Job Quality Indicators » Work Environment

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Workplace Health

Working in a ‘healthy’ environment is a vital aspect of what constitutes a good job. While being employed in a physically safe workplace is an important aspect of this, other factors also contribute to workplace health. These include supportive social relationships, reasonable workloads and latitude to decide how to get the job done. Having said this, do Canadian workers feel that their place of work is a healthy one?


More Than One In Four Say The Workplace Is Not Healthy

Source: CPRN - EKOS Changing Employment Relationships Survey (2000).

As the chart indicates, more than one in four Canadian workers say that their workplace is not healthy. While there is little difference between men and women in this regard, perceptions of poor workplace health tend to increase with age. This may reflect the fact that individuals take on greater job responsibilities and demands as they get older, and feel the strains as a result. For those aged 55 or older, it is possible that individuals in unhealthy environments may have left the labour force, either voluntarily through early retirement, or involuntarily because of health problems.


By Size of Workplace

Large Firms Reported To Be Least Healthy

Source: CPRN - EKOS Changing Employment Relationships Survey (2000).

The share of workers who say their workplace is not healthy increases noticeably with firm size. While less than one-quarter of employees in small firms (less than 25 employees) have reservations about the health of their workplace, this is the case for one-third of employees in larger firms. It may be that individuals in smaller firms feel they have more control over how they do their work, have stronger social ties with their colleagues, and have been less affected by downsizing and restructuring through the 1990s. Younger workers – who tend to have more positive assessments of workplace health -- are also over-represented in smaller firms (such as restaurants and retail stores).


By Industry

Unionized Workers Most Likely To Say Workplace is Unhealthy

Source: CPRN - EKOS Changing Employment Relationships Survey (2000).

There are certainly noticeable differences in the perceptions of workplace health expressed by unionized and non-unionized employees. As shown the chart, unionized employees are far more likely to characterize their workplace as unhealthy. This may reflect greater awareness of health and safety issues among unionized workers, and perhaps higher expectations. Also, unions are most prevalent in large workplaces in public administration, manufacturing, and health, education and social services – sectors where organizational change has been prevalent.


By Outcomes

Workplace Health Associated With Commitment,
Satisfaction and Personal Health

Source: CPRN - EKOS Changing Employment Relationships Survey (2000).

Perception of workplace health is associated with a number of outcomes, including employee commitment, job satisfaction, desire to unionize and employee health. More specifically, individuals who say their workplace is healthy are much more likely than other individuals to say they are committed to their employers and to express high levels of job satisfaction. Conversely, negative assessments of workplace health are associated with greater willingness to unionize. Historically, health and safety have been key bargaining issues for unions, so it is not surprising that workers with concerns about workplace health would look to unionization as a way to improve their situation.

Finally, there is a positive relationship between perceptions of workplace health and perceptions of personal health. More specifically, 40 percent of individuals who strongly agree that their workplace is healthy rate their own health as "excellent." This suggests that perceptions of workplace health matter a great deal for individuals, and that improving work environments is an important way to improve the overall health of Canadians.

Additional Charts and Information