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Canadian workers exhausted but more loyal & have a greater sense of purpose 13 months into pandemic

80 per cent feel they've been treated fairly, although heavy workload, isolation and COVID-19 exposure are among biggest challenges, finds a new KPMG in Canada survey


Amid the elevated anxiety, stress, and exhaustion during COVID-19, the pandemic has also resulted in improved loyalty to employers and a stronger sense of purpose in the workforce, finds a new poll by KPMG in Canada. The biggest workplace challenges, say full-time Canadian employees, include work/life balance, isolation, COVID-19 exposure, and a heavy workload.



Four in five (80 per cent) say their employer has treated them fairly during the pandemic, of which 18 per cent described the first few months of the pandemic as "rocky" but their employer pivoted, making "positive adjustments along the way." But, nearly half say their workload is heavier than it was pre-pandemic.


"Our poll findings reveal that while many Canadians are feeling the weight of a heavy workload, they also feel they are making a difference during this extended and exceptionally challenging time," says Emily Brine, Managing Director, Firm Management, Talent and Culture, KPMG in Canada. "Employees have really stepped up and made sacrifices to keep us safe, provide us needed goods and services, and help keep our communities and economy going. But, with stress levels intensifying during this third wave, the onus is on employers to continue supporting their workers in ways that both unite and inspire them."


Key Findings:

  • Nearly half (49 per cent) of full-time employees in Canada say their workload is "much or somewhat more" today than pre-pandemic

  • 36 per cent say their workload is about the same, and only 15 per cent say they have less or much less work today

  • 31 per cent say they're so overworked that they're on the verge of burnout, or are burnt out

  • Nearly three in five (59 per cent) find more purpose in their jobs today, saying they feel more motivated and engaged, and that they are making more of an impact compared to before the pandemic

  • 80 per cent say their employer has treated them fairly since the pandemic started, including 18 per cent who said that although first few months of the pandemic were "rocky", their employer "made positive adjustments along the way."

  • 29 per cent are more committed or loyal to their employer than they were pre-pandemic; 18 per cent were either less committed or actively seeking other employment, while commitment/loyalty of the remaining 53 per cent had not changed.

  • 62 per cent say the pandemic has proven that they can work independently



Today's Biggest Working Challenges Our poll research finds that the biggest working challenges Canadians face include: work-life balance, isolation, COVID-19 exposure, and a heavy workload. Job uncertainty for full-time employees was the least of their concerns. Nearly a third (31 per cent) feel so overworked they are nearing burn out or are burnt out.

"There's no question that adapting to the work-from-home world has been a struggle, with over a quarter of Canadians saying it's been their biggest challenge during the pandemic," says Doron Melnick, KPMG's National Leader, People and Change Management. "Whether you've been working from home for the past 13 months juggling family life with work, or working in isolation with minimal social interaction, or having to go to work because you're an essential worker and putting in extra shifts or risking exposure to COVID, stress levels are up."


Other Poll Findings:

  • 36 per cent feel that their employer better recognizes their contribution to the organization compared to before the pandemic

  • 36 per cent say they are not getting the same opportunities to develop or showcase their skills/talent today

  • This jumps to 43 per cent for the 35-44 age group

  • 38 per cent feel that their skills and experience are not being fully utilized today compared to before the pandemic

  • More men (42 per cent) than women (34 per cent) feel this way

  • 40 per cent of those aged 25-34 and 43 per cent of those aged 35-44 also feel underutilized

"For salaried workforces, many employers offer benefits such as paid-time off policies, a degree of flexible flexibility in working schedules, parental or elder care leave, or more mental or health care services and well-being accounts," says Mr. Melnick. "This is commendable. But many employees do not take advantage of these benefits. Further, more than a third of respondents indicated that they are not being utilized and developed as well as they were before the pandemic.

"So, it's a good reminder to leaders and their team members to check in with each other, and discuss these things – whether it is ways to alleviate stress, or ways to enhance growth and recognition. Who initiates that conversation is less important than the conversation itself, and the positive changes that should result."

An earlier poll by KPMG on mental health found that half of Canadians say the pandemic has had an ongoing impact on their mental health and four-in-10 think the impact will last long after the pandemic is over.

KPMG surveyed 1,012 full-time Canadian employees aged 18+ from April 16 to 19, 2021, leveraging Delvinia's AskingCanadians panel through its methodify online research platform.


ABOUT KPMG IN CANADA KPMG LLP, a limited liability partnership, is a full-service Audit, Tax and Advisory firm owned and operated by Canadians. For over 150 years, our professionals have provided consulting, accounting, auditing, and tax services to Canadians, inspiring confidence, empowering change, and driving innovation. Guided by our core values of Integrity, Excellence, Courage, Together, For Better, KPMG employs nearly 8,000 people in over 40 locations across Canada, serving private- and public-sector clients. KPMG is consistently ranked one of Canada's top employers and one of the best places to work in the country.

The firm is established under the laws of Ontario and is a member of KPMG's global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International, a private English company limited by guarantee. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such. For more information, see home.kpmg/ca.

SOURCE KPMG LLP