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One in four Britons consider a career change as pandemic upends professional future

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Corporate / Mental Health / United Kingdom

One in four Britons 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 significant psychological strain

LONDON, 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 Britons for the eighth consecutive month. The findings show that declining psychological health compounded by extended mental strain continue to impact the mental wellbeing of Britons.

The Mental Health Index™ score is -13.7, a slight decline from October (-13.4) and continuing the trend of decline from September’s score of -12.0. 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 (5.5), psychological health (-5.7), workplace productivity (-12.2), isolation (-12.3), anxiety (-15.6), depression (-16.3) and optimism (-19.0). All but two sub-scores worsened since the previous month, with a significant decline in general psychological health (-1.5 points), reaching its lowest point since the inception of the Index.

“While many people are feeling optimistic about the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, the research indicates that many continue to experience strained psychological health due to ongoing lockdown conditions, feelings of isolation and financial uncertainty,” said Philip Mullen, managing director, U.K. and Europe. “It is absolutely crucial that employers recognize the prolonged period of mental stress that working Britons continue to experience, and provide flexibility, understanding and resources that will help them successfully navigate the coming months.”

Many Britons consider changing careers, despite their employers handling the pandemic well
The pandemic has created both challenges and opportunities for Britons, leading many to consider the future of their personal and professional lives and, in some instances, a change in employment. Overall, 26 per cent of respondents indicated that the pandemic has led them to consider a job or career change. Thirty-six 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, 22 per cent of all respondents said they are undecided, suggesting a greater proportion of workers may be at risk of turnover.

Since the pandemic started, 17 per cent indicated that their view of their employer worsened and 13 per cent indicated that it became more positive. The majority of employees (69 per cent) believe that their employer is handling health and safety well, compared to only eight per cent of employees that believe it’s been poorly handled. Similarly, 63 per cent of employees believe their employer is handling the use of technology well, 53 per cent of employees believe their employer is handling flexible work hours well and 51 per cent of employees believe their employer is handling work-from-home policies well.

“Our Mental Health Index™ shows that while the majority of Britons’ feelings towards their employer remain unchanged when compared to before the pandemic, an increasing number of employees have a negative perception. This tells us that employers should examine how they prioritize employee wellbeing and find opportunities to improve,” said Paula Allen, global leader, research and total wellbeing. “It’s encouraging to see that Britons appreciate their employers’ efforts in providing support to navigate today’s virtual environment, however, there is a proportion of the working population that continues to struggle. Proactive communication and reinforcing the importance of workplace flexibility are two important factors in maintaining workplace stability and a positive culture.”

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 (44 per cent), mental health of their children (41 per cent), the physical health of their children (29 per cent) and the safety of attending school in person (29 per cent). When considering the greatest concern, however, the mental health of children was the top concern (25 per cent), followed by quality of education (24 per cent). Physical health was the greatest concern for 13 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 the financial impact of the pandemic (48 per cent), mental health (44 per cent) and job opportunities and career impact (43 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 (-24.3 for parents with young children and -22.7 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 2,000 respondents in the United Kingdom. All respondents reside in the United Kingdom 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 U.K. 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