Just over half (51 per cent) of senior leaders are considering leaving, retiring or downshifting from their current organization or position due to decreased mental well-being amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey from Deloitte Canada and LifeWorks Inc.

It found nearly a quarter (23 per cent) said they’re considering resigning, while 16 per cent are considering a less demanding role, 15 per cent are looking at retirement, 13 per cent are mulling a leave of absence and six per cent are considering part-time work. The most prevalent reason for considering leaving or downshifting was increased mental stress or strain at work (38 per cent), followed by a feeling of underappreciation at 22 per cent.

Read: Number of employees retiring, quitting could rise as pandemic recedes: report

The top stressor was an increase in work volume compared with pre-pandemic levels (68 per cent) followed by the desire to provide adequate support for the well-being of staff (62 per cent). A majority (79 per cent) of respondents reported working more hours than typical since the start of the pandemic, while 19 per cent reported no change and two per cent said they work fewer hours. However, 35 per cent of respondents said they experienced a decline in their mental health.

A majority (82 per cent) of respondents said they finish work feeling mentally or physically exhausted and 59 per cent are unable to relax or pause activity. Almost half (49 per cent) said they have difficulties sleeping, 43 per cent reported increased irritability and 38 per cent said they experienced reduced energy or emotional change. Exhaustion was more likely to be reported by women (89 per cent) and leaders in the public sector (91 per cent) than men (75 per cent) and leaders in the private sector (77 per cent).

Only 37 per cent said they consistently make time for their own well-being, while 55 per cent said they tend to their well-being inconsistently and 10 per cent make no time at all. Meanwhile, 41 per cent indicated self-stigma around the idea of acknowledging or accepting any potential mental-health challenge and 55 per cent believe workplace stigma around mental-health issues would have an impact on their careers.

Read: Mental health firmly in the spotlight due to impacts of coronavirus, says report

And 32 per cent said their relationships with peers worsened during the pandemic. Of these respondents, 65 per cent also reported worsened mental health, while 59 per cent of those with improved peer relationships also experienced improved productivity.

In a press release, Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice-president of research and total well-being at LifeWorks Inc., said the pandemic has put more pressure on senior leaders to deliver on their accountability to others in their organization. “In the short term, this increased pressure could lead to behavioural change among senior leadership that trickles down and ultimately causes employee burnout at lower levels. In the longer term, we anticipate seeing a risk of turnover among senior leaders. This is an issue we must immediately address, as senior leaders play a critical role for organizations.”

Read: Index sees slight improvement in Canadians’ mental health in April: report