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One-quarter of senior leaders considering resigning: report

July 16, 2021
By Talent Canada staff

Senior workplace leaders are not immune from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Farknot Architect/Adobe Stock)

New research released July 15 by LifeWorks, a leading provider of technology-enabled total well-being solutions, and Deloitte Canada, revealed that the state of mental well-being among senior leaders is compromising a post-pandemic workplace recovery and organizations across all sectors are at risk of a destabilizing loss of talent.

The research, conducted among private and public sector organizations, found that among senior leaders (employees one and two levels below the chief executive officer or equivalent):

  • 82 per cent finish work feeling mentally or physically exhausted
  • 59 per cent are unable to relax or pause activity
  • 49 per cent have difficulties sleeping.

These results are expected to have long-lasting implications, with half (51 per cent) of respondents considering leaving, retiring or downshifting from their current organization or position.

This includes senior leaders considering one or more of the following options:

  • 23 per cent considering resigning
  • 16 per cent considering moving to a less demanding role
  • 15 per cent considering retiring
  • 13 per cent considering taking a leave of absence
  • 6 per cent considering working part-time.

Psychologically Safe Workplace Awards provide employers tools, data on mental health

“Senior leaders have gone through a period of feeling exponential pressure to deliver, while dealing with personal disruption from the pandemic and extraordinary business disruption,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total well-being, LifeWorks.

“This has taken a toll that was under-recognized since the expectation is that they have an accountability to others. The issue is that their ability to deliver on that accountability is threatened. In the short term, this increased pressure could lead to behavioural change among senior leadership that trickles down and ultimately causes employee burnout at lower levels. In the longer term, we anticipate seeing a risk of turnover among senior leaders. This is an issue we must immediately address, as senior leaders play a critical role for organizations.”

Unbalanced demand-control-support model affecting psychological well-being

Leaders need to establish a balance of demand, control and support in order to build resilient workforces and organizations. In today’s workforce, however, senior leaders’ level of control has decreased, with economic uncertainties and changing government regulations requiring leaders to continuously adapt.

Respondents indicated that the most prevalent source of work stress include work volume and wanting to provide more support for their staff. Additionally, 55 per cent of senior leaders perceive that they will be stigmatized and lose out on career opportunities if they had a mental-health issue and their workplace was aware.

“Senior leaders will set the tone for how organizations come back from the pandemic. To do this effectively, it is key that we protect their mental health and resiliency and provide ongoing support that fits the range of needs within each workplace,” said Zabeen Hirji, executive advisor, future of work and co-lead CHRO20, Deloitte.

“This will have a trickle-down effect in setting a culture that normalizes mental-health support for all employees. We look forward to working with our employer partners to develop solutions and new approaches to address this urgent issue.”

About the well-being and resilience of senior leaders’ survey

The well-being and resilience of senior leaders’ survey by LifeWorks and Deloitte was conducted through an online survey in English in April with approximately 1,200 responses. Respondents are senior leaders from 11 organizations across nine public and private sector industries. Sixty-six per cent of respondents reside in Canada, 18 per cent in the United States, 10 per cent in EMEA and six per cent in other regions. For the purposes of this report, “senior leader” refers to individuals two levels below the chief executive officer.

Click here to read the full report.

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