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More than one third of working Australians concerned about a co-worker’s mental health

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Corporate / Mental Health / Australia

More than one third of working Australians concerned about a co-worker’s mental health

Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index™ for December shows that despite continuing to trend below the pre-2020 benchmark, mental health is at its highest point since the beginning of the pandemic

MELBOURNE, January 13, 2021 – Morneau Shepell, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing the highest mental health score among Australians in nine months. The findings show that the most significant improvements were observed in anxiety and optimism, though both still trend below the pre-2020 benchmark.

The Mental Health Index™ score is -10.3, an improvement from November (-11.1) and the highest mental health score since the inception of the Index in April 2020 when it was -17.0. The score measures the improvement or decline in mental health from the pre-2020 benchmark of 75. The Mental Health Index™ also tracks sub-scores against the benchmark, measuring financial risk (3.0), psychological health (-5.1), isolation (-10.4), anxiety (-10.4), optimism (-10.6) depression (-10.9) and work productivity (-11.2). When compared to the previous month, all sub-scores increased except for psychological health and financial risk, which declined by 0.8 points and 1.4 points, respectively, since November. Financial risk continues to be the strongest of all sub-scores and is currently above the pre-pandemic benchmark.

“As the pandemic continues to create new workplace models around the world, it’s important to acknowledge that there has been a significant shift in employee expectations over the last nine months,” said Jamie MacLennan, managing director, Australia and APAC. “While we see improvements, it is important to note that we are still seeing a decline in psychological health across the country, demonstrating a critical need for employers to continue doing everything possible to support employee wellbeing. Employers must continue sharing resources, encouraging virtual collaboration, allowing flexibility and engaging in proactive communication to ensure employees feel supported in today’s ever-evolving workplace.”

Many Australians concerned about the impact of the pandemic on co-workers
As the pandemic persists into its ninth month, Australians are seeing its impact on others, including their co-workers. Overall, 34 per cent of respondents report being concerned about a co-worker’s mental health. Faced with the additional strain of managing a prolonged turbulent period in their workplace, 33 per cent of supervisors indicate concern about the mental health of employees.

For nine months, since significant measures were taken in managing the pandemic, Australians have had to adapt to changing conditions in all aspects of their lives, including at workIndividuals report that the most stressful part of adapting at work during the pandemic is job uncertainty (34 per cent), followed by health and safety protocols (33 per cent), and interacting with the public (26 per cent).  

“While Australia has moved in a positive direction in the control of COVID-19, the impact of the pandemic remains. Job insecurity remains as do concerns about a return to increased infection rates,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “We still have a way to go toward stabilisation. One of the positive things about the pandemic is that many reached out for support and took action to increase their sense of control. This needs to continue.”

Brand loyalty dependent on treatment of stakeholders and response to social justice issues
The pandemic has upended organisations across the country. The treatment of employees and customers, along with an organisation’s response to social justice issues, have been essential to brand loyalty. The perception of how an organisation has treated its employees during the pandemic could have both immediate and long-lasting impacts on its success, given 53 per cent of respondents report that the way they think about and interact with brands and companies has been influenced by how their employees have been treated during the pandemic. Customer treatment also plays a significant role, with 60 per cent of respondents also indicating that how an organisation has treated its customers during the pandemic has influenced the way they think about and interact with brands and companies.

The way organisations have responded to social justice issues has had a similar impact on consumer perception, with 44 per cent of respondents reporting that the way they think about and interact with brands and companies has been influenced by their response to social justice issues. This is especially true for individuals under the age of 40 (54 per cent), when compared to those 40 and older (38 per cent), corresponding with the influx of anti-Black racism awareness following the high-profile death of Black American, George Floyd, in June 2020.

Upcoming event: Members of the media who are interested in attending Employers Connect, Morneau Shepell’s annual mental health summit that will be held virtually on Wednesday, February 24 at 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. AEDT, should RSVP to

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly Mental Health Index™ by Morneau Shepell was conducted through an online survey from November 20 to November 30, 2020, with 1,000 respondents in Australia. All respondents reside in Australia 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 and 2019. The full Australian report can be found at

The Mental Health Index™ is owned by Morneau Shepell – the wellbeing company that acquired LifeWorks in 2018.

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 162 countries. For more information, visit


Heather MacDonald
Morneau Shepell

Angela Pinzon
Kaiser & Partners