A May 2022 survey finds that twenty per cent of Canadians report below average mental health due to increased conflict or aggression when dealing with the public or clients. 

This segment has a mental health score of 54.1, compared with a national average score of 64.9, according to the Mental Health Index report published by LifeWorks (acquired by TELUS Corporation in June 2022). 

The report finds that women are 40 per cent more likely than men to have experienced an increase in aggression or conflict when working with the public or clients. Managers are 60 per cent more likely than non-managers to report this problem. 

Little support  

The index suggests that many organizations are not prepared to deal with this phenomenon. LifeWorks reports that 34 per cent of Canadians say their organization does not provide training, coaching or support to deal with conflict or aggression. Only 44 per cent of respondents claim that their organization provides this type of assistance. 

Hybrid work models... 

The hybrid work model and inflation are apparently exacerbating the problem. “We are seeing heightened levels of workplace stress as tensions rise in the wake of newly enforced hybrid operating models,” Stephen Liptrap, LifeWorks president and CEO, points out.

Liptrap believes that stressors such as inflation are also impacting people’s daily lives. “It’s critical for employers to take note of how these feelings are materializing among employees,” he says. 

...coupled with inflation

Conflict adversely affects business and employee well-being. “To mitigate risk and ensure employees feel safe and supported, providing ongoing training and tailored resources is key,” Liptrap continues. 

Paula Allen, Global Leader and Senior Vice President, Research and Total Wellbeing at LifeWorks, says Canadians have been experiencing ongoing periods of change for more than two years. Coping with these situations can be extremely complex. “This in addition to the current work and economic environment makes for a volatile situation. Organizations can help by acknowledging employee stress, fostering communication, a sense of connection and belonging, providing conflict management training, and promoting individual counselling and support,” Allen says. 

The LifeWorks report mentions that nearly one quarter of employed Canadians are struggling to meet their basic needs. Inflation has forced 47 per cent of survey respondents to cut back on optional spending. In addition, 23 per cent of employees report that inflation is affecting their ability to meet their basic needs. These individuals’ mental health score is 13 points below the national average.

Index adjusted to the COVID reality 

At 64.9 out of 100 in May 2022, the mental health score for Canadians remains virtually unchanged from April's 64.8. “The mental health of working Canadians has been strained for more than two years, suggesting the emergence of a lower baseline measure of mental health going forward,” LifeWorks’ report reads. 

Published since April 2020 as a relative value, the Index changed to an absolute value in May 2022 to better reflect the impact of COVID on the mental health status of Canadian workers. In a note to its index trend chart, LifeWorks says it made the move to absolute scores because of the degree of change that has occurred over the past two years. “It is unlikely that a return to pre-pandemic levels will be realized hence the reference relative to that benchmark is no longer relevant,” the report says. 

To compile the index, LifeWorks has been conducting monthly surveys. The May 2022 survey involved 3,000 people who live in Canada and are currently or were employed within the prior six months, the firm says.

Mental health scores improved in Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Maritimes, while British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario saw declines in mental health, the index report notes.

Lifeworks adds that at 70.5, Newfoundland and Labrador’s mental health score was the highest in Canada in May 2022. In contrast, Saskatchewan posted the country’s lowest mental health score, at 63.5. This score dipped by 2.4 points from the previous month.

In Manitoba, the score of 65.4 for May 2022 rose 2.3 points from the previous month. This increase amounts to the largest improvement in mental health across Canada.