'Workplace benefits and resources such as EAPs, wellness programs and virtual care can help support working Canadians' wellbeing'
Employee mental health and overall wellbeing are suffering as people face fears about the transmission of COVID-19 and financial uncertainty, and deal with the impacts of long-term social isolation.
Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of Canadians who are employed, or have recently been laid off, rank their mental health as excellent or good – down from 66 per cent in 2019, finds a survey by RBC Insurance. Also, 45 per cent rank their financial health as excellent or good since the pandemic started.
Financial stress could see workers going back to work even if they feel sick, according to an earlier survey by the association.
Women and younger workers appear to be affected the most, finds the RBC survey of 1,001 respondents, conducted July 14 to 16.
Only 58 per cent of women rank their mental health as excellent or good, compared with 67 per cent of men. And just 51 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds rank their mental health as excellent or good, compared with 72 per cent of those 55 and older and 60 per cent of those between the ages of 35 and 54.
However, 65 per cent of working Canadians with insurance coverage of any kind (private, group or a combination of both) rank their mental health as excellent or good, compared with 55 per cent of those without insurance.
And nearly half (48 per cent) of those with insurance rank their financial health as excellent or good, compared with 36 per cent of those without insurance, according to RBC Insurance.
“The negative impacts on mental health is worrisome but workplace benefits and resources such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), wellness programs and virtual care or telemedicine can help support working Canadians wellbeing, including their mental and financial health,” says Julie Gaudry, senior director of Group Insurance at RBC Insurance
Despite saving more, a greater proportion of Canadians are financially stressed these days, and the gap between those who are struggling and those who are comfortable has widened, according to a survey by the Canadian Payroll Association released last month.
Recently, a Morneau Shepell study found that employee assistance programs (EAPs) can offer definite benefits in terms of employees’ mental health and work performance and employers’ finances.
There is a sharp increase in the likelihood that working Canadians are using virtual care options this year compared with last year, according to RBC.
Two-thirds (67 per cent) of workers say they would use video chat, web or telephone-based health support to consult with a mental health practitioner, up 17 points from 2019. Also, 60 per cent would use video or telephone counselling, up 15 points from 2019 last year.
“There’s an uptake in the willingness to use virtual care services for mental health challenges among the working population, but such services can come at a cost to employers who themselves are facing financial challenges as a result of COVID-19,” says Gaudry.
Forty-five per cent of employers are offering or expanding access to virtual mental health services, and 60 per cent expect mental health services and stress management to be one of their organization’s most important benefit priorities over the next six months, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey released in September.
When asked what working Canadians are doing to support their mental health, free options such as talking to friends or family (46 per cent), getting outside or going for a walk (46 per cent), and exercising, yoga or meditation (29 per cent) are the most common. Paid options such as paid app-based support including meditation apps and wellness apps (three per cent) were the least likely to be used.