The worst of the Covid-19 pandemic and related shutdowns may be behind us, but the mental health of Canadians continues to deteriorate. And they are equally stressed at work as they are in their personal lives.
Those were key findings from the latest LifeWorks Mental Health Index for the month of June. An even split of 26% said work stressors are their primary cause of stress, while the same percentage cited personal stressors.
A whopping 74% of Canadians reported feeling some impact of personal and/or work stress. Drilling down into the index by occupation, transportation/warehousing workers were among those with the greatest deterioration in mental health from May to June.
Of 22 industries monitored, transportation/warehousing was the fifth-worst performer, with a decline of 2.7 points in the index from May. However, its reading of 66.9 still bettered the broader overall score of 64.1.
What is driving this decline in the mental health of Canadians? It could be the return to ‘normal’ work routines after two years of chaos.
“While many organizations have marked the recent months as a return to a semblance of normalcy, it is clear we are not out of the woods just yet,” noted Stephen Liptrap, CEO of LifeWorks. “We have not seen a collective mental health score this low since January, which signals that conversations surrounding employee wellbeing and support should be continuing to ramp up, not slow down.”
Those Canadians who felt their mental wellbeing was supported by their employer during the pandemic showed the highest mental health scores, seven points higher than the national average and 15 points greater than those who felt their mental health wasn’t supported.
Of those who felt supported, the two top employer actions that helped their mental health were offering flexibility (51%) and promoting mental health services and resources (41%).
“The data makes it clear that those who feel that their mental health is supported by their employer are in a better place,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice-president – research and total wellbeing.
“Work is an essential part of life and the support that employers can provide help people deal with all issues – both personal and work-related. There are two parts to this opportunity. One is the workplace experience where people benefit from flexibility, psychological safety, and a sense of belonging. The other is providing resources for individuals and their families, including offering and promoting an employee and family assistance program and related programs and benefits. Both types of support are critical.”
This puts trucking employers in a difficult place. While it’s somewhat easy to accommodate flexibility for office staff, it’s less so for drivers whose occupations take them far from home – sometimes for extended periods – and involve plenty of isolation. (Isolation was the second-lowest sub-score after anxiety).
As my colleague Jim Park reports here, however, some forward-thinking fleets are discovering ways to remain productive while offering drivers flexibility. Those will be the ones who win in the desperate fight to find and keep professional drivers.
Those fleets who don’t yet understand that will struggle to retain the talent they need.
“We have some part-time drivers that come in and do a trip or two a month, while some months they don’t work at all,” Geoff Topping, Challenger Motor Freight’s vice-president – people and culture, told Park. “We’ve made it as flexible as we can to accommodate them.”
How many fleets even have a vice-president – people and culture? Challenger was named the top winner among large fleets in the Truckload Carriers Association’s 2022 Best Fleets to Drive For competition. Coincidence? As Canadians continue to struggle with mental health in the wake of the global pandemic, fleets need to be mindful workers in all categories will need ongoing support.
And interestingly, the mental health scores of managers were lower than those of non-managers from March through May, so don’t assume it’s only front-line workers who are suffering.
Providing mental health support to employers is not only the right thing to do, but in a tight labor market it will also give those who do so effectively a competitive edge in attracting and retaining badly needed talent.
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