With Canada in the grip of a third wave of COVID-19 infections, 59% of Canadian workers now having to work from home and the rest stuck in frontline roles for more than a year, it is hard to imagine how workers could be thriving.  However, a new survey of just over 1,000 workers representative of the Canadian working population conducted by The Wellbeing Lab and the Canadian Positive Psychology Association, has revealed that 49.5% of Canadian workers are showing surprising levels of resilience.

“It has been our experience, after working with hundreds of organizations across the country, that many Canadian employers are engaged in discussions regarding the management and reduction of mental illness,” explained Louisa Jewel, president of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association. “However, more enlightened employers are not simply creating workplaces that are not harmful to workers’ physical and mental health, but more positively, creating workplaces that allow people to flourish.”

While only 26.9% of workers reported that their workplaces consistently supported their wellbeing through workplace wellbeing programs, these workers were significantly more likely to report higher levels of thriving – even in the face of struggle – and higher levels of worker performance, commitment and job satisfaction. 

“Employers who engage in wellbeing programs achieve better business results,” noted Ms Jewel.  So why isn’t every organization embracing a flourishing strategy? The answer is most organizations do not know how to do it.

The good news for Canadian workplaces is just over eight out of every ten workers (83.6%) indicated that they would like to learn more about caring for their wellbeing at work.  However, when asked what form of workplace wellbeing support they would value most, workers also struggled to know where to start, with the majority (34.6%) reporting “nothing”.  This may suggest Canadian workers either don’t see their organizations as the place to learn these skills or just can’t imagine what wellbeing support their workplaces might be able to offer them.

The data gathered, however, clearly shows that there were a number of factors that made it more likely Canadian workers were able to thrive, even during these difficult times.   These included:

  • The permission to embrace struggle – 72.1% of Canadian workers reported that their levels of struggle had increased in 2021 – with mental health being the biggest cause of struggle.  Despite this, 8.7% of Canadian workers reported that they were consistently thriving, and the majority (49.5%) reported that they were living well, despite struggles.  Rather than seeing struggle as a sign that they were breaking, these workers were drawing on their relationships, sense of meaning and opportunities for accomplishment, to turn these challenges into opportunities for connection and growth.
  • Building wellbeing skills together – People who were consistently thriving and those living well, despite struggles reported higher levels of wellbeing ability (the knowledge, tools and opportunities to care for their wellbeing), wellbeing motivation (their commitment to care for wellbeing) and psychological safety (having people they can talk to about their wellbeing highs and lows without judgement).  It is worth noting however, that only 25.5% of Canadian workers said they felt it was safe to share their struggles with others at work.  And despite the data finding that bosses or colleagues are the most effective people to seek help from when it comes to improving our wellbeing ability, motivation and psychological safety, workers felt much safer talking to friends and family or no-one.
  • The important role of leaders Workers who reported that their leader often expressed care, compassion and appreciation for them, were significantly more likely to report higher levels of wellbeing and performance than those whose leaders rarely or only sometimes expressed this support.  The good news for leaders is that those who often invested in these simple acts were also statistically more likely to report higher levels of wellbeing and performance as well, making this a win-win opportunity.

To see how else you can support the wellbeing of workers, download your free full copy of The Wellbeing Lab 2021 Canadian Workplace Survey.