Signs of Struggle (SOS): The Development and Validation of a Behavioural Mental Health Checklist for the Workplace

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Work & Stress

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For managers to successfully support employee access to mental health resources, they must first be able to recognise if and when an employee may need help. To manage employees effectively, managers must be able to recognise changes in employees’ work behaviour that may indicate when an employee is struggling at work. In study 1, we develop and establish the structure of the 20-item Signs of Struggle (SOS) checklist as comprising five factors that describe the warning signs of health impairment at work (i.e. distress, withdrawal, reduced attendance, degradations in performance, extreme behaviours). In study 2, we show that manager-rated signs of struggle correlated substantially (r = .72) with participant-reported strain. The SOS tool provides managers a way to recognise when employees may be struggling and could benefit from workplace resources. We recommend that for maximal benefit, managers also receive training on how to use the SOS, and also on how to approach and assist employees who are displaying warning signs.


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