Employee mental health, productivity remain low amid pandemic

Employee mental health and workplace productivity is worsening as the coronavirus pandemic drags on, according to Morneau Shepell Ltd.’s latest mental-health index.

“While most of the population has adjusted to new work environments and physical distancing, ongoing economic uncertainties and anxieties related to work and personal life continue to plague Canadians,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer of Morneau Shepell, in a press release.

Read: 24% of Canadians considering job or career change due to pandemic: survey

Canadians’ mental-health score dropped to negative 11.8 from November’s slight increase to negative 11.1. The report also showed declines in anxiety (negative 13.0), depression (negative 13.9) and optimism (negative 14.1). Indeed, four in 10 workers reported being concerned about a co-worker’s mental health and 35 per cent of supervisors had concerns about the mental health of employees.

With the exception of financial risk, which saw an increase to 3.2 from 2.9 in November, all other sub-scores showed declines as well, including psychological health (negative 3.6), isolation (negative 12.0) and work productivity (negative 12.4), due in part to the prolonged disruption to workplaces caused by the pandemic. In fact, 27 per cent of supervisors surveyed noted their employees are less productive than they were in 2019. This suggests the Canadian workforce may be at risk of detrimental long-term, mental-health effects, according to the report.

Read: Extended isolation and U.S. election taking toll on Canadians’ mental health: survey

“Our collective mental health is at significant risk. It has never been more critical to make a conscious effort to support ourselves and each other and for employers to emphasize mental health and physical health equally in order to ensure employees feel heard and supported as the pandemic continues,” said Liptrap.

Ongoing non-essential travel restrictions are now increasingly blurring the lines between work and home life, outlined the report, with nearly half (46 per cent) of respondents saying they didn’t use all their vacation time in 2020, compared to 36 per cent who did.

This is a significant factor in terms of employee mental health, as individuals without paid time off have the lowest mental-health score (negative 12.6) when compared to those who use all their vacation time (negative 12.0) and those who don’t (negative 10.9).

Read: Canadians hesitant to access mental-health supports, despite declines during pandemic