IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

Working toward more effective interventions by managers of mental health in the workplace

  •   October 10, 2017

A two-part longitudinal study gave researchers a better understanding of the process of implementing interventions that foster good mental health in the workplace. Four organizations involved in this type of process participated. The study was conducted with managers of the participating organizations by means of two questionnaire-based measures administered three months apart and one-on-one interviews. The managers also took part in an information session where they were presented with 25 psychosocial constraint (PC) management tools.

The first part of the study, which sought to identify factors influencing the adoption of management practices that foster good mental health, highlighted the importance of what is called the psychosocial safety climate. Managers who see their organization as concerned about PSRs are in fact more inclined to adopt sound management practices in this regard. The adoption of such practices is facilitated when the managers themselves are in good mental health and they have both high decision latitude and harmonious relations with their subordinates. If the organization plans preventive interventions specifically for managers, conceivably the interventions will have a cascade effect and a positive impact on the mental health of the people whose work they supervise.

In the second part of the study, which sought to identify factors that facilitate or hinder the preventive process, four themes were studied: (1) organizational context; (2) intervention content; (3) intervention process; and (4) effects obtained. The interviews revealed management commitment to be the facilitating factor most often reported by participants, followed by integration of the intervention into strategic planning, and a good communication strategy for promoting it among personnel. By contrast, geographical distances between workers on several sites, strained relationships among the participants in the intervention, and the complexity of the intervention were found to be hindering factors. Access to internal and external resources was considered critically important to assisting the organization. In terms of process content, the managers considered that activity relevance and timing (i.e. the fact of being held during working hours) have an impact on the process, while also emphasizing their own needs for training, coaching and social support. Nearly two out of three managers (63%) said they adopted a new PC management practice after the information session on intervention tools, with the majority of them noting positive effects on their teams, although one-third (34.5%) acknowledged experiencing difficulties implementing the new practice.

“On a theoretical level, this study fills gaps and advances our knowledge of both the process and content of preventive interventions, two key factors in their success or failure. By highlighting the personal, psychosocial and contextual factors influencing the adoption of PC management practices, the study also opens up the “black box” of interventions and their implementation. And by identifying the factors facilitating and hindering the process, it will be easier to prevent the process from derailing,” concludes Caroline Biron, professor in the Faculty of Business Administration at Université Laval.

The results of this study, which was funded by the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), can be consulted free of charge at

Jacques Millette
Manager of Public Affairs