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Hey, were (finally) happier

How happy are Canadians in the workforce? Satisfaction is on the rise

ON MORE THAN one occasion over the past couple of years we’ve written about Canadian employee wellbeing, which generally struggled throughout the pandemic. It’s something we’ve seen reflected in a number of surveys and polls, which have consistently shown a Canadian workforce feeling checked out, overworked and unhappy at work.


But there was a slight glimmer of hope in the latest ADP Canada Happiness@Work Index, released last week, which showed “an increase in happiness levels across generations and regions.”


Emphasis on “glimmer” here: the score only went up by around 0.1 points, from a 6.6/10 to a 6.7/10. It’s not much, but it’s something, said ADP’s team.


“The increase in the overall happiness of workers in Canada, paired with greater satisfaction with work-life balance and flexibility in July affords the statement that workers are happier in the summer as it is also usually a time where many take a well-deserved break,” said ADP Canada’s Heather Haslam.


YMCA WorkWell, a study from YMCA of Three Rivers (it serves the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge region), has been gathering its own data and found a similar uptick in the national mood. The survey found that employee burnout has relaxed to its lowest level since fall 2021, with only one in three reporting feelings of burnout. It also found that the number of happy employees has gone up, and unhappy employees have gone down. Only 36 per cent of workers reported unhealthy workplace happiness scores ― down from 45 in the same time period last year.


“The biggest glimmer of hope is that for the first time since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen the percentage of healthy employees in our community increase and the percentage of unhealthy employees decrease,” said Dave Whiteside in the Waterloo Region Record. “Collecting this data through the pandemic has been disheartening, so it is a welcome change to see some small steps in the right direction for the first time.”


“For the first time in a long time, it feels like the employee wellbeing space has momentum,” concludes the YMCA report. “It feels as though many leaders are starting to understand the importance of happy and healthy employees and teams.” Kieran Delamont


More than just ink

The future of tattoos in the workplace is brighter than ever

BACK IN THE day, one of the most important things to think about when getting a tattoo was whether you’d be able to completely cover it up ― that is, hide it ― for things like job interviews, business meetings or even just for showing up at the office.


But the tide has been changing quickly on that front, research has shown. The tattoo taboo has been fading quickly, especially as elder millennials come to occupy leadership positions in some workplaces.


A study by Michael French at the University of Miami found that tattooed job applicants were getting jobs just as easily as non-tattooed applicants, and that among some demographics, having a tattoo seemed to be positively correlated with having a job.


“We went in expecting to find a negative relationship between tattoos and success in the labour market,” French told the Harvard Business Review. Instead, they found that the opposite appeared true. “We even saw two small positive correlations: Men who had tattoos were seven per cent more likely to be employed than men who didn’t have them, and both men and women with tattoos worked more hours per week.”


Those stats seem to reflect a more common reality. A recent Financial Times article contacted some of the most historically conservative employers out there ― banks and law firms ― and asked about their tattoo policy; none had any tattoo policies anymore. “Tattoos are definitely not prohibited,” one 134-year-old law firm said.


In fact, the tide may be turning so much that a tattoo confers some advantages. A 2022 University of Houston study found that “employers in white-collar jobs that involve artistic or creative skills may find that hiring tattooed employees gives them a competitive advantage,” because “customers viewed tattooed employees more favorably and competent than non-tattooed employees.”


We’re talking correlation here, of course, not causation ― you won’t likely boost your salary by getting inked up. Those who might do well to take notice, though, are those in hiring who might still be quietly scanning an applicant for their tattoos as they head into a job interview, if only because, as French put it, “If you are discriminating in the labour market against those with tattoos, you’re going to be left with a pretty small labour pool.” Kieran Delamont

Terry Talks: The case for naps in the workplace

Napping on the job used to be a great way to get fired, but some companies are beginning to break the stigma around getting in a few zzz’s while at work – and they’re reaping the benefits of doing so. Learn why napping on the job can help you and your employees and how to incorporate napping into your company culture. 



More for four

No Canadian companies involved in a shortened workweek trial intend to go back to a five-day week

IF YOU WERE looking for more positive signs of improved workplace wellbeing, workers might find it in the latest batch of data from the 4 Day Week Global pilot project, which found that the four-day week has proven pretty successful here in Canada and the United States.


The findings more or less echo what’s been seen in results elsewhere in the world where 4 Day Week Global has been running pilots: increased happiness, better work-life balance and only negligible changes to productivity.


“The overall experience with the four-day week remained highly positive,” the report found. “Revenue increased by 15 per cent over the course of the trial, weighted in accordance with company size. Employees seriously considering leaving their jobs fell significantly, with 32 per cent saying they were now less likely to leave.”


So successful, in fact, that none of the Canadian companies trialed plan on going back to a five-day week. One of the Canadian companies participating was Sensei Labs, whose chief experience officer Tara Vanderloo told BNN Bloomberg that the company was “excited to keep the four-day week in place beyond the pilot, and our teams remain deeply committed to the practice and preserving our productivity metrics.”


What will be interesting to watch is what happens next with the four-day week. This is probably the fifth or sixth significant batch of data showing support for, and success with, the four-day workweek. It remains a small ― albeit high-profile ― pilot project, but some workplace experts in Canada are cheering the results, saying it shows how significant a boost it could be.


“The evidence is in ― shorter working weeks lead to happier and healthier employees, and the organizations that they work for are better positioned to attract and retain talent,” said Joe O'Connor of the Toronto-based Work Time Reduction Center of Excellence. “There's a real and significant opportunity for ambitious, imaginative leaders to be at the forefront of this change and differentiate themselves from the competition.” Kieran Delamont

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The great performance review rethink

Why experts are urging an overhaul for the annual performance review

IT COMES AROUND once a year for many corporate employees: the dreaded annual performance review. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving side of it, it can cause a lot of stress and anxiety in the workplace.


“The traditional review focuses on the past rather than the future, which can actively demotivate employees,” writes Elise Paulsen of Quantum Workplace. “While it’s important to hold your talent accountable for their outcomes ― good or bad ― it’s often difficult for employees to remember the full details of the past 12 months.”


Much to the delight of employees and managers, more firms are starting to do away with the once-a-year model of performance review in favour of an approach thought of as ongoing performance management, where the formal review process is spread out across the year, be it weekly or monthly meetings between management and employees.


“Performance reviews still occur as part of performance management,” writes Robert Half. “But these meetings are more frequent, usually more informal, and designed to focus on the progress an employee has made toward set goals.”


At Toronto digital agency Art & Science, ditching the annual review was a key part of reimagining how they work with their employees and track performance, writes Sarah Laing in Canadian Business. The firm worked with workplace consultant Amanda Hudson to design a system that had more ongoing check-ins and replaced the annual performance review with a “milestone meeting” – an annual meeting where things like raises or promotions are discussed, but which take some of the pressure of performance review away.


It worked for both the employees and the managers, and the milestone meetings became more reflective, open sessions than stressful report cards. The strategy bore fruit in the form of a 50 per cent improvement in employee turnover.


“What I love about milestone meetings is that both the employee and the manager are presented with a set of questions, so there’s an aspect of reflection,” the firm’s head, Spencer Saunders, told Canadian Business. “Even when people leave the firm, they will thank us for the time and effort in how they were managed while they were here.” Kieran Delamont


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