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04/30/2021

Canadian workers feel they’ve been treated fairly during pandemic, but there are concerns: KPMG

Nearly half of full-time employees have seen their workload increase, and nearly one-third say they’re overworked
Shutterstock/fizkes

The vast majority of Canadian workers believe their employer has treated them fairly during the pandemic, yet there are significant concerns around work-life balance, combined with worries about COVID-19 exposure and a heavier-than-normal workload, says a new study from KPMG Canada.

While the online survey of 1,012 full-time Canadian workers aged 18+ doesn’t break out its findings by industry sector, it does present a snapshot of the Canadian workforce at a unique moment in time.

Nearly two-thirds of employees (59%) said they have a greater sense of purpose than they did prior to the pandemic, and 80% believe they have been treated fairly. However, there are some underlying issues—with nearly half (49%) of respondents saying their workload has increased during the pandemic, and nearly one-third saying they’re so overworked they’re either on the verge of burnout or are burned out.

While nearly one-fifth of employees (18%) described the first few month of the pandemic as “rocky,” they noted that their employer pivoted and made “positive adjustments” as time went on.

“I would say it’s optimistic, but with caution,” said Katie Bolla, partner, management consulting, GTA consumer and retail industry lead with KPMG in Canada, of the study’s findings. “[Employers] have been recognized for trying, and [in order to] continue to be acknowledged for trying, they need to see some of those warnings signs.”

Canadian workers generally feel they’re making a difference during a wholly unique moment in time, but the onus is on employers to support staff in ways that “support and unite” them, said Emily Brine, managing director, firm management, talent and culture, with KPMG.

Bolla said the findings do contain some positive signals for employers who may be concerned about retaining employees, but said they also suggest a need to continue providing assistance wherever possible. “I don’t think we can turn a blind eye to some of the stats around mental health and burnout, so continuing to provide the programs, the assistance and support to colleagues [is important],” she said.

More than one-third (36%) of respondents feel their employer better recognizes their contribution to the organization, though 36% also say they are not getting the same opportunities to develop or showcase their skills, and 38% feel their skills and experience are not being fully utilized, a number that jumped to 42% among men.

The retail sector is unique among Canadian workplaces since so many employees have remained on the frontlines for the duration of the pandemic, said Bolla. She pointed to prior KPMG research which found that non-monetary recognition for employees—whether it was customers or managers acknowledging their effort during trying times—was deemed as important as monetary recognition like pandemic pay.

Similarly, employees also responded favourably to having a good manager who was able to successfully navigate challenges relating to the pandemic, such as managing schedules. “A strong manager was seen as a great relief,” said Bolla.