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More Than One Third of Working Americans 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 work productivity worse than in April 2020

Morneau Shepell, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a consistently negative mental health score among Americans for the ninth consecutive month. The findings show that worsening anxiety, work productivity and depression continue to impact the mental wellbeing of Americans.

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The Mental Health Index™ score is -7.9, declining from November (-7.3). 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 (5.1), psychological health (1.2), optimism (-7.7), isolation (-9.0), depression (-9.7), work productivity (-9.9) and anxiety (-10.2). Despite the 0.4-point decline observed in December from the previous month, the financial risk score remains the strongest of all sub-scores and is currently above the pre-2020 benchmark. Compared to April 2020, there is a 1.2-point decline in work productivity and a 1.1-point decline in isolation.

“With vaccine roll outs now underway in some parts of the country and a glimmer of hope on the horizon, we are at a pivotal point in navigating the pandemic,” said Stephen Liptrap, president and chief executive officer. “Balancing these signs of encouragement with the need to remain vigilant is paramount as we move forward, both in Americans’ personal and professional lives. Information overload and ongoing uncertainties continue to negatively impact Americans’ mental health and it is critical that employers continue to acknowledge and prioritize this reality with resources and support as we enter this next phase of the pandemic(Morneau Shepell).”

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Many Americans concerned about the impact of the pandemic on co-workers

As the pandemic persists into its ninth month, Americans are seeing its impact on others, including their co-workers. Overall, 35 percent 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, 39 percent of supervisors indicate concern about the mental health of employees and 21 percent report that their employees are less productive than in 2019. This suggests that the American 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 (48 percent) of respondents report not using all their vacation time in 2020, compared to 34 percent 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 (-8.8) when compared to those who are using all their vacation time (-7.5) and those who are not using all their vacation time (-7.5).

“We are seeing a trend of fatigue among working Americans that has a direct correlation to declining mental health and wellbeing,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “It is imperative for employers to understand that even if workloads have not increased, the emotional strain of the pandemic, compounded by prolonged personal stressors, is weighing heavily on employees. Continuing to provide resources and encouraging employees to take breaks throughout the workday, is critical to avoiding employee burnout and ensuring business continuity during these challenging times(Morneau Shepell).”

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