Workers' Mental Health and Stress Affecting Business Results in Canada

    Despite Illness, Many Employees Hesitant to Decrease Workload, Watson
    Wyatt Finds

    TORONTO, Dec. 14 /CNW/ - Despite their profound impact on workplace
productivity and business performance, mental health issues and increasing
stress levels are not being addressed by Canadian employers, according to new
research by Watson Wyatt, a leading global consulting firm.
    The 2007 Staying@Work Canada report found that mental health issues are
the leading cause of both long- and short-term disability claims (72 percent
and 82 percent respectively). Despite the prevalence of these claims, only 15
percent of responding companies conduct mental health risk assessments and
less than 20 percent say that addressing the stigma associated with mental
illness is a priority.
    "Lost productivity at work due to health-related matters can cost an
average Canadian organization up to $10 million each year. And much of that is
attributable to mental health and stress," says Joseph Ricciuti, Canadian
health care practice leader at Watson Wyatt. "Unless organizations and society
in general start doing a better job addressing the major causes of time away
from work, these hidden costs will only get worse."
    Mental health issues and stress can also lead to presenteeism (i.e.
employees on the job but not fully productive for physical or mental reasons)
at many organizations. Only roughly three of four employees say they have the
physical or mental energy to do their jobs most of the time. This means nearly
one-quarter of workers are not as productive as they could be. When they are
ill, 85 percent of Canadian employees stay home. However, according to Watson
Wyatt's 2007 WorkCanada(TM) study, 44 percent cut back on their workload.
    Employees, meanwhile, recognize the importance of stress and work/life
balance, citing them as the two most common reasons they leave an
organization. Yet the 2007/2008 Watson Wyatt Global Strategic Rewards Report
found that Canadian employers rank stress as only the fifth most-common reason
for employee departures. They rank base pay as the top reason; work/life
balance fails to make their top-five list.
    "Keeping employees engaged and working to their full potential can be a
real competitive advantage for any organization," said Liz Wright, Toronto
compensation practice leader, at Watson Wyatt. "Longer-term approaches that
target mental health and stress are key to managing retention and performance.
They can also help organizations successfully navigate through labour market
challenges while sustaining business growth."

    Additional Strategic Rewards Canadian Highlights:

    -   Employers are facing increased challenges attracting top-performers
        and employees with critical skills: Two-thirds (68%) of employers
        report having moderate to great difficulty attracting employees with
        critical skills (up from 40 per cent in 2005) and 60 per cent confirm
        difficulty attracting top-performing employees (up from 53 per cent
        in 2005).

    -   Employers are continuing to raise the bar on employee performance:
        About one third of employers surveyed expect both the company
        financial performance (36%) and individual performance (33%) targets
        related to their short-term incentive/bonus programs to increase over
        the next 12 months.

    About the Studies

    The 2007 Watson Wyatt Staying@Work Canada survey reviews employer
programs and reports on the health and well-being of responding organizations.
The survey is based on responses from 78 Canadian organizations.
    The 2007 WorkCanada survey asked more than 3,000 Canadian employees
across all job levels and industries about their attitudes toward the
workplace and their employers. Results are considered accurate to within
+/- 1.74 per cent and can be generalized across the Canadian workforce.
    The 2007/2008 Watson Wyatt Global Strategic Rewards Report is based on
responses from 93 Canadian organizations and the employee survey, which was
run in conjunction with the employer survey, included more than
1,000 participants in Canada.

    About Watson Wyatt Worldwide

    Watson Wyatt (NYSE, NASDAQ:  WW) is the trusted business partner to the
world's leading organizations on people and financial issues. The firm's
global services include: managing the cost and effectiveness of employee
benefit programs; developing attraction, retention and reward strategies;
advising pension plan sponsors and other institutions on optimal investment
strategies; providing strategic and financial advice to insurance and
financial services companies; and delivering related technology, outsourcing
and data services. Watson Wyatt has 7,000 associates in 31 countries. In
Western Canada, the firm serves clients from Vancouver and Calgary; in Central
Canada from Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo; and in Eastern Canada from
Montreal. For more information, visit

For further information:

For further information: Gal Wilder, Lynn Bisnaire, Cohn & Wolfe, (416)

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