Valérie Fernandez

By Valérie Fernandez

October 19, 2016


Reduce Stress-Related Costs in Your Organization

Article revised on 9 June 2017

Mental health disorders in the workplace may be costing Canadian companies up to $16 billion annually, an estimated 14% of their net annual profits [1].

By 2020, depression could become the second leading cause of disability throughout the world. Depression, burnout and other anxiety disorders are mental health problems that are often associated with a high level of stress which, unfortunately, can result in disability during the course of a person’s career.

How do you address this problem in the workplace? Begin by analyzing the situation by determining which areas are most at risk. Then, find the primary source(s) of stress in order to develop a targeted action plan.

Sonia Lupien, who has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and is the founder of the Centre for Studies on Human Stress, suggests an original approach: creating an organizational chart that shows the origin of stressors in your organization [2]. Here’s how to do it:

1. Ask all your employees to answer the 5  following questions using a scale of 1 to 10, where

1 = not much and 10 = a lot:

A) Does your work cause you stress?

B) Do you have the impression of having little or no control over your work?

C) Does your work involve a lot of unpredictability?

D) In your work, do you have to manage many new things?

E) Are there conflicts in your work team?

2. Calculate the average score for each question not only throughout the company but also in each department or work team.

3. Analyze your results to better target the issues and better plan your actions.

The higher the average score to question 1, the more stress is present and the risk of issues is high.

The other questions aim to shed light on the primary sources of stress among each of your teams:

the feeling of Novelty, Unpredictability, Threat to the ego (when our personality or our ability to do our job well are constantly being questioned) and Sense of control (feeling you have little or no control in a situation) or NUTS.

These four elements are the basis of all stressful situations. How do they play out in your company? It’s up to you to find out. Here are a few examples, to better illustrate these elements:

  • Novelty: new computer software program, team changes, new policies, etc.
  • Unpredictability: cuts, layoffs, restructuring, mandates that are poorly defined and continually being changed, etc.
  • Threat to the ego: a strong or hostile personality on a team, an authoritarian and ungenerous boss, personality conflicts, etc.
  • Sense of control: workload, major changes within the organization, poorly defined tasks and responsibilities, etc.

To help your employees cope with stress, consider offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and find out about the VIVA Workplace Health and Wellness Program.


[1] Canadian Mental Health Association


Want to encourage your employees to adopt healthy lifestyle habits?

Discover the VIVA workplace health and wellness program.

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