Mental health continues to deteriorate as a result of the pandemic

mental health and the black dogMorneau Shepell has published its monthly Mental Health Index report, which claims there is a a consistent trend of negative mental health among Britons at the seven-month mark of the pandemic. The Mental Health Index for October is -13.4, suggesting that Britons’ mental wellbeing continues to be at risk, with declining workplace productivity and the need for support adding to the continuing strain of the pandemic.

The Mental Health Index score, which measures the improvement or decline in mental wellbeing from the pre-2020 benchmark of 75, is significantly lower than September (-12.0). This trend is displayed across all sub-scores tracked in the Index, including financial risk (3.8), psychological health (-4.2), isolation (-11.6), depression (-15.9), anxiety (-15.9) and optimism (-18.2).

Given the prolonged period of increased strain, 40 per cent of the British population report needing some form of support. The most commonly reported source of mental health support is from family members (20 per cent), followed by support from friends or co-workers (14 per cent) and support from a professional (four per cent). Additionally, 10 per cent of respondents indicate a need for support but have not sought it. This group has the lowest score (-36.5).


Work productivity declines
Workplace productivity declined in October to -11.8, compared to -11.0 in September. As many employees continue to work remotely for the seventh consecutive month, increased workplace flexibility is helping to keep them motivated. Among 79 per cent of respondents who report having flexible work hours, 35 per cent indicate that having flexible work hours helps their productivity. This group’s mental health score is the highest (-12.1), compared to respondents who report that flexible work hours reduces their productivity (-28.7).

“Working remotely continues to present significant challenges to the working population, especially with new lockdown restrictions now in effect in many areas,” said Philip Mullen, managing director, U.K. and Europe. “Employees that are provided with increased flexibility to accommodate their unique and ever-changing needs are responding more positively than those without. It is evident that maintaining this level of flexibility is critical to not only improve Britons’ mental health, but also to ensure workplace productivity, employee motivation and ultimately, business continuity.”

While most respondents remain employed (96 per cent), 17 per cent report reduced hours or salary since April 2020. Individuals reporting reduced salary when compared to the prior month?have the lowest mental health score (-21.8), followed by those reporting fewer hours (-19.9) and those not currently employed (-15.1). Despite working fewer hours, 40 per cent of respondents reported putting in more effort at work.

“The continuous feeling of instability felt by working Britons poses a significant threat to their long-term wellbeing, both inside and outside of the workplace,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “Employees are demonstrating that they are willing to put in the effort. The onus lies on employers and government to do their part by providing increased support and ensuring the mental health of Britons is taken just as seriously as their physical health.”

Image by Alexander Stein