectively educate, advise and support our customers through these changes. ”

Staples Advantage Workplace Index Methodology

The survey was conducted among 2,602 employees 18 or older across a variety of companies, both in size, geography and industry. A total of 1,528 employees were interviewed in the U.S. (1,026 were classified as general workers and 502 as business decision makers). A total of 1,074 employees were interviewed in Canada (744 general office workers and 330 decision makers). The interviews were conducted online by Redshift Research in May 2015. This survey has a margin of error of +/- 1.9% at 95% confidence limits.

To download the rest of the Full Report, Download the Workplace Index Full Report

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