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Excessive workloads driving mental, physical exhaustion among Canadians: TELUS Health

by Todd Humber
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More than four in 10 (42 per cent) Canadian workers are feeling mentally and physically exhausted at the end of their workdays, according to the latest TELUS Mental Health Index. And the primary cause of this burnout is excessive workloads, it found.

The data shows that workers in food services (58.1), utilities (59.5) and administrative support services (59.8) have the lowest scores on the index.

Higher point values are associated with better mental health and less mental health risk. Scores between 0 to 49 correspond with distress levels, scores between 50 to 79 correspond with strain levels and scores between 80 to 100 correspond with optimal levels of mental health.

The healthiest sectors on this front are mining (70), management of companies and enterprises (66.8), and manufacturing (65.9).

AI could ease burdens for some

Paula Allen, global leader of Research & Client Insights at TELUS Health, said artificial intelligence (AI) could help ease some of that strain — saying it is “potentially as pivotal as the industrial or Internet age.”

“Organizations have the opportunity to engage employees in this evolution by ensuring that AI tools and training are readily accessible to employees, and enabling them to explore the technology firsthand so they can discover the ways it benefits them in their own work,” she said. “As with any change, the best way to implement change is to engage people from the start, empowering them to grasp the possibilities and contribute valuable insights.”

Paula Allen, TELUS Health.

One-third think AI will be positive in their industry

The report also notes that 33 per cent of workers believe AI will positively impact their industry. This optimism is accompanied by a desire among some employees to enhance their skills related to AI.

Nearly one in five (17 per cent) of workers are considering upgrading their AI skills, with managers and younger workers showing twice the interest compared to non-managers and older workers. Additionally, parents are nearly twice as likely as non-parents to seek AI skills improvement, it found.

Dr. Matthew Chow, Chief Mental Health Officer at TELUS Health, addressed the issue of employee burnout, citing personal issues, excessive workloads, and a lack of recognition as primary contributors.

“Introducing AI tools thoughtfully and responsibly within organizations can assist employers in streamlining repetitive and low-value tasks,” said Dr. Chow. This, he suggested, could help reduce workloads and create opportunities for more meaningful and productive work.

Mental health index sub scores (Canadian workers)

Anxiety continues to score lowest on the index, with isolation and depression round out the top three.

Mental Health Index Sub-scoresApril 2024March 2024
Work productivity62.762.5
Financial risk66.867.8
Psychological health71.871.8
Source: TELUS Health

Lack of awareness around EAPs

Despite the availability of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) designed to support employees experiencing burnout, TELUS Health’s research indicates a gap in awareness. Two-in-five workers in Canada are not aware of what an EAP is. The mental health scores of workers unaware of or lacking access to an EAP are at least three points lower than those who have access to such programs.

In April 2024, the mental health scores across various regions were reported as follows:

RegionMental Health Score (April 2024)
United States71.0
United Kingdom64.6
New Zealand60.6
Source: TELUS Health

The TELUS Mental Health Index employs a response scoring system that translates individual responses into point values, with higher scores indicating better mental health. Scores between 0 to 49 signify distress levels, 50 to 79 indicate strain levels, and 80 to 100 reflect optimal mental health.

The June index also includes insights into workplace productivity and motivation.

Mental health scores by province

ProvinceApril 2024March 2024Change
Newfoundland and Labrador65.063.31.7
British Columbia64.563.90.6
The Maritimes62.165.2-3.1
Source: TELUS Health

Mental health scores by industry

IndustryApril 2024March 2024Change
Food Services58.161.7-3.6
Administrative and Support services59.857.72.1
Other services (except Public Administration)59.961.5-1.6
Health Care and Social Assistance62.261.90.3
Finance and Insurance64.465.5-1.1
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services68.268.10.1
Retail Trade63.662.61.0
Real Estate, Rental and Leasing63.967.4-3.5
Public Administration64.967.7-2.8
Media and Telecommunications63.161.51.6
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting66.565.21.3
Information and Cultural Industries63.257.95.3
Automotive Industry69.969.20.7
Arts, Entertainment and Recreation63.162.70.4
Wholesale Trade64.760.83.9
Educational Services65.165.2-0.1
Management of Companies and Enterprises66.871.8-5.0
Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction70.065.94.1
Source: TELUS Health

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