Canadians who work from home continue to "work" while sick

Canadians who work from home continue to “work” while sick

While many Canadians have returned to their normal jobs, a significant portion of us continues to call our home “the office.” At the same time, the leadership of public health authorities across the country has been the same for months: stay home when you are sick.

But the merger of home and office doesn’t mean Canadians take time off from work. The president of the Winnipeg Legacy Bowes group – a professional human resources and coaching company – says he sees one of the lowest absenteeism rates in two decades.

“When you work from home, I think people are more loyal to work,” says Barbara Bowes, “even when they’re sick, they’re still trying to work, and that has resulted in low absenteeism.” Bowes saw this earlier this year with a member of his team.


Also see: PwC makes WFH permanent for 40,000 employees


“I had one [staff member] at home for two weeks – severe allergies, that sort of thing. He wasn’t feeling well,” explains Bowes. “[When she came back] I asked ‘how long have you been working and she said 90% of the time.

“I said, ‘I thought you weren’t feeling well,’ and she said no, but she took a few breaks and kept working. I think that’s what happens to a lot of people.” At a time that is already stressful for Canadians, with health and financial problems, the most common lack of time affects employees.

“I think [now] there are a lot of mental health problems. People who care about their work, who care about their financial situation, put themselves at risk by continuing to work [when they are sick].”

A Royal Bank of Canada survey found that 62% of newly hired or laid-off workers rate their mental health as “good,” up from 66% in 2019.

In terms of financial health, the number is much lower: just 45% of respondents say their finances have been “excellent” or “good” since the start of the pandemic.

The survey also found that employers who offer insurance or other private or group benefits tend to have more employees with better attitudes.

Sixty-five percent of Canadians who work with coverage rate their mental health as “excellent” or “good,” compared to 55% of those without.

In financial terms, those numbers are 48 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

“What can you do about it? When you’re working remotely, it’s very difficult,” says Bowes.

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