Howatt HR Applied Workplace Research Institute

A core Howatt HR value is to promote wellness. This Institute will operate as a non-profit. We make no profit from applied research initiatives.

The institute will price all research projects using a cost recovery approach for researchers’ time, except for Dr. Bill Howatt. If he is involved, it will be in-kind. However, for tax purposes we need to charge HST.

Our goal is to put all of our applied research projects through a university IRB.

Our Mission is to:

  • Facilitate thought-provoking research focused on workplace psychological health and safety and mental health.
  • Contribute evidence-based workplace research to both academic and gray literature. 
  • Adhere to the highest applied ethical research standards.
  • Collaborate with like-minded researchers and organizations to achieve our mission.

Our Research Team

Note: Each research project team may also include external team members from research partners.

Dr Bill Howatt - mental Fitness Lab

Dr. Bill Howatt, Ph.D., Ed.D.

Founder & President

President & founder of Howatt HR Consulting, behavioural scientist Dr. Bill Howatt and is known as one of Canada’s top experts in mental health issues in the workplace and has more than 30 years of experience in the field of mental health, addiction, and HR consulting most recently focusing on psychological safety in the workplace. He is a highly-respected columnist for the Globe and Mail and Chronicle Herald, author, clinician, consultant and speaker.

Dr. Howatt is the creator of the Certified Management Essential (CME), Mental Fitness Practice, Pathway to Coping and Psychological Safe Leaders for the University of New Brunswick.

Dr. Howatt Chair of CSA Standard 21008: Management of Substance-Related Impairment in the Workplace.

Dr. Howatt filled the role of Chief of Research and Workforce Productivity at The Conference Board of Canada, leading the Board’s applied research programs in workplace wellness, mental health, and workforce productivity. Dr. Howatt is also the former Chief of Research and Development, Workforce Productivity at Morneau Shepell where he launched a total health consulting strategy designed to improve health engagement and productivity in Canadian organizations, as well as co-creator of The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell Employee Recommended Workplace Award. Dr. Howatt also filled different roles as a consultant over a 12 year period working in Wall Street in the financial district.

He has published numerous books such as Stop Hiding and Start Living: How to Say F-IT to Fear and Develop Mental Fitness, The Coping Crisis, the Wiley Series on addictions, The Human Services Counseling Toolbox, and The Addiction Counselor’s Desk Reference.

Bill Howatt, is Ph.D., Ed.D., Post Doctorate Behavioural Science, University of California.

Howatt HR Consulting (1993-Present), Founder and President
University of New Brunswick (2012-Present), Instructor CEL
Chair of National CSA standard on impairment substance use related (2019-Present)
Canadian Safety Association - OHS National steering committee (2019-Present)
International Research Advisory Council (IRAC) at Pacific Coast University of Workplace Health Sciences (PCU-WHS) (2019-Present)
Regular contributor to The Globe Mail (2013-Present)
Regular contributor to the Chronicle Herald (2018-Present)
Regular contributor to Talent Canada (2019-Present)
The Conference Board of Canada (2018-2020), Chief Research and Development Officer, Workforce Productivity
Morneau Shepell (2015-2018), Chief Research and Development Officer, Workforce Productivity

University of California, Los Angeles, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behaviour, Post Doctorate in Behavioural Science (2012)
Walden University, Ph.D., Organizational Psychology (2010)


Golf, Boating, Bulldogs, and Granddaughter

Dayna Lee-Baggley, MA, Ph.D.

Chief of Research

Dr. Dayna Lee-Baggley specializes in behaviour change, both to encourage better health in individuals and to create healthier workplaces in organizations. She uses evidence-based practices to provide practical and applicable skills to improve behavioural effectiveness both in the workplace and at home.

Dr. Lee-Baggley has an active research program on behaviour change, obesity, chronic disease, professional resiliency, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Dr. Lee-Baggley has close to 40 peer-reviewed publications and over 115 scholarly presentations. In 2017 she was a recipient of the Women of Excellence Award for her contributions to Health, Sport and Wellness (Canadian Progress Club Halifax Cornwallis). She is the author of the book “Healthy Habits Suck: How to get off the couch & live a healthy life…even if you don’t want to.”


Dalhousie University/Nova Scotia Health Authority, Behaviour Change Research Institute (2018-Present) — Director
Dalhousie University, Department of Surgery (2017-Present) — Cross Appointed Faculty
Dalhousie University, Department of Family Medicine (2016-Present) — Assistant Professor
Saint Mary’s University, Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2016-present) — Part Time Teaching Appointment
Dalhousie University, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience (2016-Present) — Clinical Associate
Saint Mary’s University, Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2015-present) — Adjunct Faculty


University of British Columbia — Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology; CPA and APA accredited; 2006)
University of British Columbia — Master of Arts (Clinical Psychology; CPA and APA accredited; 2002)
University of Calgary — Bachelor of Science (Honours, Psychology; 2000)
Association for Contextual Behavioural Science — Peer Reviewed Trainer for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (2018)
International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy — Certified Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) Couples Therapist (2017)
Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology —Registered Psychologist (#R0598)

Audrey Kruisselbrink

Senior Research Assistant

For the past 15 years, Audrey has worked as a research coordinator at the following organizations: Acadia University, University of Ottawa, Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority. She has worked on the CREW project, the Leading Workplace Communities project, the Employment-Related Geographic Mobility of NS Healthcare Workers project, the EMPOWER project, the Understanding Feeding in the Early Years project and the Healthy Professional Workers Partnership.

Current Research Projects

Examining the impact of the Hugr Authentic Connections digital mental fitness app on mitigating isolation and loneliness in the workplace


Research Partners

WSPS Ontario

Johnston Group (Administrators of the Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan)

Research oversight:

This study was approved through Saint Mary’s University Research Ethics Board (SMU REB File #20-003) and met academic and ethical standards.


In March 2020, the WSPS CEO was concerned about the path the COVID-19 pandemic was taking. With the rapid onset of lockdowns and remote work becoming the new normal, there was no end in sight for how long the pandemic could disrupt society. The pandemic had a clear impact on risk of isolation and loneliness for employees.  WSPS had over 4 million workers and 170,000 organizations impacted by COVID and not enough technology to scale and support workers’ mental health. Awareness of this prevalent risk and concern about how to address it, resulted in a rapid study to create a digital mental health app to mitigate workers’ risk of isolation and loneliness. With a limited budget and time, WSPS consultants and Territorial, working with Dr. Bill Howatt, took an idea to build a mental health version 1.0 product: the Hugr Authentic Connections app. The purpose of this study was to pilot this app with WSPS customers in a scientific research study led by Dr. Dayna Lee-Baggley approved by Saint Mary’s University research ethics board.

The Hugr Authentic Connections app is an innovative, low-cost, sustainable option for addressing workers’ concerns about loneliness and social isolation and providing guidance on creating authentic relationships. The Hugr Authentic Connections app addresses the critically important topics of loneliness and social isolation that were a challenge before the COVID-19 pandemic and will likely continue during and beyond the pandemic. Loneliness, social isolation, and authentic relationships became even more critical during the pandemic with a high potential to significantly influence employees’ mental health. Furthermore, many potential risks of isolation, such as hybrid and remote work, may continue to be aspects of the workforce long past the pandemic. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of the Hugr AC app to be an integrative, innovative, scalable solution to support workplace mental health.

Quick read:

Full report:

coming soon

Hugr website:

Extended Mental Health Benefits in Canadian Workplaces: Employee And Employer Perspectives


Research Partners

Canadian Psychological Association & Mental Health Commission of Canada


Mental health problems are common and costly in the Canadian population, and these needs have only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet a lack of mental health resources means that many workers’ mental health needs go unmet. Research and policy have focused more on the public system to promote timely and equitable access to mental health resources. However, two thirds of Canadian adults have access to extended health plan benefits via their employer with varying degrees of mental health care coverage. Yet little is known about how Canadians make use of extended health plan benefits to meet mental health needs. Furthermore, little is known about the breadth of extended health plan coverage that employers provide to their employees. Given the overall unmet needs for mental health services across the public and private sectors, extended health plan benefits are an important resource for Canadians. This survey sought to better understand the role of extended health plan benefits from both an employer and employee perspective.

Quick read:

Executive summary:

Coming soon.

Full report:

Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace: Employer Practices in Response to COVID-19


Research Partner

Canadian Standards Association (CSA)

Research oversight:

This study was approved through Saint Mary’s University Research Ethics Board (SMU REB #21-053) and met academic and ethical standards.


With the onset of COVID-19 and its impact on the workplace and mental health, employee psychological health and safety became a topic of concern for leaders across all sectors and types of employers. Psychological health and safety in the workplace requires employers to intentionally take action to mitigate employee risk for mental harm and to promote and support employee mental health. CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013 (R2018), Psychological health and safety in the workplace – Prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation (CAN/CSA-Z1003) was created to guide employers in designing and implementing policies, programs, and management systems to facilitate psychologically safe and healthy workplaces.

The purpose of this research project was to better understand the factors and hazards associated with psychological health and safety in the workplace as it pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic and to identify leading practices, innovative approaches, and lessons learned during the pandemic. This information may help employers better respond to employee needs as the pandemic progresses as well as to other potential future events that dramatically impact the workplace.

Quick read:

coming soon

Executive summary:

Full report:

Mental Fitness Index (MFI) Validation

View MFI white paper


Conduct a full statistical validation of the MFI scales annually. The result will be published and posted on this website each year and a white paper will be filed every August.

Note: The MFI has been successfully used in a study conducted with The Conference Board of Canada in partnership with WSPS Ontario

Moving to Action: Implementing the Workplace Safety & Prevention Services’ Mental Harm Prevention Roadmap

Download PDF


The Howatt HR Mental Fitness Index (MFI) was used to support Workplace Safety & Prevention Services and The Conference Board of Canada’s development of the Mental Harm Prevention Roadmap.

Our Research Partners

Below are the organizations we have partnered with to conduct applied research

Looking to collaborate?

For more information on our research projects or if you would like us to look at a research project, please drop us an email at

Get in touch