Fundamental changes to the traditional workplace are causing greater levels of mental distress for managers and non-managers alike in the Canadian workforce, noted findings from Morneau Shepell Ltd.’s latest monthly mental-health index.

At the one-year mark, the mental-health score for March 2021 (negative 11.2) was similar to that of April 2020 (negative 11.7) but slightly higher than the Feburary 2021 score (negative 11.5). However, the score for psychological health has steadily declined over the last 12 months, dropping from negative 0.4 in April 2020 to negative 3.9 in March 2021. As well, the score for isolation (negative 12.0) is at its lowest point than any other time during the coronavirus pandemic.

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According to the report, workplace changes throughout the pandemic have taken a toll on Canadian managers. In March, Morneau Shepell’s research found managers have lower mental-health scores (negative 12.5) when compared to that of non-managers (negative 10.2). In fact, managers were 50 per cent more likely than non-managers to report a negative impact of the pandemic on their mental health.

Additionally, interactions between managers and peers have also changed as a result of shifts in workplace relationships and responsibilities, noted the report. And managers were 60 per cent more likely to report worsened peer relationships when compared to non-managers.

Read: Canadian workers prioritizing mental, physical well-being during pandemic: report

“People leaders and managers have struggled to cope throughout the pandemic. These individuals have been tasked with managing the shifting responsibilities and operational changes in their everyday role, while dealing with the same personal and emotional disruption as everyone else,” said Paula Allen, Morneau Shepell’s global leader and senior vice-president of research and total well-being, in a press release. “Resilient leaders will be critical as businesses redefine themselves and navigate the return to the workplace.”

As employers plan for a return to in-office work due to current vaccination efforts, there’s increased focus on flexibility in the workplace. Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of employees surveyed want flexibility to continue working from home once the pandemic recedes and more than a quarter (26 per cent) reported they don’t believe their employer will support remote work in the post-pandemic future. Of note, this latter group reported the lowest mental-health score (negative 15.4) when compared to individuals who expect a flexible work structure (negative 9.9) to remain in the future, indicating heightened importance for employers to listen to employees and adjust policies to meet their needs.

Read: Employee mental health, productivity remain low amid pandemic