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Nearly four in 10 working Canadians concerned about a co-worker’s mental health

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Corporate / Canada

Nearly four in 10 working Canadians concerned about a co-worker’s mental health

Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index™ for December shows that mental health is at its lowest point since the beginning of the pandemic, with isolation and optimism worse than in April 2020

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 consistently negative mental health score among Canadians for the ninth consecutive month. The findings show that worsening psychological health, depression and workplace productivity continue to impact the mental wellbeing of Canadians.

The Mental Health Index™ score is -11.8, declining from November (-11.1). 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 (3.2), psychological health (-3.6), isolation (-12.0), work productivity (-12.4), anxiety (-13.0), depression (-13.9) and optimism (-14.1). When compared to the previous month, all sub-scores decreased except for financial risk, which has improved by 0.3 points since November. Optimism, isolation and general psychological health have worsened the most through the past nine months with a decrease of 1.8 points for optimism, 1.4 points for isolation and 3.3 points for psychological health when compared to April 2020. Financial risk continues to be the strongest of all sub-scores and is currently above the pre-2020 benchmark.

“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. “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.”

Many Canadians concerned about the impact of the pandemic on co-workers
As the pandemic persists into its ninth month, Canadians are seeing its impact on others, including their co-workers. Overall, 36 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, 35 per cent of supervisors indicate concern about the mental health of employees and 27 per cent report that their employees are less productive than in 2019. This suggests that the Canadian workforce may be at risk of detrimental long-term mental health effects.

Additionally, due to ongoing non-essential travel restrictions increasingly blurring the lines between work and home life, nearly half (46 per cent) of respondents report not using all their vacation time in 2020, compared to 36 per cent using all their vacation time. This is a significant factor in terms of employee mental health, as individuals without paid time off have the lowest mental health score (-12.6) when compared to those who are using all their vacation time (-12.0) and those who are not using all their vacation time (-10.9).

“One of the biggest challenges facing employers today is finding the balance between effort and impact in terms of employee productivity,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “Canadians’ mental health is at its lowest point since April, and while we’re seeing positive productivity numbers overall, it’s important to consider that this is the result of many overtime hours. At a granular level, productivity levels are actually decreasing. Putting in more hours results in less time for rest and self-care and the moment those stop being a priority, employee mental health suffers – as do business bottom lines. This demonstrates that employee wellbeing must be a priority in order to ensure sustainability and ultimately, business continuity.”

Brand loyalty dependent on treatment of stakeholders and response to social justice issues
The pandemic has upended organizations across the country. The treatment of employees and customers, along with an organization’s response to social justice issues, have been essential to brand loyalty. The perception of how an organization has treated its employees during the pandemic could have both immediate and long-lasting impacts on its success, given 57 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 63 per cent of respondents also indicating that how an organization has treated its customers during the pandemic has influenced the way they think about and interact with brands and companies.

The way organizations have responded to social justice issues has had a similar impact on consumer perception, with 41 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 (51 per cent), when compared to those 40 and older (37 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 Thursday, January 28 at 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET, should RSVP to

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly Mental Health Index™ by Morneau Shepell was conducted through an online survey in English and French from November 20 to November 30, 2020, 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 and 2019. The full Canadian report can be found at

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. 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