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COVID-19 Mind Your Business

Mind Your Business – Recognizing Risk – Workplace Mental Health

This content has been adapted from Morneau Shepell's workhealthlife.com, part of the CDSPI Members' Assistance Program (MAP). MAP is available to you, your family and team member.

Access their website here.

Recognizing the risk factors for mental illness needs to be addressed on several levels.

As individuals, we need to be aware of the signs and behaviours that tell us we may not be functioning at our best. As people leaders, we want to recognize behaviours and performance issues that may indicate an employee is stressed or at psychological risk so that we can offer help and support. From the workplace perspective, it is important to know what resources are in place to support employees’ psychological health, and where gaps may exist.


According to Health Canada, that’s the number of Canadians who will directly experience mental illness in their lifetime. That means someone close to you may need an ear to listen, or a shoulder to lean on.

Take an active role in contributing to better mental health for yourself and others. Recognizing risk is one of the 5Rs of workplace mental health. Read on to learn more about how recognizing risk can make a difference.


As an individual:

Become aware of your personal stress symptoms. The list below highlights some of the most common symptoms of stress and psychological strain. While it is normal to experience these symptoms from time to time, a pattern of symptoms indicates risk.

  • Physical
    • Difficulty sleeping or fatigue
    • Frequent colds, flu, or infections
    • Rapid loss or gain in weight
  • Emotional
    • Feeling irritable
    • Feeling trapped
    • Feeling incompetent
  • Intellectual
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Procrastination
    • Excessive worry
  • Personal well-being
    • Isolation from friends and family
    • Excessive busyness
    • Loss of sense of humour

As a people leader:

A change in an employee’s performance and behaviour from his or her typical behaviour may signify that he or she is stressed or at psychological risk. It is common for healthy functioning individuals to experience one or two of these behaviours from time to time or
in response to a particular situation. The symptoms indicate an individual may be at risk when there is a pattern of change in their performance and/or behaviour over time.

Common symptoms/behaviours seen in the workplace are:

  • missed deadlines
  • reduced productivity
  • reduced quality of work
  • absent or late more frequently
  • relationship issues or conflicts with co-workers
  • withdrawal or reduced participation
  • anxiety, fearfulness, or loss of confidence

As an organization:

A commitment to establishing and maintaining a mentally healthy workplace is one of the key features of high performing and psychologically safe organizations. Samples of additional organizational factors that contribute to a psychologically safe workplace include:

  • educating all employees about mental health and organizational policies, and available programs and supports;
  • regularly collecting and reviewing reliable data about mental health risks in the workplace (i.e., workplace stressors such as workload, work-life balance, etc.); and
  • establishing clear responsibilities and accountabilities for the development and maintenance of a mentally healthy workplace.

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