APEX 2017 Executive Work and Health Survey Results

The 2017 APEX Executive Work and Health survey paints a picture of an executive population that feels pride in their work, respected by their superiors and increasingly committed despite a high-stress, demanding work environment with constant time-pressure and an ever increasing workload.

    The 2017 Executive Work and Health Survey is the Fifth Edition since 1997. Over the past 20 years, APEX has conducted research focused on the health and well-being of executives within the federal public service.

    APEX commissioned Ipsos to conduct the survey from May 2 to June 19, 2017.

    3,075 executives provided a response to the survey which constitutes a 48% response rate (an increase over the 35% response rate achieved in 2012). Of those who provided a response, 2,674 executives fully completed the survey.

    The survey provides an assessment of individual and organizational health measures within the executive work environment. The research explored new issues such as readiness for the future with a focus on preparing for the digital economy and digital services as well as addressing psychological and mental health issues in the workplace.

    The 2017 Executive Work and Health survey paints a picture of an executive population that feels pride in their work, respected by their superiors and are increasingly committed despite a high-stress, demanding work environment with constant time-pressure and an increasing workload. Key outcome measures like job satisfaction and self-rated health status remain stable and relatively strong compared to 2012.

    There are, however, some worrisome trends which could negatively impact individual and organizational health over time. Thirty-five percent report working 55 or more hours per week (up from 25% in 2012), satisfaction with pay has declined and 70% have thought about leaving their current position at least monthly in the past 6 months. Further, from a personal health standpoint the majority of executives are classified as overweight or obese, more executives have been diagnosed with musculoskeletal (from 28% to 45%), mental health (from 11% to 21%), and gastro intestinal (from 8% to 18%) issues than in 2012. The incidence of incivility continues to be of concern.

    For most, managing the demands of work have only been exacerbated by the increasing use of e-technology which led executives to feel obligated to work after hours, has made it more difficult to take a break from work and has not provided them any more flexibility. While the majority feel e-technology has increased their productivity (particularly among younger executives), their ability to do their job and ability to communicate it has also increased their workload and steadily decreased work life balance over the years.

    Public sector executives are much less confident in their ability to balance the demands of work and personal life compared to those in similar managerial positions across Canada, as well as less likely to feel their employer promotes a work-life balance or that they have a psychologically healthy workplace.

    Lower level executives, while reporting fewer work hours, are much more likely to have issues managing the demands of work. Lower level executives are less satisfied with their job, feel less respected, are more likely to get burnt out from work and are less likely to feel they can take risks on their team. They are also less likely to rate their mental health as positive and more likely to report being diagnosed with mental health issues or to seek professional counselling.

    There are also consistent differences between male and female executives. Female executives report higher levels of stress, higher absenteeism, higher incidence of harassment and generally have more trouble separating themselves from the demands of work, however they are also more satisfied with their pay and career prospects, rate their personal health higher, are more likely to fall into an acceptable BMI, sleep better and drink less than male executives.

    In a context of rapid change, and expectations that they be agile and resilient, executives express a high level of uncertainty that we are well positioned to respond to future demands with respect to the use of technology and social media, the recruitment and retention of talent, adapting our workplace environment to a new context, and building a strong, capable leadership team.

    Given the findings of this survey, and insight gained through our ongoing engagement with Executives, four areas surface as critical in moving forward:

    Managing Talent and Leadership Development
    - How can we balance the needs of the community, the centre, and senior management in an integrative approach to managing talent?
    - What does a robust continuum of leadership development for Executives look like?

    Healthy Workplaces
    - What are the workplace conditions that position organizations for success?
    - How do we move our organizations there?

    Healthy Executives
    - What is the prescription for taking care of ourselves in the midst of a high demands and expectations?

    Culture
    - How can we improve the work environment to facilitate innovation, creativity and agility?

    The survey results are the beginning of a conversation to lead to concrete actions.

    Get involved! Contact Ann-Marie Julien (consultations@apex.gc.ca) to be part of the conversation. As part of the survey process, many executives volunteered to continue the discussion about the survey results; we will reach out to all those who volunteered to invite participation in follow up discussions.

    APEX is available to share results through organizational presentations / discussions -- to dive in to the results.Let Ann-Marie Julien know if you would be interested in receiving such a presentation to a group of Executives.

    APEX will continue its advocacy role focusing on creating conditions for success for Executives, and as a result, the public service overall.

    APEX will further mine the results of the survey with researchers on spotlight areas.