Health and finances weigh heavily on workers

July 5, 2023

For business owners, plan sponsors and administrators 

Health concerns

A panel of Manulife experts, including Cori Lawson-Roberts, AVP of Disability Innovation and Integrity and Marc-Antoine Morin, AVP Chief Product Owner – Member Engagement, presented to a group of clients recently. The topic for discussion was post-pandemic challenges to employee productivity. Their insights, based on 2 recent Manulife surveys, helped illuminate the driving factors behind these challenges, and how employers can better support their teams toward healthier outcomes for all.

According to The Wellness Report (TWR), the impact of health on productivity increases every year. On average, 48 working days per year per employee are lost due to health-related absence and presenteeism1. Mental health stressors such as burnout, financial insecurity, and loneliness are among the top driving factors of decreased productivity across Canadian workforces1. Manulife found that these stressors are significantly influenced by workplace culture. Therefore, employers play an important role in the psychological well-being of their employees1. Based on another recent survey2, Cori Lawson-Roberts noted that “leaders can have the same impact on the mental health of their employees as do their employees’ spouses or partners.”

Yet 69% of respondents reported being concerned about the psychological safety of their work environments2. Though occupational health and safety is legislated, psychological safety in the workplace is not. As a result, the responsibility of prioritizing employee mental health falls on an organization’s leaders.

Based on the findings of TWR, the organizations reporting higher employee productivity are taking similar steps toward creating healthier workplace cultures. Some of these steps include:

  • Eliminating meetings over lunch hours
  • Regular check-ins with employees: 38% of employees say they ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ talk to their manager about workload2
  • No after-hours correspondence
  • Allowing for more time off: the number one mental health risk factor is work/life balance1
  • Giving employees more autonomy
  • Implementing and maintaining wellness strategies

Financial concerns

But with record high inflation and rising interest rates, workers are bringing more of their own stress to the workplace. Seven out of ten respondents to Manulife’s Stress, finances, and well-being survey report that worrying about personal finances at work interferes with their productivity. “It is more and more difficult to leave your financial concerns at home,” says Marc-Antoine Morin. “Stress is no longer a personal issue; it is a business issue and has a real cost for employers.” Affecting the bottom line, financial stress could cost employers up to $1,786 per employee per year* in lost productivity3.

The good news? Manulife found that financial wellness programs offered by employers have positive impacts on workers’ stress and productivity - and workers are interested in participating. Employees are looking to their employers for help with forecasting retirement income, access to mental health management tools, and CPP/QPP recommendations, among other areas.3 “The more financially stressed the employee, the more interested they are in getting help from their employer,” says Morin.

To be more impactful, financial wellness programs should address the top drivers of workers’ financial well-being, including:

  • Working with a financial advisor
  • Having access to workplace financial wellness resources
  • Regularly reviewing and engaging with their retirement plan

Fostering a positive workplace culture involves leaders taking action to prioritize the things their employees worry about the most. “It’s not ‘enough’ to just provide health and wellness benefits to employees,” says Lawson-Roberts, “employers achieving improved results are talking the talk and walking the walk, too.”


*This is a hypothetical illustration used for informational purposes only, based on data from Manulife 2022 Stress, Finances, and Well-Being survey. This calculation is intended to provide general information about how much financial stress can cost a company every year. The calculation is based on missing 5.6 hours/year and 28.8 hours/year of lost productivity due to symptoms of financial stress with an assumed salary of $51.92/hour. Individual circumstances may vary; the example may not be reflective of your situation.



1.Manulife, The Wellness Report, 2022

2.Benefits Canada, 69% of employees say manager impacts mental health as much as spouse or partner: survey, 2023           

3.Manulife, Finances, Stress, and Well-being Survey, 2022

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