Nearly 40% of Working Canadians Worried About Co-Workers’ Mental Health, New Report Finds

Nearly 40% of Working Canadians Worried About Co-Workers’ Mental Health, New Report Finds
A woman showing stress in a file photo. (Chloe Capture/flickr)
Isaac Teo
Nearly four in 10 working Canadians are concerned about the mental well-being of their fellow co-workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report suggests.

The December Mental Health Index (MHI) by Morneau Shepell released on Wednesday, reports that 36 percent of Canadian workers are concerned about their co-worker’s mental health as the pandemic continues to plague the country.

On top of that, 35 percent of supervisors have indicated their concerns for their employees’ mental health, and 27 percent of them have reported that their employees are less productive than in 2019, suggesting that “the Canadian workforce may be at risk of detrimental long-term mental health effects,” the report said.

“One of the biggest challenges facing employers today is finding the balance between effort and impact in terms of employee productivity,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, Research and Total Wellbeing at Morneau Shepell.

“Canadians’ mental health is at its lowest point since April, and while we’re seeing positive productivity numbers overall, it’s important to consider that this is the result of many overtime hours.

“At a granular level, productivity levels are actually decreasing. Putting in more hours results in less time for rest and self-care and the moment those stop being a priority, employee mental health suffers—as do business bottom lines,” Allen said.

“This demonstrates that employee wellbeing must be a priority in order to ensure sustainability and ultimately, business continuity,” Allen said.

Also, with non-essential travel restrictions “increasingly blurring the lines between work and home life,” 46 percent of the respondents had said they did not use all their vacation time, 36 percent used all of it, and the remaining 18 percent reported they did not have time off.

And this factor has significant impact on the workers’ mental well-being according to the report as it found out those without paid time off have the lowest mental health score (-12.6), while those who have used all of it (-12.0), and those who used some of it (-10.9), fare slightly better. The scores are the result of benchmarking against the data collected in 2017, 2018, and 2019, which means a score of zero reflects no change, whereas a positive score means improvement, and a negative score indicates decline.

When it comes to adapting at work during this pandemic, nearly half (45 percent) of the respondents who are currently employed, said the most stressful part is following the health and safety measures. Interacting with the public comes next (34 percent), followed by job uncertainty (29 percent).

Over one quarter (28 percent) of employees have considered leaving their job since the beginning of 2020, the report said, and the number one reason is the increased stress/strain at work (53 percent). The mental health score of this group is -25.5, more than two times lower than the overall average for Canadians at -11.8.

Besides that, the report indicated individuals working in the Health Care and Social Assistance sector are more likely to consider leaving their jobs (33 percent) when compared to all other sectors combined (26 percent).

When measured across provinces, Quebec had the greatest decrease in mental health with a decline of 1.4 points from November. Only Manitoba and Saskatchewan improved in December according to the report.

The MHI is based on an online survey of 3,000 Canadians residing in Canada from Nov. 20, 2020 to Nov. 30, 2020, who are currently employed or who were employed in the last six months. The company has been publishing the index since last April.