Proactive management is the answer to stressed-out employees, report says

    TORONTO, Feb. 24 /CNW/ - The current economic downturn can severely
impact workplace productivity unless organizations help employees deal with
the added stress. This is according to a new report by Shepell-fgi, which
examined employee use of Employee Assistance Programs as they relate to
financial issues over the past two years.
    According to the report, the number of accesses for financial counselling
and consultation are rising at a rate twice that of all other EAP services. In
the second half of 2008, there was a 13% higher rate of access for financial
issues than in the second half of 2007, which indicates that employees are
increasingly using EAPs for support and guidance. The report, called Financial
Distress Impacts Health and Productivity, was conducted by the Shepell-fgi
Research Group.
    The report said that, in 2008, the top five financial issues for
employees were: Debt/Credit - 37.6%, Financial Planning - 15.2%,
Divorce/Finances - 8.7%, Financial Stress - 5.5%, and Bankruptcy - 5.2%.
Shepell-fgi data show significant increases in all five of these areas when
compared to 2007. According to the report, in 2008, there was a:

    -   30.3% increase in cases related to collections issues,
    -   20.3 % increase in creditor problems,
    -   24.4% increase in bankruptcy issues, and,
    -   41% increase for financial counselling related to divorce.

    "In troubled economic times, employers must understand what is causing
the decline in productivity and driving ever-increasing costs, so they can get
ahead of things," said Rod Phillips, President and CEO of Shepell-fgi.
"Organizations need to focus on preventing the impact of serious financial
stress, engaging their employees, and helping employees stay healthy and
    Phillips said that employee accesses of EAPs for financial counselling
and consultation - as measured by call volumes - were up significantly in the
last quarter of 2008, and in January of 2009. He said employers can lessen the
impact of lost productivity, and prevent disability claims due to stress and
conflict in the workplace, by promoting their EAP services and making sure
managers have access to the right tools and support.
    Other key findings of the report are that: almost twice as many women as
men are accessing EAPs for financial issues (65% vs. 35%); and, employees
living in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, and Quebec are accessing
EAPs for financial issues at a higher rate than the rest of Canada.
    "Based on these data, from our vantage point as an EAP provider, there is
cause for concern about the impact of the economic downturn on employees and
on their organizations," said Karen Seward, Senior Vice President of Business
Development and Marketing, Shepell-fgi. "What can employers do about it? They
need an integrated, long-term approach to employee health and productivity."

    Seward said organizations should do the following:

    1.  Focus on preventing serious financial stress by helping employees
        better understand and cope with the economic downturn, in order to
        lessen its impact. Workplace-based, financial education programs have
        proven to be effective.

    2.  Within the organization, actively promote your EAP's proactive,
        financial counselling and consultation services.

    3.  Engage your employees by creating a quality work environment. This
        involves a high level of communication, employee participation in
        decision-making, and management/supervisory styles which support
        employees and are based on trust, respect, and fairness.

    4.  Understand the very real connection between healthy, productive
        employees and lower costs for disability and absenteeism.

    "During economic downturns, there is an increase in disability rates,"
says Paula Allen, Vice President, Health Solutions & Research Group,
Shepell-fgi. "Research shows that workers in financial stress are absent from
work more frequently, receive poor performance ratings from their supervisors,
spend excessive time at work dealing with their financial problems, and
experience a decline in job productivity.
    "Clearly, the answer is to foster an atmosphere of good financial
wellness and worker productivity."

    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 services over eight million employees and their families
across Canada, the United States, and internationally. Shepell-fgi helps
organizations maintain healthy employees and healthy workplaces. The
Shepell-fgi Research group, a division of Shepell-fgi, has a mandate to
educate employers and business leaders on physical, mental and social health
issues as these factors impact employees, their families, and their
workplaces. The Shepell-fgi Research Group offers a precise understanding of
health and wellness trends by conducting sector and issue-based analysis.
Since 2004, the Shepell-fgi research group has published thirteen issues-based
reports and seven sector-based reports.

For further information:

For further information: or for a full version of the report, please
contact: Jerry Amernic, Phone: (416) 284-0838, Email:;
Jennifer Watson, Director, Product and Market Development, Shepell-fgi, Phone:
(416) 355-5411, Email:

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