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What’s Next for Our Workplaces: 8 Things We Learned in 2022 About Health and Productivity

accommodation disability management diversity/equity/inclusion mental health news and events psychological safety return to work wellness Feb 06, 2023
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After another turbulent year, the landscape of health and disability and management has shifted once again. Though we seem to have emerged from the pandemic, employees continue to experience lasting health concerns. Organizations have been challenged to adapt to the changing wants and needs of the workforce while maintaining growth and productivity. With the insights we’ve gained, we now have an opportunity to re-prioritize our focus in 2023 on the issues that affect workplaces most. Here are the trends we’ve seen over the past year and what we can do to support employee health and productivity moving forward.


 1. Workplace absences have increased (and it’s not necessarily a bad thing).

In 2022, the average absence per full-time employee was 12.2 days, up from 11.1 in 20211. We all want to keep our employees at work and keep absenteeism rates low. Rising absence rates due to illness and disability could signal an automatic cause for concern.

Presenteeism has been a cause for concern for a while now, with many employees having been conditioned to embrace a “work through it” mentality when it comes to their health. Many employees without sick benefits stayed at work without taking the proper time away to recover, and their health and performance suffered it. Similarly, those who previously lacked flexibility to balance work and home responsibilities attempted to juggle both, to the detriment of their mental health and/or the company’s bottom line.

However, what we may be seeing is an acceptance that employees need workplace flexibility and increased recovery time from sickness. Businesses should continue providing improved resources for employee flexibility and wellness to retain valuable employees. We know that work is healthy when employees have the right type of support to succeed in their workplaces, whether that’s accommodations to stay at work or reactivation programs to help employees return to work as soon as possible.


2. The pandemic has affected us on a fundamental level.

The world has changed drastically since 2019, and we’ve changed too. Even as government restrictions were lifted, businesses saw their teams socially withdraw. Some employees lacked the desire to engage while others lacked the skill to be social in face-to-face interactions they hadn’t been exposed to in so long. Though we didn’t know the success of our efforts during the pandemic, we knew where to put our focus in this time of turbulence: get employees set up working from home, respond to COVID guidelines and restrictions, and keep the business afloat. Now, even our uncertainties are uncertain. Hybrid work, workplace wellness, employee benefits, mental health, quiet quitting, an aging workforce, early retirements, and inflation are all uncertain elements of the working world we now live in.

With the changes and lack of recovery between the stressors of the past few years, it’s not hard to imagine how teams are burnt out. Organizations can look to workplace wellness consultations from workplace experts and psychological health and safety programs to provide employees training to manage their mental health needs. Success Coaching is another strategy that can lead to retention of valuable staff.


3. Mental health hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels – and won’t for the foreseeable future.

We are all aware of the mental health toll the pandemic had on us. What may be surprising to some, or not so surprising at all, is that the overall mental health risk in Canada remains incredibly high with little sign of improvement. According to Lifeworks Mental Health Index, 14% of Canadians were at a high mental health risk pre-pandemic2. More than two years later, in December 2022, 32% of Canadians were at high risk. Isolation and anxiety are the lowest mental health sub-scores and continue to be strained.

With the mental health of so many Canadians on the line, managers need to continue providing increased mental health supports. This includes employee training programs, counselling and mental health benefits, better leveraging of EAP programs, expanding their list of healthcare providers, and offering virtual care for employees and their family members.


4. Hybrid work is the way of the future, but it comes with risks.

Hybrid workplaces create that flexibility factor that so many employees are asking for, but home workstations create a new risk factor for ergonomic concerns. We’ve seen that employees working from home who haven’t received the proper equipment to work safely have started to reap the repercussions. Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are extremely common yet highly preventable with the right training and education. It is the employer’s obligation to ensure that employees are aware of the injury risk factors of work and to provide ergonomic intervention should it be needed.

Hybrid work has also introduced mental health concerns. Keeping teams connected, guiding employees through the change management process, and setting clear policies and examples about boundaries remains one of the biggest challenges of our shift to virtual work.


5. New employment insurance benefits allow sick employees to stay off work longer, but returning to work may be more difficult.

On December 18, 2022, Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits were extended permanently from 15 weeks to 26 weeks3. New EI benefits mean that employees with chronic conditions can get more support in managing their health. However, keeping employees connected to the workplace and getting back to work quickly is more important than ever.

Now is a great time to review your accommodation and stay at work policies to keep employees at work. When employees do need to go off work, Occupational Therapy reactivation and return to work programs can engage employees in behavioural activation, psychotherapy, coping skills, and functional skill building. Once a return to work plan is in place, coordinating a facilitation meeting between stakeholders can help improve communication and implementation of accommodation supports to help the employee reintegrate smoothly.


6. Long-COVID is affecting employees’ ability to function at work.

Long-COVID is a condition we are still struggling to understand, but it is very much a concern in the lives of many employees. According to the Canadian COVID-19 Antibody and Health Survey (CCAHS) of August 2022, 14.8% of Canadian adults reported having COVID-19 symptoms after three months of a positive or suspected test4. While this condition impacts everyone differently, 21.3% report that their symptoms “often or always” limit their daily activity.

With work being such a large part of an individual’s life, it’s not hard to see how this condition impacts the ability to function in the workplace. Employers can support employees by providing accommodations, allowing employees the time off work they need to recover, and developing effective return to work plans that get the employee back to work as soon as possible.


7. Reduced accessibility to healthcare means that the sick are getting sicker.

Coming out of the pandemic, we continue to see delays for healthcare treatment. In the 2022 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey, 51% of plan members agreed that the pandemic postponed medical treatments or tests for themselves or their family, increasing to 64% for those with high stress and 57% for those with chronic conditions8.

Health care professionals are feeling burnt out, and many are leaving the profession or taking extended leave due to health concerns. Nurses nearly double the average national burnout rate at 66%, with those in health and patient care (53%) and mental health professionals (61%) not far behind5.

One of the results of this national healthcare crisis is that individuals with chronic conditions continue to experience long waits for medical appointments and proper treatment. This has made a significant impact on the accommodation process of obtaining medical information so employers can provide appropriate support. Employers should focus on what temporary accommodations can be provided so employees can stay at work while waiting for the health care they need.


8. The employment rate for individuals with disabilities has risen, but we still have a lot of work to do to improve disability inclusion.

In the past few years, the job opportunities for individuals with disabilities has increased. Previously, many employers thought it unreasonable to accommodate working from home, but now that door has swung wide open. Employers should continue to provide accommodations and consider the impact remote work and flexibility has on employees with disabilities.

Only 57% of employees who are visible minorities feel that their workplace is inclusive of persons with diverse backgrounds and points of views6. Taking training programs, such as Inclusive Leader Training, can help leadership teams gain the valuable inclusivity skills to support their employees. Contact us to learn more about our upcoming training opportunities or to develop a customized program for your organization.



[1] Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. (2023, January 6). Work absence of full-time employees, annual. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from

[2] TELUS Health (formerly LifeWorks). (2022, December). The Mental Health Index by Lifeworks. Mental Health Index. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from

[3] Levy, R. B. (2022, December 8). Canada's employment insurance sickness benefits to be extended from 15 to 26 weeks and federal medical leave from 15 to 27 weeks - employee benefits & compensation - canada. Mondaq. Canada's Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits To Be Extended From 15 To 26 Weeks And Federal Medical Leave From 15 To 27 Weeks - Employee Benefits & Compensation - Canada. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from

[4] Government of Canada, S. C. (2022, October 20). Long-term symptoms in Canadian adults who tested positive for covid-19 or suspected an infection, January 2020 to August 2022. The Daily - . Retrieved February 6, 2023, from

[5] Canada Life. New research shows more than a third of all Canadians reporting burnout. Canada Life. (2023, January 19). Retrieved February 6, 2023, from

[6] Mental Health Research Canada. Psychological health and safety in Canadian workplaces. Mental Health Research Canada. (2021, December). Retrieved February 6, 2023, from