Viewpoints 2000: The Healthy Workplace
The third bi-annual Canadian Labour and Business Centre Leadership Survey of 4,442 private sector business leaders, public sector management and labour leaders was conducted between March and April 2000 and achieved a response rate of 18 percent. Included in the survey for the first time were questions relating to the healthy workplace. The responses to these questions are summarized here.
Business and Labour Views Overall
There was agreement between business and labour that the principal indicators of a healthy workplace are good working relationships and high morale. This was indicated by 70 percent of business and labour leaders and was true across different industry groups, organization sizes and most regions of Canada.
Labour and business differed on the second tier of healthy workplace indicators (HWI). Approximately 55- 60 percent of business leaders cited the ability to attract and retain employees, low absenteeism and high motivation, whereas labour leaders indicated the ability to balance work and family pressures, safe and secure workplaces, and manageable stress. However, the differences between management and labour may not be as great as these results suggest. The two parties usually focus on different specific measures as symptoms, but often share common concerns at the workplace.
While business and labour agreed on the most important HWIs, they differed on their performance. Business leaders believed that most indicators had improved in net terms (the percentage of those who believed the indicator had improved minus the percentage who believed it had worsened). However, only a small percentage believed there had been significant improvements. On the other hand, labour leaders thought that every HWI had worsened; many believed there had been significant deterioration.
The ability to manage work and family pressures and the degree of stress were the only two indicators which both business and labour leaders agreed had worsened, in net terms.
Difference in labour and business perceptions of HWI performance shapes their views of which factors have been important and what actions are needed to create a healthy workplace. Business believed a variety of factors had been responsible for the improvement in HWIs, whereas labour leaders saw the “more work-less people" phenomenon as responsible for the deterioration of overall workplace health.
Public Sector and Private Sector Views
Significant differences between views in the private and public sector were revealed in the survey. In the public sector, good working relationships and high morale were again the important HWIs, but among the secondary indicators, manageable stress was more strongly identified by both labour and business than in the private sector.
In examining perceptions of trends in HWIs, the labour responses are much more negative and the business answers much less positive, in net terms, in the public sector. In particular, both labour and business leaders in this sector reported that workplace stress had increased in recent years.
In the public sector the “more work-less people” factor was strongly identified by labour leaders as a factor in the deterioration of the healthy workplace (51 percent in the public sector compared to 30 percent in the private sector).
Views in Goods Producing and Services
Among secondary HWIs, workplace safety and a low level of injuries were much more important for both labour and business in the goods producing sector. In services, balancing work and family is more important.
Overall workplace health has improved the most, in net terms, in the private goods-producing sector, according to business leaders. Among labour leaders this is also the sector with the least negative views. The strength of the labour leaders’ perception of significant change (worsening) is also much lower than in service sector unions.
Differences in Regional Viewpoints
In Quebec, unlike the other regions, high morale was not ranked high as a HWI. Good working relationships were, however, still the most important indicator. This finding is interesting in light of the fact that business-labour relations in Quebec, at the macro level, are recognized as being much more cooperative than in other regions of Canada.
In British Columbia, labour leaders ranked a safe and secure workplace as the leading indicator, which likely reflects the importance of the resource sector in that province.
Among business leaders, Manitoba/Saskatchewan, Alberta and Atlantic Canada were the regions with the biggest net improvement in overall workplace health, while Quebec and Ontario had improved the least in net terms. Labour leaders saw Manitoba/Saskatchewan and Alberta as having the worst records in terms of changes in overall workplace health and Quebec and British Columbia as having the least net deterioration.
Public sector labour leaders had very large net negative figures for healthy workplace trends in Atlantic Canada (-84 percent) and Manitoba/Saskatchewan (-82 percent).
Differing Views by Size of Organization
Responses were only possible by size of organization for business leaders. Small-sized organizations were generally very clear on the important HWIs: good working relationships and high morale. Among large organizations, the identified HWIs were more clustered, suggesting a diversity of workplace health issues in larger organizations.
In terms of overall workplace health, the leaders of smaller organizations indicated greater net improvement in the last two years than those in larger-sized organizations.