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Nearly one third of Australians consider a career change as pandemic upends professional future

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Corporate / Mental Health / Australia

Nearly one third of Australians consider a career change as pandemic upends professional future

Morneau Shepell's Mental Health Index™ for November continues to trend below the pre-pandemic benchmark, led by declining optimism and an increase in anxiety

MELBOURNE, December 9, 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 consistent trend of negative mental health among Australians for the eighth consecutive month. The findings show that pervasive feelings of anxiety and declining optimism continue to impact the wellbeing of Australians.

The Mental Health Index™ score is -11.1, which is slightly better than October (-11.3) 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 Index also tracks sub-scores against the benchmark, measuring financial risk (4.4), psychological health (-4.3), isolation (-11.1), depression (-12.3), workplace productivity (-12.3), optimism (-12.8) and anxiety (-13.0). When compared to the previous month, work productivity, depression, isolation and financial risk showed improvement, but feelings of anxiety and optimism continued to trend downward. Levels of work productivity and financial risk reached their highest point since the inception of the Index.

“As we continue to curb the spread of COVID-19, it is encouraging to see that some aspects of Australians’ mental health are improving, but there is still more we can do to improve mental health scores, which are still well below pre-pandemic levels,” said Jamie MacLennan, managing director, Australia and APAC. “Today, the working population feels as distressed as the most distressed one per cent of Australians prior to the pandemic. Employers must continue to take a proactive and thoughtful approach in expressing support, while also providing the resources that Australians need to navigate their day-to-day lives while under immense mental pressure.”

Many Australians consider changing careers, despite their employers handling the pandemic well
The pandemic has created both challenges and opportunities for Australians, leading many to consider the future of their personal and professional lives and, in some instances, a change in employment. Overall, 29 per cent of respondents indicated that the pandemic has led them to consider a job or career change. Forty-one per cent of respondents under the age of 40 said they are considering a job/career change, compared to only 17 per cent of respondents over the age of 50 who indicated the same. Additionally, 20 per cent said they are undecided, suggesting a greater proportion of workers may be at risk of turnover.

Since the pandemic started, 14 per cent indicated that their view of their employer worsened and 15 per cent indicated that it became more positive. The majority of employees (71 per cent) believe that their employers are handling health and safety well, compared to only seven per cent of employees that believe it’s been poorly handled. Similarly, 66 per cent of employees believe their employer is handling the use of technology well, 58 per cent of employees believe their employer is handling flexible work hours well and 49 per cent of employees believe their employer is handling work-from-home policies well.

“Our Mental Health Index™ shows that Australians are feeling relatively balanced toward their employers when compared to before the pandemic. It’s encouraging to see that many Australians are reporting improvements in their mental wellbeing, however, the working population is still trending far below the pre-pandemic benchmark,” said Paula Allen, global leader, research and total wellbeing. “Employers must disregard the temptation to pull back when it comes to regular communication with employees as their general psychological health improves. It is essential that organizations continuously look for opportunities to better engage with working Australians, particularly around work from home policies and the promotion of resources.”

Parents concerned about the mental health of both young and adult children
Parents of young children have struggled throughout the pandemic, both when balancing work and children’s education needs while schools were closed, and when navigating health concerns as children returned to the classroom. The most common concerns cited among parents with children under 18 years old are quality of education (34 per cent), mental health of their children (32 per cent), the physical health of their children (28 per cent) and their children’s social development (25 per cent). When considering the greatest concern, however, the mental health of children was the top concern (27 per cent), followed by physical health (19 per cent). Quality of education was the greatest concern for 17 per cent.

Parents of older children reported a unique set of concerns regarding the pandemic. The top three most common concerns among respondents with children aged 18 to 30 include job opportunities and career impact (49 per cent), the financial impact of the pandemic (48 per cent) and mental health (41 per cent). When asking about children of any age, a detrimental mental health score was observed by parents whose top concern is their child’s mental health (-21.3 for parents with young children and -19.6 for those with adult children). 

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly Mental Health Index™ by Morneau Shepell was conducted through an online survey from October 25 to November 5, 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

Catherine Snider
Kaiser & Partners