As vaccination efforts continue rolling out across the country, ambiguous return-to-work plans are impacting Canadian workers’ mental health, according to LifeWorks Inc.’s latest mental-health index.
While the mental-health score among Canadians for June was negative 10.7, a slight increase from May’s score of negative 11.2, it was the 15th consecutive month where it sat in the negative range. According to the index, the lower score can be attributed to concern as many organizations begin to develop their return-to-workplace strategies.
In light of this, the index found a significant portion of Canadians said they require clearer communication on office reopening plans. The index found a quarter (25 per cent) of Canadians surveyed said they’re unclear about their employer’s plan for work, while another 12 per cent don’t believe their employer has a plan. These groups also reported the lowest mental-health scores (negative 17.9 and negative 14.9, respectively) compared to employees who said their employer’s plan is clear.
More than a third (38 per cent) of respondents said they expect their employer will want all employees back working in the pre-coronavirus pandemic environment, while 17 per cent believe their employer will allow remote work to continue and 14 per cent expect to work onsite at their office at least part of the time. Just six per cent expect to have the flexibility to choose their work location and these respondents have a significantly more favourable mental-health score (negative 6.0) than the Canadian population overall (negative 10.7).
“As flexibility and hybrid work environments become part of everyday life, yet another workplace transition is likely to cause increased mental strain among working Canadians,” said Stephen Liptrap, LifeWorks’ president and chief executive officer, in a press release. “As we look to the other side of the pandemic, organizations should consider focusing on well-being as a vital part of their culture.”
Vaccination status also had an effect on Canadians’ mental health, as respondents who reported being partially vaccinated against the coronavirus had the most favourable mental-health score (negative 9.3) and those who aren’t vaccinated but intend to be scored the least favourable (negative 15.7). As well, one in five Canadians indicated isolation as a result of pandemic-induced restrictions has had the most significant impact on their mental health. Notably, respondents who aren’t vaccinated and don’t intend to be showed the worst isolation score (negative 18.9).
The lowest sub-score was for the risk measure of depression (negative 12.7), followed by work productivity (negative 12.6), anxiety (negative 12.5), isolation (negative 12.0), optimism (negative 9.9) and general psychological health (negative 3.0). The best sub-score — and the only measure above the pre-2020 benchmark — was financial risk (3.5), though it declined 0.8 points from May’s score. Respondents without emergency savings continued to experience a lower score in mental health (negative 23.7) than the overall group (negative 10.7) and those with an emergency savings (negative 5.8).