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How employers can support stressed, burned-out employees

Posted by Medavie Blue Cross on June 7, 2022

How employers can support stressed, burned-out employees

Posted by Medavie Blue Cross on June 7, 2022

We’re living in what is known as a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. This has affected the psychological, emotional and social wellbeing of employees, as confirmed by early findings of a five-year study by the Observatoire sur la santé et le mieux-être au travail (OSMET). The study included 90 Canadian workplaces and their employees and ran from April of 2019 to April of 2022. It showed that over 1 in 3 working Canadians are experiencing some form of mental distress.

We assembled a panel of leading experts for our recent “Healthy Minds at Work” webinar to give plan advisors and sponsors insights into the mental health trends this study revealed — and to offer targeted solutions. *

Study findings

The study, supported by Medavie Blue Cross, found that women and young people in the workplace have been disproportionably impacted by the pandemic.

  • Pre-pandemic 38.9% of women were experiencing psychological distress. This rose to 44.8% during the pandemic. In comparison, the percentage of men experiencing psychological distress stayed constant at around 34%.
  • The study found that employees aged 50 and up experience mental health problems less frequently than younger employees (18-34 years). Half (50%) of the younger demographic reported psychological distress in the second year of the study, compared to 34.5% of employees 50 years and older.
  • Older employees are more likely to be prescribed medications to treat their condition (23.6%) than their younger colleagues (19%), though the level of burnout among young employees was lower than that of all other age groups.

Contributing factors

“Job design, with supervisory support, was the most important work factor to prevent psychological distress and burnout.” Pierre Durand, Director, OSMET, Professor, University of Montreal
  • The incidence of psychological distress and burnout was higher among employees who had psychological demands or interpersonal conflict at work, experienced harassment or faced job insecurity.
  • Rates of psychological distress and burnout fell among employees who had decision-making authority, received recognition at work and felt their skills were being well used.
  • Other contributing factors were chronic illness, cannabis use, age and psychological capital (an individual's positive psychological state of development).

Barriers to care

“As a society, we have made some major strides. But if I compare society to the workplace, the workplace is lagging. Stigma is still a major barrier to why people won’t go and seek help. They don’t want to lose their job. They don’t want to be judged by their peers.” Martin Binette, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Relief

Research conducted by Relief, mental health support organization led by panellist Martin Binette, found that 52% of Canadians in the workplace were experiencing stress and depression. Yet, 50% of those surveyed would not discuss their mental health with their employer.

Employer best practices

The panelists suggested employers follow these best practices to help employees build mental resilience:

  • Make mental health resources readily accessible through your health benefits and total compensation packages
  • Remind employees of the resources they have available to them — and often
  • Demonstrate flexibility and openness when it comes to employee mental health
  • Make a pledge stating your organization’s commitment to create a safe space and stigma-free environment
  • Foster a supportive culture where employees are comfortable discussing their mental health
  • Survey employees to understand their needs
  • Evaluate your plan to determine if there are gaps in mental health coverage
  • If so, fill these gaps with solutions that put resources within easy reach to employees
  • Equip managers to have conversations with employees about their mental health
  • Ensure employees have a strong support network to deal with their challenges

Smart solutions

Medavie Blue Cross has always made mental wellbeing a top priority. We have a comprehensive offering of mental health services and supports to help employers build psychologically safe and healthy workplaces.

Internet-enabled Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) program: Our iCBT program lets plan members access treatment for mild to moderate anxiety or depression through our Connected Care digital health storefront. Digital and live therapy options are available, with virtual counselling proven to be as effective as in-person.

Pharmacogenetic testing: This tool in personalized medicine predetermines the safest and most effective drug therapies and dosages based on the plan member’s unique genetic profile. The predictive insights of pharmacogenetic testing can help physicians identify the proper medications at the right doses for their patients for optimal health outcomes.

Employee and Family Assistance Program: Our comprehensive Employee and Family Assistance program, inConfidence, offers confidential counselling and education to deal with a wide range of work-life challenges. Members can call a toll-free number or go online to receive expert support from a certified counsellor.

Mindfulness app: Members can access mindfulness training programs and guided meditations from a global network of experts from their mobile device or computer. Available through our Connected Care digital health platform, this timely solution enables self-care, builds resilience and promotes ongoing mental health support.

Connect with your Medavie Blue Cross representative to learn more about our offerings and about adding options to your plan.

Watch a recording of our Healthy Minds at Work webinar to gain more insights into these health trends and the tools to address them.


*The event was hosted in English on May 13 by MBC sales leaders Alaina MacKenzie, Regional Vice President, Business Development in Ontario, and Ariane Pitavy, Group Insurance Advisor, Quebec, in French on May 19. In addition to Martin Binette and Pierre Durand, panellists were Alain Marchand, also a professor at the University of Montreal and OSMET director, Rebecca Smith Director, Life and Disability Services, MBC, and Jonathan Galarneau, Manager, Life and Disability Insurance Management, MBC.