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Canadian managers experiencing greater levels of mental distress due to pandemic

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Canadian managers experiencing greater levels of mental distress due to pandemic

One year into the pandemic, Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index™ shows that isolation is worse now than at any point during the pandemic

Morneau Shepell, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a negative mental health score among Canadians for the twelfth consecutive month. The Mental Health Index™ score for March is -11.2. Negative scores indicate a lower level of mental health compared to the pre-2020 benchmark.

The March 2021 score is similar to the score in April 2020 (-11.7) and slightly higher than February 2021 (-11.5). At the one-year mark, while the majority of sub-scores have fluctuated throughout the pandemic, the score for psychological health has steadily declined over the last 12 months, decreasing from -0.4 in April 2020 to -3.9 in March 2021. This indicates that Canadians’ view of their overall mental health status is at its lowest point. The score for isolation (-12.0) is worse now than at any prior point in the pandemic.

“The past year has been defined by relentless change and drastic declines in Canadians’ wellbeing, as individuals across the country were forced to constantly shift their way of living,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer. “One year into the pandemic, it’s clear that while there have been many changes to our routine, the declining state of Canadians’ wellbeing remains a constant. While it is encouraging to see increased attention on mental health in the workplace and new policies being developed to address the issue, employers must recognize that the return to the workplace will be as disruptive, if not worse, than the initial transition to remote work. Long-term success is dependent on effectively addressing mental health; organizations must continue to deliberately provide support and show empathy for the wellbeing of their employees.”

Canadian managers hardest hit by pandemic
Canadian managers are experiencing greater levels of mental distress than non-managers as a result of the extraordinary changes implemented in the workplace throughout the pandemic. In March, the research found that managers have lower mental health scores (-12.5) when compared to non-managers (-10.2), with the group 50 per cent more likely than non-managers to report a negative impact of the pandemic to their mental health. Interactions between managers and peers have also changed as a result of shifts in workplace relationships and responsibilities. Managers were 60 per cent more likely to report worsened peer relationships when compared to non-managers.

“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, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “Resilient leaders will be critical as businesses redefine themselves and navigate the return to the workplace. As we identify what success looks like in the post-pandemic landscape, organizations need to focus on their leadership group. Additional skills and support are required given the increased demands, which the majority of managers believe will remain after the pandemic.”

Employees need increased flexibility in post-pandemic workplace
The return to the physical office in the post-pandemic landscape is uncertain, with increased focus on whether flexibility in the workplace is here to stay. While nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of employees want flexibility to work from home once the pandemic is over, more than one-quarter of employees (26 per cent) reported that they do not believe their employer will support remote work. This group also reported the lowest mental health score (-15.4) when compared to individuals who expect a flexible work structure (-9.9), indicating heightened importance for employers to listen to employees and adjust policies to meet their needs.

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted through an online survey in English and French from February 17 to March 1, 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. Click here to read the Canadian Mental Health Index™ report.

About Morneau Shepell
Morneau Shepell is a leading provider of technology-enabled HR services that deliver an integrated approach to employee wellbeing through our cloud-based platform. Our focus is providing world-class solutions to our clients to support the mental, physical, social, and financial wellbeing of their people. By improving lives, we improve business. Our approach spans services in employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement consulting, actuarial and investment services. Morneau Shepell employs approximately 6,000 employees who work with some 24,000 client organizations that use our services in more than 160 countries. Morneau Shepell is a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: MSI). For more information, visit


Heather MacDonald
Morneau Shepell

Angela Pinzon
Kaiser & Partners

Source: Morneau Shepell