Original Paper

Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 359-379

First online:

Structure Underlies Other Organizational Determinants of Mental Health: Recent Results Confirm Early Sociotechnical Systems Research

  • Donald W. de GuerreAffiliated withDepartment of Applied Human, Sciences (VE 225.3), Concordia University Email author 
  • , Merrelyn EmeryAffiliated withDepartment of Applied Human Sciences, Concordia University
  • , Peter AughtonAffiliated withAMERIN Pty Ltd
  • , Andrew S. TrullAffiliated withDesigns for Learning & Planning

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Workplaces are implicated in the current global epidemic of mental illness. This paper presents early results from an action research project designed to investigate and prevent mental illness at work. It treats the organization as an open sociotechnical system where mental health is measured by self report and the affects experienced at work. Sick days are also measured. The study finds that the second genotypical, organizational design principle creates enabling conditions for mental health, many of which enablers such as trust and equality have previously been hypothesized as determinants of mental health. But the enablers are themselves consequent to a design principle. The results show how the second design principle creates the jointly optimized sociotechnical system that leads to enablers and positive outcomes, for people and the bottom line. This research reinforces the conclusion from the first study of sociotechnical systems that structure is a determinant of mental health.


Engagement Design principles Innovation Mental health Productivity Retention Sociotechnical systems