April 29, 2024

By Sandra Chabot – Member of the AFP Quebec IDEA committee

Every May, Canadians mobilize around Mental Health Week. The goal: to raise public awareness of issues related to mental balance and promote favourable practices and environments.

This is an ideal opportunity to address the issue of healthy workplaces. Two seasoned experts, Maria Arauz and Jérôme Dubé, share their insights with us. Maria, a public health specialist, has developed and assessed employee mental health programs. Jérôme, a veteran human resources manager, has a profound understanding of organizational practices that help foster employee well-being.

Aware of the lack of resources of non-profit organizations, they share four low-cost practices that are effective in promoting the physical and mental well-being of employees.

“Health represents an optimal state of physical, mental and social well-being. It is not limited to the absence of illness. Rather, it refers to a sense of fulfilment and harmony with every aspect of one’s life.” Maria Arauz

Health is based on two essential pillars: mental safety and physical safety. The first involves a professional environment where individuals can express themselves without fear, make mistakes and take relationship risks. The second involves a workplace where we protect employees from injury and illness.” Jérôme Dubé


  1. Offering open and accessible communication channels

Jérôme and Maria both agree that promoting a culture where employees can freely express their concerns and needs is essential to preserving their well-being. “A key element in fulfilment is the environment we can offer teams. By establishing a framework where speech is encouraged, where recognition is sincere, where information is circulated efficiently, the rest follows naturally.” – Jérôme Dubé

Moreover, ensuring clear and transparent communication, particularly when changes are being made, builds a climate of trust. “It’s important to reflect on how the organization puts in place information sharing mechanisms. It’s also essential to think about how it prepares for changes in order to avoid a tense environment.” – Maria Arauz


  1. Promoting a balanced workload and offering employees flexibility

For Maria, promoting a balanced workload is another central point. To achieve this, two elements need to be considered: the quantity of work to be performed by the employee and the demanding nature of their tasks, from an emotional and physical point of view. “It’s important to take into account the complexity of the tasks, the compatibility of the employee’s skills and the demands of the job, and the tools at their disposal.” – Maria Arauz

Jérôme believes that flexibility, something that has become much more commonplace since the pandemic, is an effective way to promote employee well-being. He stresses the importance of adjusting schedules and workplaces to better respond to employees’ personal and professional needs. He finds that this approach contributes to better mental balance, by reducing pressure and mental load.


  1. Focusing on autonomous decision-making

A point highlighted by Maria is autonomous decision-making. This concept refers to the degree of freedom employees have in carrying out their work. It encompasses employees’ capacity to influence aspects, such as task planning, work methods, problem-solving and decision-making.

“The greater margin of maneuver employees have with regard to their work, the better. A heavy workload can seem less onerous when the employee has a high degree of autonomy. Conversely, a heavy workload combined with a lack of decision-making autonomy can lead to frustration, demotivation, stress and, ultimately, mental health problems.”- Maria Arauz


  1. Encouraging the social support of colleagues and managers

Lastly, for both Maria and Jérôme, the social support of colleagues and managers plays a crucial role in employee well-being. “A work environment where team members support each other, both professionally and personally, promotes a sense of belonging and solidarity. Simple gestures, such as being attentive to the needs of others and offering help, strengthen interpersonal ties and contribute to creating an atmosphere of trust and collaboration.” – Maria Arauz

Similarly, manager support is essential to helping employees overcome obstacles to developing their potential. “By offering empathetic support, by encouraging open communication and recognizing effort, managers can make a significant contribution to employees’ motivation, satisfaction at work and general well-being.” – Jérôme Dubé