Stress, Technology and Bosses Not Always the Enemy
TORONTO, Feb. 27 /CNW/ - Some of the most pervasive beliefs about the
workforce have recently been challenged by findings from Towers Perrin's
Global Workforce Study - among them, that workers are highly stressed, that
they resent the demands of new technologies and that they dislike their
To understand what drives employees to perform and succeed, Towers Perrin
recently surveyed nearly 90,000 employees in 18 countries, including 5,000 in
Canada. The survey, which explored the drivers of workforce engagement -
employees' willingness to go the extra mile to help their companies succeed -
also dispelled many of the myths that surround today's workforce.
1) "Good Stress" has its Place in the Workforce
Concerns about the negative effects of a "stressed-out" workforce appear
to be overstated, according to the Towers Perrin findings. In fact, 69% of
Canadians surveyed reported being neutral-to-energized by on-the-job stress
"The number of employees who indicated a level of comfort and even
positive energy in response to work-related stress coincides with another
finding that employees are interested in taking on more challenging,
interesting work," said Kevin Aselstine, Managing Principal at Towers Perrin
in Toronto. "At the same time, our workforce does want more meaningful
work-life balance and looks to employers to help achieve that balance in ways
that support both their own career aspirations and the company's needs."
2) Technology is not the Enemy
One of the ways to achieve balance is through increased use of
technology, which is viewed as a positive factor in the work experience and
not as the 24/7 "virtual prison" it's often made out to be.
"The near-ubiquitous presence of cell phones, laptops and other personal
electronic devices means employees can now access email and voicemail,
calendars, documents and presentations from virtually anywhere, anytime," said
Aselstine. "Far from being a problem, the vast majority of Canadians (86% of
respondents) feel technology helps them achieve some level of balance between
their personal and professional lives. This not only contradicts the common
belief that technology keeps employees chained to their jobs and dominates
their time away from the office, but also signals that employees are realistic
about the demands of today's global business environment and they're willing
to do what's necessary to achieve work/life balance in a world that operates
literally around the clock."
3) Working to Live
Another prevalent myth is that today's workforce is "living to work,"
putting work at the centre of their lives. While Canadians are working hard -
putting in, on average 42 hours per week (compared to almost 45 hours
globally), with about one in ten working 51 hours or more routinely - few
employees actually share this view. Almost three-quarters of Canadians (73%)
reported they worked to support their lives and the needs of their families
(significantly higher than the 59% globally), versus 9% who agreed that work
is the most important aspect of their lives (while 18% of respondents globally
indicated work was most important).
"Canada ranks the ability to balance personal and professional life as
the number one most critical factor in employee retention, compared to it
ranking fifth globally," said Aselstine. "This implies it is critical for
Canadian employers to take an active role in helping the workforce achieve the
right combination of personal and professional satisfaction."
Encouragingly, 44% of Canadians agreed that their organization had
policies and programs to help them balance work and personal life
responsibilities; only 27% disagreed. Globally, 51% said their manager was
fair and consistent in enabling work/life flexibility. In Canada this
percentage was even higher, at 58%. Over half of Canadians (57%), however,
also noted they were sometimes or frequently frustrated by their own efforts
to balance work and personal life, suggesting that a disconnect remains in how
employers and employees perceive the "deal" and their respective
responsibilities in this area.
4) Workforce has Positive Outlook on the Company and Themselves
While comic strips and television shows make light of workforce
negativity and malaise, the Towers Perrin survey found that most workers are
satisfied, with a positive outlook about themselves and their organizations.
Some key points:
- Canadians are very optimistic about their opportunities for success
with almost three-quarters of the respondents (74%) confident they
would be successful, and 68% who are optimistic about their future.
This compares to 63% and 60% respectively from a global perspective.
- The majority of Canadian respondents (64%) indicated that work was
completely energizing or lifted their spirits somewhat.
- An overwhelming 86% of employees in Canada liked or loved their job,
79% liked or loved their company, and an overwhelming 81% liked or
loved their boss (compared to 73% globally).
At the same time, the research shows that employers are not fully
harnessing employees' confidence and energy. The study found a substantial
"engagement gap," with only 23% of the Canadian workforce fully engaged at
work and 32% disenchanted or disengaged, compared to globally with 21% and
38%, respectively. While the gap in Canada is somewhat smaller than globally,
it remains substantial enough to concern Canadian employers, particularly as
they focus on sustaining and enhancing performance in a more challenging
5) Manager Relationships are Important, but Company Practices have more
Finally, the study debunks a widely entrenched view that the first-line
manager is the single most important factor in employees' engagement and
performance. While a good relationship with one's direct manager remains very
important, the actions of senior leadership and overall workplace programs and
policies hold greater weight. Indeed, the organization itself is one of the
most powerful influences on employee engagement. Senior leadership's decisions
and visibility, along with learning and advancement opportunities, both ranked
higher than the direct manager relationship as a driver of higher employee
"We've found that a company's reputation and its senior leadership wield
enormous influence over employee attitudes," said Aselstine. "When these
factors combine with positive direct-manager relationships, organizations can
cultivate even more positive environments for their workforce - leading to
greater productivity, engagement and success."
About Towers Perrin
Towers Perrin is a global professional services firm that helps
organizations improve their performance through effective people, risk and
financial management. The firm provides innovative solutions in the areas of
human capital strategy, program design and management, and in the areas of
risk and capital management, reinsurance intermediary services and actuarial
consulting. Towers Perrin has offices and alliance partner locations in the
United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Latin America, South Africa, Australia
and New Zealand. More information about Towers Perrin is available at
For further information:
For further information: Heather Meehan, (416) 355-7426,