Workers Health & Safety Centre

The stress of COVID, more research and WHSC training to help

Healthcare worker overcome with stress
Canadian workers are currently as distressed as the most distressed one per cent of working Canadians prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report suggests.
According to the Morneau Shepell Mental Health Index report for December, 2020, 26 per cent of the working population is experiencing more mental stress compared to the previous month. This is the highest level recorded since tracking began in April, 2020. Not surprising then, this same report suggests a significant and ongoing decline in the mental health of Canadian workers.
“Our collective mental health is at significant risk,” said Stephen Liptrap, Morneau Shepell president and chief executive officer. “It has never been more critical to make a conscious effort to support ourselves and each other and for employers to emphasize mental health and physical health equally in order to ensure employees feel heard and supported as the pandemic continues.”

Pandemic stressors

The report also offers insight into specific sources of stress created or impacted by the pandemic. They include new health and safety protocols, interacting with the public, job insecurity, work strain/overwork, change in work location and new technologies.
The most significant decline in mental health is observed in those reporting job uncertainty and work strain/overwork as the most stressful part of adapting at work to the pandemic. 
Other notable findings of the most recent Morneau Shepell Mental Health Index include:
  • one in three report concern about a co-worker’s mental health,
  • almost 30 per cent thought about leaving their job with increased mental stress and the employer’s response to the crisis foremost among reasons why,
  • frontline workers from health care and social assistance were most likely to consider leaving compared to other industries,
  • respondents identifying as black and many others in racialized communities suffering the most significant mental health decline,
  • 65 per cent of “people leaders” (i.e., supervisors) reported no concern with the mental health of workers, and
  • brand loyalty is significantly influenced by the way companies treat employees and customers during the pandemic and how they respond to social justice issues. 

These findings are consistent with the growing body of literature on the strain workers are experiencing during the pandemic.
Also of note, Morneau Shepell reports nearly half of respondents (46 per cent) report not using all their vacation time in 2020. However, workers without access to paid time off had the lowest mental health scores. Relatedly, health organizations and officials, politicians, worker representatives and others continue to call on the provincial or federal government to guarantee 10 fully paid sick days for the duration of the pandemic. Proponents say this will encourage workers to stay home if they are ill or required to self isolate, an intervention critical to suppressing workplace and community spread. Many believe it would also help to alleviate related stress.  

WHSC training can help

To assist joint health and safety committees, worker health and safety reps, workers, supervisors and employers during the pandemic, the WHSC has created a series of comprehensive fact sheets detailing insights into proper control measures and procedures. While information is important, training, real training, not just the sharing of information, is a key way employers meet their significant training, information and instruction obligations and prepares workplace parties for their roles in pursuit of safer, healthier work.
WHSC remains a leading provider of such training. Register for any, or all, of our scheduled courses in virtual classrooms. They include:
Don’t see what you need? Beyond scheduled classes, and where participant numbers warrant, we can work with you to coordinate almost any of our training courses in a virtual classroom for all workers, workplace representatives and supervisors.
To learn more:
Contact a WHSC training services representative near you.
Call: 1-888-869-7950
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Related WHSC resources
Study links workers’ mental health with COVID protection
COVID precautions protect workers physical and mental health, study
COVID-19 rates higher among racialized and low wage workers
All COVID resources