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American employees’ uncertainty about return-to-workplace plans contributing to declining mental health

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Corporate / Mental Health / United States

American employees’ uncertainty about return-to-workplace plans contributing to declining mental health

LifeWorks Mental Health Index™ shows strong correlation between vaccination status and mental outlook

CHICAGO, July 21, 2021 – LifeWorks, a leading provider of technology-enabled total wellbeing solutions, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a negative mental-health score among Americans for the 15th consecutive month. The Mental Health Index™ score in June reached -4.5 compared to the pre-pandemic benchmark, which is the highest point since the inception of the index in April 2020 when the mental-health score was -8.0.

In June, the research found that while many organizations have begun implementing return-to-workplace strategies, a significant portion of Americans require clearer communication on office reopening plans. One in five (20 percent) Americans are unclear of their employer’s plan for work going forward, while another eight percent do not believe that their employer has a plan. These groups also reported the lowest mental-health scores (-12.5 and -11.5, respectively) when compared to employees stating their employer’s plan is clear. When reviewing employees’ expectations about the return to the workplace:

  • Almost half (48 percent) expect that their employer will want all employees working in their pre-pandemic environment;
  • Thirteen percent believe that their employer will allow remote work to continue;
  • Eleven percent expect to work onsite at their office at least part of the time; and
  • Only four percent expect to have the flexibility to choose their work location.

“American employees have faced several workplace transitions throughout the pandemic, with many now settled in their flexible and hybrid environments. With economic recovery on the horizon, however, the anticipation of the return to the physical office may leave many Americans feeling unsettled,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer. “Prioritizing employee wellbeing across hybrid, physical and remote environments is critical to long-term success. As we look to the next phase in workplace reopening initiatives, organizations need to equip employees with knowledge and accessibility to resources to help them cope with change.”

Vaccination status impacting Americans’ mental wellbeing
In April 2021, half (50 percent) of Americans reported that vaccination against COVID-19 or reaching herd immunity would most improve their outlook for the future. In June 2021, the research found that those who report being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 have the most favorable mental-health score (-2.7). The least favorable score (-16.5) is seen among those who are partially vaccinated. This group also showed the worst isolation score (-27.0), followed by those who are not vaccinated but intend to be (-11.5).

“We have reached a long-awaited milestone in the pandemic, with the vaccination rate of Americans continuously increasing while case counts decline. This is improving mental health and overall wellbeing in the short-term, however, we cannot forget the long-term implications of the unique challenges that the population has faced throughout the last year,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “There is still a long way to go before we return to pre-pandemic mental wellbeing. Americans need support, both personally and professionally, and the onus is on the collective population to put mental health at the forefront of every conversation and initiative.”

The full American Mental Health Index™ report can be found here. This month, the report includes additional insights on the mental strain faced by post-secondary students, how children have been impacted by the pandemic, and more.

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly survey by LifeWorks was conducted through an online survey from May 28 to June 4, 2021, with 5,000 respondents in the United States. All respondents reside in the United States 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.

About LifeWorks
LifeWorks is a global leader in delivering technology-enabled solutions that help clients support the total wellbeing of their people and build organizational resiliency. By improving lives, we improve business. Our solutions span employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement and financial consulting, actuarial and investment services. LifeWorks employs more than 7,000 employees who work with more than 24,000 client organizations that use our services in more than 160 countries. For more information, visit


Heather MacDonald

Angela Pinzon
Kaiser & Partners