5 Ways to Prevent Psychological Distress

1 March 2019

Psychological distress is taking over the workplace. It’s affecting leaders more and more, Dr. Nicolas Chevrier mentions in his article, it’s also touching their employees. So, how do we prevent chronic stress and its repercussions within a company?


Challenging family situations, financial obligations, social and professional pressures, hyperconnectivity all contribute to a stressful climate in the workplace. In addition, a shortage of manpower and high turnover rates are responsible for an increasingly heavier workload.

Despite the frantic pace, managers have to find a way to stay attentive to their personnel in order to be proactive. It’s in their best interest to meet regularly with each employee, one on one, to gage the energy. Creating opportunities for discussion, favouring human contact and developing support is important.

 Here are 5 proactive approaches to preventing psychological distress:

1. Establish an employee support program

This tool, generally offered by group insurance programs, makes it possible for employees to speak to someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if the need arises, regardless of the reason. The service acts as a front line of support to redirect the person to a health professional or other (notary, lawyer), in complete confidentiality. When an employee is not seeing clearly, because of a need to appease or diffuse a difficult situation, access to a non-judgmental ear can make all the difference.

2. Talk about it!

Organizing conferences, stress and time management workshops starts a dialogue about a subject that should not be considered taboo in a company.

An exchange about reality and challenges employees are facing can help the employer put together work-life balance programs, offering flexibility (modified or reduced hours), and services or discounts (meal catering, home cleaning services).

3. Train managers to recognize signs of distress
Managers must listen and be empathetic. But, how? By taking the time to speak to their employees, observe their behaviours and body language. Then, evaluating the workload and ensuring proper distribution, or offering help with managing priorities. Excessive workloads, short deadlines, performance pressure, are all factors that can cause acute stress in a workplace. I also encourage managers to stay up-to-date with the effects of psychological distress through training offered by mental health organizations or the Ordre des CRHA.

4. Put the right people in the right jobs

Often, a person who is not happy in their role will feel stressed. Which is why it’s important to make sure to that the right people are in the “right” roles. Annual reviews are the perfect occasion to ask questions related to the employee’s evolution. A mid-year meeting will allow for confirmation that the employee is still happy, and if they are mastering the skills required for the job. Although, waiting until this evaluation to confirm this information is not recommended. If there are any doubts, an intervention must be done quickly and it must be addressed. Maybe the person needs a little more coaching or support to feel more in control, more confident, and less stressed.

5. Offer the right tools
Make sure that every employee has a suitable work environment (adequate and ergonomic workstation) and tools specific to the work. Once that’s done, workshops to improve the quality of life of your employees can be offered on site: workouts, meditation or yoga sessions, nutrition information. Anything that will help employees feel good, release stress, eat healthy and sleep better will have a positive effect on their well-being.

About the author

Sylvie Lepage

About Sylvie Lepage

Founding Chair of Innovation RH

Member of the Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) and Registered Corporate Coach (RCC), founded the consulting firm specializing in human resources management, Innovation RH, in 2004. Sylvie has a long history of carrying out strategic assignments in human resources management, business coaching, organizational development, talent management and compensation.