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Canadian employees’ uncertainty about return-to-workplace plans contributing to declining mental health

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Mental Health / Canada

Canadian employees’ uncertainty about return-to-workplace plans contributing to declining mental health

LifeWorks Mental Health Index™ shows strong correlation between vaccination status and mental outlook

LifeWorks, a leading provider of technology-enabled total wellbeing solutions, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a negative mental-health score among Canadians for the 15th consecutive month. The Mental Health Index™ score for June is -10.7 compared to the pre-pandemic benchmark.

In June, the research found that while many organizations have begun developing return-to-workplace strategies, a significant portion of Canadians require clearer communication on office reopening plans. One-quarter (25 per cent) of Canadians are unclear of their employer’s plan for work, while another 12 per cent do not believe that their employer has a plan. These groups also reported the lowest mental health scores (-17.9 and -14.9, respectively) when compared to employees stating their employer’s plan is clear. When reviewing employees’ expectations about the return to workplace:

  • More than one-third (38 per cent) expect that their employer will want all employees working in their pre-pandemic environment;
  • Seventeen per cent believe that their employer will allow remote work to continue;
  • Fourteen per cent expect to work onsite at their office at least part of the time; and
  • Only six per cent expect to have the flexibility to choose their work location.

“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, president and chief executive officer. “As we look to the other side of the pandemic, organizations should consider focusing on wellbeing as a vital part of their culture. This means continuing to prioritize employee mental health with empathy, clear communication and high-quality mental health resources.”

Vaccination status impacting Canadians’ mental wellbeing
In April 2021, more than half (55 per cent) of Canadians reported that vaccination against COVID-19 or reaching herd immunity would most improve their outlook for the future. In June 2021, the research found that those who report being partially vaccinated against COVID-19 have the most favourable mental health score (-9.3). The least favourable score (-15.7) is seen among those who are not vaccinated but intend to be. Additionally, those who are not vaccinated and do not intend to be, showed the worst isolation score (-18.9).

“Since the onset of the pandemic, prolonged uncertainty has contributed to feelings of anxiety and a decline in optimism among Canadians,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “As restrictions continue to ease with climbing vaccination rates, we are seeing an improvement in mental outlook among both fully and partially vaccinated individuals. While this is encouraging, the improvement is fragile, and we are still well below where we were before the pandemic. The next few months will be pivotal. We need to regain a sense of control and deal with the increased mental tension that has become a norm.”

The full Canadian Mental Health Index™ report can be found here. This month, the report includes additional insights on the mental strain faced by post-secondary students, how children have been impacted by the pandemic, and more.

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly survey by LifeWorks was conducted through an online survey in English and French from May 28 to June 4, 2021, with 3,000 respondents in Canada. All respondents reside in Canada and were employed within the last six months. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure the regional and gender composition of the sample reflect this population. The Mental Health Index™ is published monthly, beginning April 2020, and compares against benchmark data collected in 2017, 2018, 2019.

About LifeWorks
LifeWorks is a global leader in delivering technology-enabled solutions that help clients support the total wellbeing of their people and build organizational resiliency. By improving lives, we improve business. Our solutions span employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement and financial consulting, actuarial and investment services. LifeWorks employs more than 7,000 employees who work with more than 24,000 client organizations that use our services in more than 160 countries. LifeWorks is a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX:LWRK). For more information, visit


Heather MacDonald

Angela Pinzon
Kaiser & Partners

Source: LifeWorks