OTTAWA -- Nearly four in 10 Canadian employees have become less motivated at work since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, new research shows.

The finding is part of Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index for September, which shows a “consistent trend of negative mental health among Canadians at the six-month mark of the pandemic,” a news release said.

The monthly index from the human resources services giant shows that strains on Canadians’ mental health may continue long-term as the second wave of the pandemic sends some parts of the country into stricter lockdown.

“As we look to the coming months, it’s critical that governments and organizations recognize the risk that the impending isolation will have on Canadians’ wellbeing and take proactive action,” company president and CEO Stephen Liptrap said in the release. “If Canadians’ mental health and wellbeing needs are not addressed, the resilience of our country will face a significant long-term threat."

The index shows a 10-point decline from the pre-pandemic benchmark of 75, and shows changes in workplace routine are impacting Canadian employees’ mental health.

The worst mental health scores were among employees working from home as a result of the pandemic, and those who are both working from home and at their jobsites.

Employee productivity is also taking a hit. Nearly four in 10 employees said they are finding it harder to feel motivated to work, and more than one-third said they find it harder to concentrate on work than before the pandemic.

“Motivation is impacted by ongoing strain,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “A decline in motivation suggests emotional exhaustion.”

Allen says there are two things driving that exhaustion: people aren’t balancing work with fun and social contact, and some are finding work more draining because of concerns about job security or needing to deal with distractions.

The survey also shows despite the toll the pandemic is taking on Canadians’ mental health, they are less likely to access health care for physical or mental needs. Much of the onus is on employers, Allen said, to support their employees’ mental well-being.

“Although Canadians are experiencing significant change in all areas of life, accessing physical and mental health support must remain a constant,” she said. “Employers play a critical role in this by reinforcing the need for self-care and promoting resources such as employee assistance programs and virtual healthcare.”

The Mental Health Index was conducted with 3,000 respondents in Canada. The margins of error for the survey are +/- 3.2 per cent, valid 19 times out of 20.

You can read the full report here.