Press release

2 May 2023 Toronto, CA

Mental Health Week: 90% of Canadian employees believe empathy is crucial to wellbeing

Press contact
Dina Elshurafa

EY Canada Specialist, Public Relations

Constantly asking questions, generating new ideas and creating innovative solutions to achieve measurable results. Always caffeinated and on the look out for hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Toronto.

Related topics People Advisory Services
  • 38% of people not engaged at work say their wellbeing isn’t being prioritized 
  • 55% have previously left a job because the company didn’t value their wellbeing
  • 88% say empathy is essential to fostering a more inclusive workplace environment

The EY Empathy in Business Survey finds that 38% of Canadian employees feel their personal needs and wellbeing aren’t being prioritized at work, and a further 31% say their company doesn’t focus on fostering a sense of belonging. But that empathetic leadership could be the secret to boosting greater engagement, with 89% of respondents agreeing that leading with empathy helps to increase job satisfaction. 

“While physical health and safety is at the centre of many conversations, the narrative needs to evolve to be more inclusive of psychological wellbeing,” explains Andrea Wolfson, EY Canada People Advisory Services Partner. “This is especially important in a tight talent market where workers want to feel their needs — both personal and professional — are being listened to, understood and accommodated by their leadership.”   

Benefits to leading with empathy

The majority of employees (91%) say empathy in the workplace is important, indicating that it can lead to better leadership and help build trust within a team. There are also tangible business benefits, with more than three-quarters of respondents indicating that they are increasingly productive, efficient and creative when mutual empathy is present.

What’s more, the EY survey finds that 87% of employees believe that leaders who practice genuine empathy can positively influence employees’ mental health and overall wellbeing, and 88% say empathy is essential to fostering a more inclusive workplace environment. So much so, that 55% of employees have previously left a job because the company didn’t value their wellbeing — with this number being even more prevalent among Gen Z (65%) employees.

The evolving state of empathy in the workplace

Canadians feel that the companies they work for are talking the talk, but not necessarily walking the walk. Almost half (46%) of employees feel that their company’s efforts to be empathetic towards them are dishonest — with men (50%) more likely to feel this way than women (42%).

“To make meaningful change, organizations need to put humans at the centre through empathetic leadership,” adds Wolfson. “But it doesn’t stop there. Empathy as a management style must be rewarded — from the CEO down — in the same lens they would view productivity or profitability in order to create lasting impact.”

Putting empathy into practice

Mental health issues have significantly impacted Canadians more than ever through the pandemic. And while many companies scrambled to provide additional support during that time, EY has been providing leading mental health support and care to its people long before COVID-19. The firm was proud to be one of the first organizations in Canada to offer a $5,000 annual mental health benefit for all EY staff and their eligible dependents. This is in addition to a $1,000 wellbeing benefit; virtual on-demand healthcare; digital-guided cognitive behaviour therapy; and an employee and family assistance program that provides confidential assistance on parenting, work and family balance, youth issues and more.

“In parallel with providing the right tools and benefits, leading with a people-first mindset allows everyone the opportunity to become the best version of themselves and help others do the same,” shares Massimo Marinelli, EY Canada Managing Partner, Talent. “For example, to encourage our people to rest, recharge and reset, we have extended long weekends from Victoria Day in May to Thanksgiving in October, giving all employees an additional paid day off attached to the long weekends.”

The firm also closes its offices for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to help its people collectively enjoy well-deserved downtime and has extended vacation and sabbatical programs that allow people access additional time off to supplement their paid vacation days, personal days, unlimited sick days and holidays.

Learn more about how EY empowers its people to bring their complete self to work, and watch employees share their stories of belonging here:

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