A Year of Economic Insecurity May Lead To More Stressful Holidays for
Canadian Employees

TORONTO, Dec. 17 /CNW/ - After a year of financial upheaval in Canadian workplaces, it is more important than ever before for employers to pay close attention to employee stress this holiday season, says Shepell-fgi, Canada's leading provider of employee health and productivity programs.

"The past year has been extremely stressful in terms of the economy and employees and employers have not yet fully emerged from either real or perceived levels of financial insecurity," says Rod Phillips, President of Shepell-fgi. While the economy is slowly rebounding, the cumulative effect of lay-offs, cut-backs and budget constraints in companies and communities means that this holiday season, employees may need extra support. The added financial burden of the holidays, coupled with increases in other personal stressors such as difficult family relationships, can make the next few months challenging times for employees.

"We routinely see large increases in EAP accesses during the month of January," says Karen Seward, Executive Vice President of Business Development and Marketing. "In particular, family relationship issues and physical health issues come to the forefront as concerns among employees. The good news is we find that more people tend to reach out for help at this time of year. The bad news, perhaps, is that this year these issues are more likely complicated by financial burdens or stresses at levels that we haven't seen in years past."

Shepell-fgi, which tracks aggregate indicators of employee health on a variety of personal, family and physical health issues, has found that cases involving individual financial wellbeing tend to rise sharply in January, as the stress and excesses of overspending and overindulging in holiday festivities are felt. For example, in 2008, the largest increases in financial-related EAP accesses in January were seen for creditor issues, general financial wellbeing and debt/credit issues. There was also an increase in financial management conflict cases, indicating that financial stress is increasingly leading to conflict in employees' personal and workplace relationships.

"This year," continues Ms Seward, "we won't be surprised to see increases in some of the more serious financial and personal concerns. Already, we have seen a three-year trend that shows creditor problems as the fastest increasing financial stress experienced by employees in Canadian workplaces, followed closely by other quite serious financial concerns, including bankruptcy and financial management conflict."

EAP data indicate that this is the time of year when financial stressors have the biggest impact on employee health and wellbeing. Since mentally and physically healthy employees are far more likely to be engaged and productive in their work than those that are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, Canada's employers would do well to pay attention to the levels and impact of employees' financial and other stressors. Given the economic climate of this past year, these issues may be more serious and therefore more critical for employers to recognize than ever before. With that in mind, Shepell-fgi offers employers some tips to address their employees' financial wellbeing proactively:

    
    1.  Raise awareness of financial wellbeing issues: Help employees
        understand issues related to their financial wellbeing with well-
        designed information and education campaigns. The reward of raising
        employee awareness about these issues is better-informed employees
        who feel a greater sense of control over their financial health.

    2.  Provide financial wellbeing learning opportunities: Workplace-based
        financial education programs have proven effective at motivating
        employees to make better financial decisions and reducing their
        financial related stress. Providing onsite or online educational
        opportunities that teach employees new financial management skills
        and abilities can be a crucial component of a comprehensive approach
        to this issue, and help in both workplace and home settings.

    3.  Link employees to available workplace or community supports:
        Promoting the use of all available workplace or community resources
        when there is a problem can help reduce their impact. Poor financial
        health is often directly linked to compromised mental and physical
        health-giving employees the tools and techniques to better manage one
        can lead to improvement in other areas.
    

About Shepell-fgi

Shepell-fgi is Canada's leading provider of workplace health and productivity solutions, including prevention-focused Employee Assistance Programs, Health and Disability Management, Organizational Solutions and Training. The company serves over eight million employees and their families across Canada, the United States and internationally. Shepell-fgi helps organizations maintain healthy employees and healthy workplaces.

SOURCE SHEPELL-FGI

For further information: For further information: Vicky Zeldin, Manager, Marketing, Shepell-fgi, Phone: (416) 355-5424, Email: vzeldin@shepellfgi.com

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