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Mario Canseco: Full-time workers are stressed and feeling the fatigue

Twenty-six per cent of full-time employees in British Columbia report they have felt depressed because of work in the past year
The proportion of full-time employees in Canada who feel fatigued is consistent across three age groups.

At the start of 2020, Research Co. and Glacier Media sought to ask questions to full-time workers in Canada to gauge their level of stress at work.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the plans were shelved indefinitely. There was little point in asking Canadians if their relationship with the workplace was satisfactory when many were carrying on with their duties from home.

Most Canadian provinces have lived without restrictions and mandates for a year, so the time is right to figure out how the country’s full time employees are feeling. Our results show some glaring gender and generational disparities.

Almost two-thirds of full-time employees in Canada (64 per cent) say their position is “very stressful” or “moderately stressful.” While only 47 per cent of those aged 55 and over consider their duties and responsibilities as “stressful,” the proportions rise to 66 per cent among those aged 18 to 34, and to 70 per cent among those aged 35 to 54.

Full-time workers of East Asian descent are significantly more likely to look at their job as a source of stress (80 per cent) than their counterparts whose origins are European (59 per cent), South Asian (also 59 per cent) or Indigenous (55 per cent).

The anxiety we experience at work often manifests itself physically. When we asked full-time employees in Canada, only 19 per cent told us that they do not experience any of six different problems at the end of a regular workday. Fatigue is the most common ailment on weekday evenings (49 per cent), followed by back pain (36 per cent), trouble sleeping (33 per cent), stressed-out eyes (30 per cent), headaches (28 per cent) and neck pain (also 28 per cent).

The proportion of full-time employees in Canada who feel fatigued is consistent throughout the three age groups. Headaches are more likely to be reported by those aged 18 to 34 (36 per cent) and those aged 35 to 54 (29 per cent) than by those aged 55 and over (nine per cent).

The sources of stress are directly related to workload and the actual conditions of the job. One in five full-time employees in Canada (20 per cent) have postponed their vacation due to work obligations over the past year – a proportion that rises to 32 per cent in Ontario. In addition, just under three in 10 full-time employees in Canada have had to work on a project or task after hours from home (28 per cent) or had to work on a project or task on a weekend or a holiday (29 per cent) in the past 12 months.

One third of full-time employees in Canada (33 per cent) say they have felt depressed because of work in the past year. On a regional basis, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are ahead on this indicator (42 per cent), followed by Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada (each at 34 per cent), and Alberta and British Columbia (each at 26 per cent).

Another source of stress is being asked to do too much with little or nothing in return. More than a third of full-time employees in Canada (35 per cent) say they were selected to take on more responsibilities without a raise in the past 12 months. The gender gap on this question is staggering. While only 27 per cent of men were asked to “take one for the team,” the proportion rises to 44 per cent among women.

The biggest hindrance reported by full-time employees in Canada is having to work through lunch to finish a project or task. The country’s youngest adults are more likely to have seen their lunch hour disappear at some point in the past year because of how busy they were (50 per cent) than middle aged or older adults (43 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively).

Even as most full-time employees in Canada report being tired and achy at the end of a workday, few are blaming their employers for these setbacks. Sizable majorities think the company they work for pays them what they deserve (55 per cent), cares for their health and well-being (61 per cent) and appreciates the effort they put into their jobs (68 per cent). Middle-aged full-time employees in Canada, who are looking to get ahead as they enter their most productive years, are more skeptical on each of these three questions than their younger and older counterparts.

The results of this survey serve as a baseline to measure the state of the post-pandemic workplace. We can plainly see that the youngest generation is struggling to deal with the pressures of work, and that women are being asked to do more without the emolument and recognition that should come with added responsibilities. The fact that many full-time employees in Canada are abandoning proper nutrition for the sake of pleasing their bosses is also a red flag.

Right now, only about one in five full-time employees in Canada report having no problems with workload and no ailments at the end of a workday. We will see if this number grows as a result of companies hiring people who are more likely to pay attention to their mental and physical health than the workers of previous generations.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from March 10 to March 20, 2023, among 895 Canadian adults who are currently employed full-time (at least 30 hours a week). The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.