New research from WORKPLACE STRATEGIES FOR MENTAL HEALTH, funded by Canada Life, shows the majority of employed Canadians feel their employers support their mental health during the pandemic.

The research was conducted in December 2020 and was a joint effort by Mental Health Research Canada and Queens University. Sixty-eight percent of employed Canadians report feeling supported by their employers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eighty-six percent of respondents indicated social check-ins, flexible work arrangements and access to mental health resources were more important than financial support. Just 9% indicated bonuses and pay raises helped support their mental health.

Respondents noted the three most helpful supports from their employers were:

  • Mental health-specific resources, such as information on existing or available tools and services (32%).
  • Flexible work arrangements, such as working from home or working during different hours of the day (31%).
  • Frequent communication and check-ins, including video conferencing, emails and other electronic social supports (23%).

These types of supports are key to help Canadians face the many uncertainties of the pandemic, says Mary Ann Baynton, director, collaboration and strategy, Workplace Strategies for Mental Health. “Without the right support, that sense of uncertainty can cause significant distress—and it carries over into the workplace. That’s where employers can play a vital role.”

Baynton goes on to say, “The good news is, research clearly shows there are simple actions employers can take that make a difference, like making well-being part of everyday conversation at work, picking up the phone to ask how someone is doing or pointing them to available resources that can help.”

Other key findings from this research show:

  • Employed Canadians with previous mental health issues are not at greater risk of COVID-related distress. All employees are at equal risk. There was no statistically significant difference of COVID-related distress between employees who have experienced mental health issues in the past and those who haven’t.
  • Females are experiencing more distress than males. One exception to the risk of experiencing mental distress is gender. Fifty-six percent of female respondents indicated they’re experiencing COVID-related distress, compared to 44% of male respondents.
  • Resilience was a key factor in overcoming distress. Those who scored their personal resilience level as medium or high were less likely to experience COVID-related distress. At the same time, 50% of respondents indicated they have low personal resilience, putting them at greater risk.

The survey collected responses from 1,600 employed adults in Canada (excluding those in northern territories) with a margin of error of ± 1.9%. Of those respondents, 306 answered open-ended questions about specific, helpful supports.

This article is brought to you by CANADA LIFE, sponsor of The Benefits Alliance Group Take 5 for Health Benefits newsletter and website.