SUMMARY: Guarding Minds at Work is a set of free resources for any organization to assess and address workplace factors known to impact employee psychological health and safety.

This guide, developed with support from Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, can help you leverage Guarding Minds at Work more effectively. It will help you:

  • Avoid rushing to survey without a plan of action
  • Carefully choose what’s included in your assessment
  • Analyze your results accurately
  • Frame results to support positive improvement
  • Implement a process of continual improvement

What is Guarding Minds at Work?

Guarding Minds at Work is a tool for employers to effectively assess and address the psychosocial factors known to have an impact on organizational health, the health of individual employees, and the financial bottom line. It is available to all employers – large or small, in the public or private sector – at no cost.

Workplaces may differ in the language describing various roles and positions. Guarding Minds at Work uses the following terms for consistency:

Employee(s) – includes full-time, part-time, casual, unionized or contract workers at all levels. This may also include volunteers, interns and service providers in your workplace.

My Supervisor – means the person who oversees your work. This person may be called your manager, foreman or leader.

Work environment – refers to your experiences with the people and places where you work.

Organization – the entity designed to provide goods and/or services to customers, clients or members of the public.

Employer – the norms, values, policies and processes that your organization and senior management demonstrate.

What are psychosocial factors?
Psychosocial factors are elements that impact employees’ psychological responses to work and work conditions, potentially causing stress and both physical and psychological health problems. Psychosocial factors include the way work is carried out (deadlines, workload, work methods) and the context in which work occurs (including relationships and interactions with managers and supervisors, colleagues and co-workers, and clients or customers).

For each of the factors, lower scores indicate greater risk to employee psychological health and safety; higher scores indicate greater potential for protection of employee psychological health and safety.

The factors are interrelated and therefore can influence one another. Positive or negative changes in one factor can change the impact of other factors.

The psychosocial factors are relevant to all sizes and types of businesses, associations, institutions, charities, not-for-profits, organizations and industries.

What is the relationship between psychosocial factors and psychological health?

Considerable evidence indicates that negative psychosocial factors may increase stress, which may then lead to mental distress. Does this mean that work “causes” mental disorders? In the majority of cases no, but Canadian courts have rendered legal decisions that appear to attribute the cause of some types of mental disorders to the acts or omissions of the employer.

The fact is that we often cannot determine the specific cause or causes of most mental disorders for particular individuals. We do know, however, that employees in workplaces with high psychosocial risk are more likely to have mental disorders and more likely to experience poor mental health. In addition, workplaces that do not attend to psychosocial risks are likely to make existing employee conditions worse and impede efforts toward effective treatment and rehabilitation.

A supportive work environment reduces the prevalence, severity, impact and duration of mental disorders. Furthermore, organizations that make the effort to address psychosocial risks and create a psychologically healthy workplace are much more likely to have healthier, happier employees, and are likely to reap benefits in productivity, sustainability and growth.

How were the psychosocial factors in Guarding Minds at Work determined?
The psychosocial factors were determined via a Grounded Theory approach, which involved a thorough review of relevant literature and extensive consultation with Canadian employers, unions and employees. Four national surveys using the psychosocial factors identified by Guarding Minds at Work have also contributed to the refinement of norms and cut points.

The psychosocial factors assessed by Guarding Minds at Work include:

Balance
A work environment where there is recognition of the need for employees to be able to manage the demands of work, family and personal life.

Civility and respect
A work environment where employees are respectful and considerate in their interactions with one another, as well as with customers, clients and the public.

Clear leadership and expectations
A work environment where there is effective leadership and support so that employees know what they need to do, have confidence in their leaders and understand impending changes.

Engagement
A work environment where employees feel connected to their work, co-workers and their organization and are motivated to do their job well.

Growth and development
A work environment where employees receive encouragement and support in the development of their interpersonal, emotional and job skills.

Involvement and influence
A work environment where employees are included in discussions about how their work is done and have input into decisions that impact their job.

Organizational culture
A work environment characterized by the shared values of trust, honesty and fairness.

Psychological and social support
A work environment where the organization is supportive of employees'' psychological health concerns and provides assistance as needed.

Psychological competencies and demands
A work environment where there is good fit between employees’ interpersonal and emotional competencies, their job skills and the position they hold.

Psychological protection
A work environment where employees’ psychological safety is ensured.

Protection of physical safety
A work environment where management takes appropriate action to address physical hazards in order to protect the psychological health and safety of employees.

Recognition and reward
A work environment where there is appropriate acknowledgement and appreciation of employees’ efforts in a fair and timely manner.

Workload management
A work environment where assigned tasks and responsibilities can be accomplished successfully within the time available.

Readiness for survey

“Rushing to survey” is a term we use to describe organizations that are not adequately prepared before they engage employees in any type of survey.

We recommend that you review the following carefully to have a plan of action ready before you send out the link to the survey. This will help support successful outcomes and avoid skepticism about the value of completing a survey when no timely action appears to be taken on the results.

Organizational readiness
Consider organizational readiness for change. There may be internal or external factors that make taking action more difficult:

  • Potential mergers or major reorganizations.
  • Current labour disputes or pending strike actions.
    • These may not be the ideal times to begin a process in which management and the union are expected to work together
  • Impending business issues such as shutdowns, layoffs, terminations or redeployments
    • It may make sense to focus first on limiting the risk related to the impact of these issues.

Any of the above may make it difficult for large-scale change. This should not prevent the workplace from supporting employees through difficult changes, grief at the loss of co-workers or increased workload pressures. Identify what could be helpful and narrow your focus to making incremental positive changes. For inspiration, consider completing the Organizational review.

Getting buy-in
It’s important to get buy-in and commitment to proceed with a plan to address psychological health and safety in your workplace. Others have found that without this prior approval, the process can be halted by concerned leaders who are not clear on the risks and benefits.

The purpose of getting buy-in is to establish that psychological health and safety is a priority to your organization and getting written commitment from senior leadership (labour and management) in the form of a directive or policy statement.

Be prepared to respond to questions from senior leaders in management or labour about the:

  • Costs and benefits of assessing psychological health and safety
  • Estimated time and effort that will be required
  • Demands on employees and leaders
  • Management of employee expectations

Each of the following can help you do this:

Costs and benefits

  • The economic and social benefits of a psychologically healthy and safe workplace can include sustainability of an engaged workforce and a healthy bottom line. Relevant statistics are available to provide evidence.
  • Considering the costs can help you use your own data to make the business case for addressing psychological health and safety.
  • A strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis can be a useful tool for decision-making. Free information for conducting a SWOT analysis is provided courtesy of Businessballs Free Work and Life Learning.
  • Simply opening dialogue about what the psychosocial factors are, may result in positive changes, even without a formal implementation process. Larger initiatives and programs are not always required.
  • Time and effort

    Estimate the time and effort required to do the assessment, analyze results and implement change. The size and scope of your plan will be relative to the complexity of your organization and the initiatives you choose to implement. Some organizations might survey and implement limited changes once a year, while others will create a continual improvement process.

    Estimate the time your organization may need for the following tasks:

    • Developing the business case, including baseline measurements.
    • Securing commitment from top leadership from both labour and management.
    • Creating a communication plan that addresses any potential concerns.
    • Setting up the survey process by choosing when and how it will happen, who will participate and what will be included from among the options.
    • Administering the Guarding Minds at Work survey (This is probably the easiest part).
    • Analyzing the Guarding Minds at Work results.
    • Communicating results, celebrating successes, and identifying areas for improvement.
    • Engaging the workforce in proposing action plans. This participation is critical to success.
    • Engaging a working group in implementing the plans that could eventually become part of a day-to-day routine.
    • Measuring outcomes. Did the plans achieve the goals that were set?
    • Taking corrective action including modifications or new approaches as indicated by the evaluation of outcomes.
    • Establishing a process of continual improvement. Consider re-administering the survey every couple of years.
    • Estimating ongoing time allocation. For example, you may choose one hour every two weeks per team to maintain the improvements in psychological health and safety.

    Demands on employees and leaders

    Psychological health and safety supports employee productivity and a healthy bottom line. Organizations or departments may believe that they do not have enough time or resources to invest in this. Like all health and safety approaches, you may wish to consider the following when discussing priorities:

    • Organizations may begin by looking at just one psychosocial factor. Identify one or more which the leaders believe is impacting productivity.
      • One example is workload management. Effective workload management is rarely about doing less work. It focuses on doing work with less stress and distraction. This concept can open dialogue, help identify solutions, reduce stress-related absenteeism and help create an atmosphere for continued improvement.
    • Leading-edge organizations conscientiously choose best practices for continual improvement. Psychological health and safety can follow this approach.
    • Have leadership openly accept responsibility for the current situation and the need to make changes. By accepting responsibility (as opposed to blame), they can reduce the need for others (employees or leaders) to justify or defend their current behaviours or positions.
    • Risk management approaches are necessary when any part of your workplace could be considered poisoned or toxic. Put safeguards in place to help ensure no further harm is done to psychological health and safety.
    • If there has been a recent traumatic incident in the workplace, be open about the effects of the trauma and provide effective supports.
      • This can be an opportunity to engage staff in discussing ways to protect psychological health and safety in the workplace. The On the agenda series of workshop materials can help.
      • Be sensitive to the current ability of those who are affected by trauma to complete the survey. They may require extra time or a quiet place without distractions.
      • See also Impairment and Substance, Grief Response, Suicide Response and Mental Health First Aid for additional resources.

    Engage external experts, if appropriate. Guarding Minds at Work is a free, self-serve resource, but some organizations prefer an external consultant to assist. Existing knowledge and expertise may reduce overall effort and time.

    Manage employee expectations

    There may be some concern that talking about psychological health and safety will create unreasonable expectations from employees.

    • Psychological health and safety is about maximizing employees’ focus and energy, which leads to improved productivity and performance. Psychological health and safety is not about doing less work. It is about supporting every employee to do their best work.
    • Some may worry that discussing psychological health and safety with employees will cause problems or invite unreasonable criticism. But avoiding or denying workplace issues may allow problems to worsen until they become a crisis or a risk-management concern.
    • Proactively identifying and addressing psychological health and safety issues can help prevent time-consuming and morale-dampening situations. This also leads to a more effective plan for prevention.
    • The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace provides an evidence-based framework to support taking action and avoid risk to employee psychological safety.

    Develop and communicate the assessment plan

    • Identify one or more champions from senior leadership ranks who can influence and mobilize resources and ensure commitment throughout the process.
    • Establish a psychological health and safety working group comprised of key stakeholders who will help drive the process. The mandate of the working group is to plan the assessment, analysis and communication about the process. They would help steer the planning, implementation, evaluation and continual improvement stages.
      • The stakeholders should come from all levels – management, employees and employee representatives.
      • Where possible, include a representative:
        • From human resources, union, occupational health and safety and/or finance
        • With expertise in communications
        • With authority to access organizational data to help inform working group decisions

      Involve key stakeholders in discussion about the working group’s approach, getting critical feedback from employees, union and management before communicating the plan to the rest of the workforce.

    • The assessment project plan may include:
      • Objectives and success measures
      • Project scope, including the approach and resources used
      • Timeline with milestones
      • Budget
      • Roles and responsibilities
      • Implementation and communication strategies

    Communicate the assessment plan

    Communicating with staff openly and early in the process may enhance participation, engagement and interest. It also gives employees time to ask questions or raise concerns.

    Who to communicate to

    Ensure you communicate with all workplace stakeholders, including senior management, union representatives, line managers, occupational health and safety representatives, human resource professionals, all employees and any other individuals who play a role in the workplace.

    What to communicate

    • Support from senior leadership – refer to the directive or policy statement from senior leadership, obtained in the “Get buy-in” stage.
    • Purpose of the survey – outline the reason why your organization is embarking on the survey and how the results will be used. If there are known issues in the workplace, be transparent about accepting responsibility for the current situation and the organization’s awareness that changes need to be made.
    • Participation is voluntary – emphasize your goal of gathering input from all employees. To ensure a balanced perspective, you need responses from as many employees as possible, rather than only those interested in specific issues. You may want to include incentives for completing the survey such as gift cards, move passes, etc.
    • Confidentiality will be protected – to ensure widespread participation and honest responses, employees must be assured that any information they provide will be kept confidential. The survey results are provided in aggregate only – individual responses are not provided. If an employee chooses to participate and later changes his or her mind, he or she can stop completing the survey at any time and the responses will not be saved.

      Here are some points you may want to include in communications:

      • Participation in this data collection project is voluntary.
      • They may choose not to participate.
      • The choice not to participate will have no adverse effects on employment.
      • Each employee has anonymity when completing and returning his or her submission.
      • No personal or identifying information will be gathered. Survey respondents will only be asked about their experiences and perceptions about their workplace from the perspective of their current position.
      • If an employee chooses to participate and later changes his or her mind, he or she can stop completing the survey at any time and the responses will not be saved.
      • Any information that is obtained during this data collection project will be kept strictly confidential.
      • Only aggregate data with 10 or more survey responses will be analyzed and reported; individual-level data will not be accessed. If there are fewer than 10 respondents to the survey, no data will be analyzed or reported.
    • Survey start date and survey close date – it is recommended that the start date for the survey is at least two weeks from when the first communication explaining the survey is sent to employees. This allows time for responding to employee questions. The survey should be closed when all employees have had sufficient opportunity to complete it. This is usually about two weeks.
    • Expectations on when the survey should be completed – the Guarding Minds at Work survey takes about 20 minutes to complete. Can staff complete the survey during work hours or during non-work hours? Will they be compensated for time spent completing the survey?
    • Responses to questions – provide a contact person(s) who can answer employees’ questions. Allow at least two weeks to respond to questions before the survey is sent out.

    Communications to be developed in advance

    • Announcement and explanation of your project:
      • Send out as soon as you have a statement from senior leadership to share about the organization’s goals around psychological health and safety in the workplace, including timing of the survey. It is recommended that this statement be reviewed with any union leadership before it is distributed.
      • At least two weeks prior to the survey distribution, to allow for questions.
    • Request to complete the survey:
      • Send when you feel you have leadership buy-in and have adequately communicated the purpose of the survey to all employees.
      • The Introducing Guarding Minds template lettercan be used or modified to develop your own initial communication with staff about the survey. This communication advises staff that you will be sending them a link to the survey and provides information about confidentiality, data security and how the information will be communicated and used.
      • A reminder communication approx. one week before the survey will close.
    • Thank you for participating in the survey message:
      • Send to all employees immediately after the survey closes.
      • Consider adding a first action such as subscribing to the free Mental Health Awareness email series and sending out to all employees each week. This helps demonstrate that your organization is immediately taking action to help improve psychological health and safety.

    Potential methods of communication

    • Meetings – each department or team leader may wish to hold discussions on the above once they have been briefed.
    • Email
    • Written communication for employees without access to a device
    • Notice board, newsletters
    • Lunch and learn sessions on psychological health and safety
    • Identify any other communication challenges or limitations, such as employees with vision or other impairments, working offsite, on vacation or leave. Consider ways to ensure these employees are included in both the communications and the ability to complete the survey.

    Set up the survey

    To set up a survey, begin by creating a free account using the Guarding Minds Sign Up. This registration is necessary to receive a link to the survey that can be sent to your employees. You will also be able to administer your surveys and generate reports from your account.

    Note: Only the individual who will administer the survey must sign up for an account on behalf of their organization. Those taking the survey do not need to register.

    Dashboard screenshot

    When you login to your account, you will enter a secured section of the website, called your Dashboard, where your organization’s information and survey data will remain confidential and secure. Only aggregate information from all surveys is used for continual improvement of Guarding Minds at Work.

    On the Dashboard, you will see Home, Create New Survey and Edit My Information tabs. This is where you will be able to set up and administer the survey.

    Once the survey is activated, you will receive an email with a link to the survey that can be forwarded to employees. You will also be able to access this link via the Get Survey Link button in the Active Surveys section. Do not forward the survey link to employees until communications about the survey have been distributed.

    Choose your assessment tool
    There are a three assessment options available to assess psychological health and safety in a workplace. The recommended option is to complete the Guarding Minds Organizational Review first and the Employee Survey after that. The Stress Satisfaction Scan is available when the recommended option is not practical.

    1. Employee Survey
      This is an automated resource that allows you to register and send out a link to the comprehensive survey for each employee. Employee identity is kept confidential and the aggregated results provide a snapshot of how the organization is rated by employees on measures that are known to impact psychological health and safety in the workplace. See Frequently Asked Questions for more information about confidentiality. You can print a copy of the Survey Statements to review in advance.
    2. Organizational Review
      Use in advance of the survey: This is a set of worksheets to be completed manually by a leader or leadership team that supports their own assessment of psychological health and safety in their workplace in advance of the employee survey. It helps connect existing human resources and benefits data, such as performance, absenteeism, complaints and disability to each of the psychosocial factors.

      You can read more about conducting an organizational review or download the Organizational Review Worksheets in the Resources section of the Guarding Minds website.

      Compare with employee survey result: If you complete the Organizational Review and enter the results on the Guarding Minds Dashboard (via the Organizational Review Input button within your Active Survey), you can generate a report that compares leadership perspectives with the Employee Survey when once you have completed and closed the survey.

      Use instead of a survey: The organizational review is also a helpful exercise for small business owners, team leaders or any organization in which an employee survey is not possible or practical.

    3. Stress Satisfaction Scan
      This scan provides six statements that indicate to what extent your employees are stressed or satisfied at work. This short survey is suitable for your organization if:
      • There are concerns about the cost, resources or logistics in completing the Guarding Minds Employee Survey.
      • You want a quick snapshot of stress versus satisfaction in your organization. This can be also be done along with the Organizational Review for a more complete assessment.
      • Your organization recently completed an employee survey that did not assess stress satisfaction and you want to use this survey to supplement it. Note that the Guarding Minds Employee Survey includes this measurement, so the Stress Satisfaction Scan is not necessary.
      • You want to assess if there is evidence for the need for more significant investment in psychological health and safety in your workplace.

    For more information read Understanding the Stress Satisfaction Scan.

    Pros and cons of segmenting the Guarding Minds survey

    You have the option to break up or segment the Guarding Minds Employee Survey. This allows for analysis of departments, employee groups or geographical locations to compare with the overall profile of the organization.

    There are pros and cons to including segmentation question options. Survey results will not be reported for any segmentation that has fewer than 10 respondents. This is to protect the anonymity of employees. For example, if you segment by department or age and one department or age group has 15 people, but only nine respond, you will not get segmented results for that department or group. For this reason, we recommend at least 50 people in each segment to ensure it will be worthwhile. (All results will be included in the unsegmented report if there are at least 10 respondents.)

    If you do decide to segment, choose only the segmentation options which are critical to your ability to address psychological health and safety in your workplace. The following table describes the pros and cons of segmentation.

Segmentation question options

Demographic questions

The following questions can also be chosen but will only show you the number of responses; you cannot generate a segmented report using these questions.

Adding more questions will mean that it will take each employee longer to complete the survey, so only ask those questions that are meaningful in terms of the actions you will take. For example, if you will not choose different actions based on age or education, there is no reason to add these extra questions.

The optional demographic questions are:

  • How old are you?
  • What is the highest level of education that you have attained?
  • Are you a member of a union?
  • Which of the following best describes your seniority level within your company or organization? (For the previous question, the possible responses are: Junior Level, Mid-Level, Senior Level, Owner or No response. You may need to explain these to those who take the survey if they are not terms commonly used in your workplace.)
  • In your job, are you directly responsible for managing others?
  • (Only if the previous answer was yes…) In your job, about how many employees do you supervise on a day-to-day basis? Please indicate how many employees report to you directly and how many employees report to you indirectly (that is, how many employees report to supervisors who report to you).
  • For approximately how long have you been working for your present employer (in any capacity)?
  • For approximately how long have you been in your current position with your present employer?
  • Are you a shift worker?
  • What type(s) of shift(s) do you work?
  • On average, how many hours in total do you work per week?

Sending the survey out

After choosing what will be asked in your survey, send out the link to all employees and give them a deadline to complete it. Monitor your Dashboard to see the number of responses and send out reminders if there are not sufficient responses. It is ideal to have 100% of employees respond, as fewer than 75% may not give you a realistic measurement of psychological health and safety in your workplace.

When you have reached your deadline and have sufficient responses, it is time to close your survey using the Close Survey link. This will close it off from any further input and allow you to print your results.

Once you have closed the survey, you will be able to generate a Guarding Minds Report, via the Closed Surveys section on your Dashboard.

Understand your results

The Guarding Minds Employee Survey consists of 79 statements. Employees choose the option – strongly disagree, disagree, agree or strongly agree – which best supports their experience at work.

Seventy-three of these items pertain directly to the factors known to impact employee psychological health and safety. There are at least five statements for each factor. You will receive results for each statement to help you identify where to focus actions for improvement.

Six more statements ask for yes or no responses to specific areas of concern, including discrimination, harassment, bullying, trauma, burnout or violence. This is essential for assessing whether employees have experienced these issues in your workplace.

Reading your report

The Guarding Minds Employee Survey report data can be viewed in four different ways:

  1. Responses by each psychosocial factor
  2. Responses for each of the 79 survey statements
  3. Comparison data – this is a sample gathered in early 2020 by Queen’s University of over 500 working Canadians from a wide variety of sectors and regions. It is not a benchmark to aspire to, but a snapshot in time for your organization to compare against.
  4. Organizational review results – this data will only show up if you manually input it after your leadership team completes the review and before printing the survey report.

    The report has a summary of all factors (A), followed by a breakdown of each statement by factor (B). You may also have Organizational review information (C) if you input this before printing. And you may have segmented reports (D) if this was an option that you chose. You can generate and print the overall report and segmented reports separately using the Generate Reports Button on your Dashboard.

    Sample reports are also available in the Resources section of the Guarding Minds website.

    1. Psychosocial Factor Summary

      These graphs include the percentages for each of the four responses for the statements related to each factor.

      • Responses marked Strongly Disagree will show up as red in the bar graph and are described as Significant Concerns. These could require immediate attention.
      • Responses marked Somewhat Disagree will show up as orange in the bar graph and are described as Serious Concerns. These could require immediate attention.
      • Responses marked Somewhat Agree will show up as yellow in the bar graph and are described as minimal concerns. This could indicate that employees do not identify this as an area that is currently problematic.
      • Responses marked Strongly Agree will show up as green in the bar graph and are described as Relative Strengths. These could indicate areas where your organization is doing well.
      • While these summary graphs can be used as a general point of reference, it is highly recommended that you review the results of each individual statement. This will help you identify issues requiring action to improve psychological health and safety.

      Also included in this section is Specific Areas of Concern. This critical information will help identify potential issues related to discrimination, harassment, bullying, trauma and violence. Any results in this area should be immediately flagged for senior leadership, and a plan should be put in place to mitigate risk. Legal advice should be sought. Specific Areas of Concern provides a framework to help your organization address these issues.

    2. Psychosocial Factor by Statement

      These graphs display the breakdown of responses by each individual survey statement to help you understand and respond to specific challenges and strengths.

      The bar graphs colours represent the following employee responses:

      Strongly Disagree
      Somewhat Disagree
      Somewhat Agree
      Strongly Agree

      All statements are written in the positive – identifying psychological safety – so Strongly Agree (green) would be the ideal response.

      This information is critical in analyzing your results as the individual statements provide you with information about which action(s) may be most effective in addressing the issue.

      The corresponding results of your organizational review (if completed) and Queen’s University 2020 survey are also presented with each graph, so you compare the results for each statement.

      As stated in the National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, the most effective way to determine effective action(s) would be to consult with employees about these results. This allows for clarification about what experiences prompted the response and what would change their experience. On the Agenda is a series of workshop materials that can help you engage employees in this discussion.

      The relevant factor bar graphs described in A above are also repeated on the pages with the individual statements to make it easier for you to compare.

    3. Organizational Comparison

      Once you have set up an active survey, you can enter the organizational review results using the Organizational Review Input button on your Dashboard. This would happen if your leadership team completed the organizational review in full and provided their results. By entering the results, your final employee survey report will include this data as compared to employee perspectives.

      A comparison between employee results and leadership input helps illustrate similarities and differences in perspectives. This can be foundational in opening a dialogue towards a shared understanding of psychological safety in your workplace.

    4. Segmented Report

      If you chose to segment your survey you will be able to also create segmented reports only if there was a minimum of ten responses in each segment. This safeguard exists to protect employee confidentiality. If there are fewer than 10 responses, the segment report option will be greyed out and cannot be selected. The responses from that segment will still be included in the overall report.

      The data in a segmented report is calculated and reported in the same manner as the full report.

Before you share the results

Be sure to address any Specific Areas of Concern as reported in the Psychosocial Factor Summary first as these may indicate an existing risk to employee safety. Review all of the results with your leadership team and identify any areas of concern as well as those areas of relative strength

Share results with employees

Being prepared to take meaningful action towards improving psychological health and safety before the survey goes out allows you to share good news along with the results soon after the survey is closed. Holding back results for a prolonged period may increase employee skepticism about the intentions of the organization to protect psychological safety.

Many organizations will find that they have survey results indicating potential areas of strength. Celebrating these areas helps reinforce employee contributions to a psychologically healthy and safe workplace.

Communication should also include intended outcomes and improvements for the future. Clearly communicate that the workplace will not become ideal overnight but will continue to focus on improving psychological health and safety and requires the contribution of all employees.

  • Engage all staff and stakeholders in helping to determine how to make positive impacts on psychological health and safety in the workplace. Each employee has a responsibility to contribute, since their interactions with others has a direct effect on psychological health and safety.
  • Engage work teams in discussing and developing plans of action. Ensure that these plans include a method to evaluate results.
    • Some level of communication and facilitation skills is useful for those who will be leading these discussions. Even those who do not feel comfortable in these areas can use the information and tools found in the On the Agenda workshop materials to their advantage. There is one set of workshop materials for each psychosocial factor. The slide presentation, participant handout and facilitator guide will walk you through how to host this engaging and interactive discussion.
    • For additional ideas on approaches to take, read Psychological Health and Safety: An Action Guide for Employers.

Take effective action

From the On the agenda: Creating change workshop series:

It can seem daunting to prioritize and choose those evidence-based actions that are most likely to improve psychological health and safety in the workplace. Use this Creating change process to help you think through the options and guide your decision making.

Psychological health and safety is a process of continual improvement. Trying to do too much all at once can have a negative impact if it creates stress and pressure on employees. Instead, consider implementing smaller changes over time. Focusing on one initiative at a time may be ideal. After you incorporate these initiatives, or when they’re no longer necessary, you can add more.

Choose your evidence-based action. Then, use the Creating change worksheet to refine your plan.

Step 1: Assess potential actions

Consider a policy review if your results indicate the need to develop or refine policies within the organization. This relates to organizational practices and processes that are part of the day-to-day experience in the workplace. Policy recommendations can help you with this.

Create a high-level strategy for your organization to focus on. Examples include:

  • "To address psychological health and safety, we will begin by focusing on management training."
  • "To address psychological health and safety, we will begin by raising mental health awareness."
  • "To address psychological health and safety, we will begin with a policy review."
  • "To address psychological health and safety, we will begin by holding focus groups."

Weigh risks and benefits to help identify potential challenges and opportunities before you commit.

Review each of the following points against your proposed action. Then write your response on the Creating change worksheet you’ve already started.

  1. Appropriateness is the degree to which the action is relevant to our work situation and good for our organization.

    This would be an action that is compatible with our work demands and setting. Write in the Creating change worksheet why you feel the action’s appropriate.

  2. Acceptability is the degree to which the employer, union (if applicable) and employees would agree to implement the action.

    Actions should be:

    • Beneficial for all
    • Easy to explain to decision makers
    • Easy to communicate to employees
    • Straightforward to implement

    Decision makers and employees may reject actions that are overly complicated or interfere with the ability to meet objectives. In unionized environments, the action should align with the collective agreement. In the Creating change worksheet, write why this action will be acceptable to all workplace stakeholders.

  3. Accessibility is the degree to which everyone can participate regardless of ability or location.

    There are many considerations in terms of who can access the action. They include location, method of delivery and timing. Language, literacy level and format also can slow or hinder access. It’s important to include and support employees with differing abilities. Write in the Creating change worksheet how this action will be accessible to everyone.

  4. Efficiency is the degree to which we have the resources to implement and sustain the action.

    Do a cost-benefit analysis on the action. Estimate these costs:

    • Material
    • Delivery expenses, such as transportation, venue or refreshments
    • Time and expenses for developers, facilitators, participants and evaluators to participate.

    Weigh the expenses against the value this action may achieve for each participant. Here’s an example: The total cost is $5,000. It will be used for 50 employees to become more aware of protecting their own mental health. The potential cost-benefit is decreased absenteeism and improved productivity for $100 per employee. Write in the Creating change worksheet why this is an efficient action.

  5. Effectiveness is the degree to which the action will have a positive measurable impact and lead to the intended outcomes.

    Ensure that anyone can see a link between the selected action and the intended outcomes. This is critical. This evidence can come from established workplace practices, evidence-based resources or academic literature. Write in the Creating change worksheet the evidence for why the action will be effective as well as how you will measure success. Measurements of success could include the following approaches and metrics:

    • Participation – measure how many people take part in your action.
    • Behaviour changes – track the number of times participants do things differently. Give specific direction in advance. What behaviour change are you looking for? How do participants or their leaders report this action?
    • Absenteeism – track the number of days off in the months before and after implementing the action to look for changes in trends. Look for ways to maintain confidentiality while tracking absence.
    • Complaints, conflicts or grievances – track the number reported in the months before and after the action.
    • Awareness – survey employees to determine the level of awareness about your action or the intended outcomes.
    • Participant perception – ask specific questions about the experience with the action.
    • Supervisor perception – survey supervisors about changes that were a result of this action.
    • Focus groups – bring together participants to discuss how the action impacted them and suggestions for improvement.
    • Stress satisfaction scan – administer this six-question survey before and after the action to measure changes in how employees feel about work.
  6. Safety is the degree to which all potential risks to both physical and psychological safety are eliminated or managed.

    Unintended consequences can happen at an individual or organizational level. For example, we may trigger or stigmatize employees when we discuss mental illness. Come up with potential risks to physical and psychological safety. This will reduce the likelihood of them happening. In the Creating change worksheet, write the risks you identified and how to prevent or mitigate them. Once you’ve added your ideas to the Creating change worksheet, you may need to get approval.

Step 2: Choose actions that meet criteria

Prioritize the actions that meet your criteria so that you identify what will be done first. This can include one or more actions.

Step 3: Choose the action planning team

Assign people to the various responsibilities necessary for plan development, communication, implementation and evaluation.

Step 4: Implement the action(s)

Be sure to use the methods of measurement to assess the effectiveness of your action.

Step 5: Evaluate the outcomes

Analyze your measures of success to report on the extent to which the action(s) were able to reach the intended outcomes.

Step 6: Use a continual improvement approach

Your evaluation can support a process of continual improvement. Take what you learn from the action and consider how you can do it better or if the best course of action is to continue as is.

  • Consider including in all business discussions about new or revised policies, procedures, programs and interactions, this question:

    "How might this impact psychological health and safety?"

    This may allow you to permanently embed psychological health and safety considerations into your workplace without devoting a lot of time to an add-on program.

  • Execute the plans developed through the Creating change process.
  • Measure results and look for opportunities for corrective action or improvement. See Evaluation and Corrective Action.
  • Continue the cycle for a method of continual improvement. See Continual Improvement.

© 2009 - 2020 by Samra, J., Gilbert, M., Shain M., Bilsker, D., Simon Fraser University. All rights reserved.
The Guarding Minds at Work survey was commissioned by Canada Life and additional resources are provided by Workplace Strategies for Mental Health. Website development and data storage by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).