Employee mental, physical health taking toll on workforce, says Manulife

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Employee health is taking an increasing toll on workforce productivity, according to Manulife’s Wellness Report, which calculated an average of 48 days lost per employee due to health-related problems in 2022.

According to Manulife, employee absences and presenteeism – when employees report to work but don’t actually work – are costing employers around $645 million annually. Workers aged 18 to 24 show poorer results in mental, physical, and financial health indicators compared to older age groups, correlated with greater losses in overall productivity.

Manulife’s tracked decline in employee productivity dates back to 2020, when the number of days lost to absenteeism or presenteeism among employees averaged 40.8 days.

The data, which was collected over a three-year period and is based on surveys with 4,921 Canadian employees, identified key indicators for a decline in work performance, such as lack of sleep, nutrition, and increasing financial concerns.

According to the report, “poor sleep quality and poor physical health are associated with poor mental health at work.”

In 2022, for example, 46 per cent of the surveyed employees experienced at least one work-related mental health incident, and 27 per cent reported sleeping less than seven hours per night – a marginal improvement from 2021, which saw 21 per cent of employees sleeping less than seven hours, and from 2020, where 34 per cent of employees also reported insufficient sleep.

“The data also shows that smoking and sleeping less than the recommended hours a night is associated with worse mental health, physical health, and productivity,” the report says.

Also in 2022, 71 per cent of employees reported eating less than five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, which is a slight decline from the 69 per cent average in 2021 and the 68 per cent average in 2020.

Up to 40 per cent of the employees surveyed reported doing less than the recommended level of physical activity (150 minutes per week), and 38 per cent showed three or more health-related risk factors that could be reducing productivity and general well-being.

Manulife also tracked a sharp increase in economic concerns, with 21 per cent of employees reporting having serious financial stress in 2022, compared to 16 per cent in 2021 and 14 per cent in 2020.

Forty-nine per cent of employees surveyed reported feeling lonely in 2022.

Manulife’s report says these findings point to higher productivity deriving from better physical and mental health measures in the workforce.