Digital Training Program for Line Managers (Managing Minds at Work): Protocol for a Feasibility Pilot Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial

Louise Thomson, Juliet Hassard, Alexandra Frost, Craig Bartle, Joanna Yarker, Fehmidah Munir, Richard Kneller, Steven Marwaha, Guy Daly, Sean Russell, Caroline Meyer, Benjamin Vaughan, Kristina Newman, Holly Blake

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Mental health problems affect 1 in 6 workers annually and are one of the leading causes of sickness absence, with stress, anxiety, and depression being responsible for half of all working days lost in the United Kingdom. Primary interventions with a preventative focus are widely acknowledged as the priority for workplace mental health interventions. Line managers hold a primary role in preventing poor mental health within the workplace and, therefore, need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively carry out this role. However, most previous intervention studies have directly focused on increasing line managers' understanding and awareness of mental health rather than giving them the skills and competencies to take a proactive preventative approach in how they manage and design work. The Managing Minds at Work (MMW) digital training intervention was collaboratively designed to address this gap. The intervention aims to increase line managers' knowledge and confidence in preventing work-related stress and promoting mental health at work. It consists of 5 modules providing evidence-based interactive content on looking after your mental health, designing and managing work to promote mental well-being, management competencies that prevent work-related stress, developing a psychologically safe workplace, and having conversations about mental health at work. The primary aim of this study is to pilot and feasibility test MMW, a digital training intervention for line managers. We use a cluster randomized controlled trial design consisting of 2 arms, the intervention arm and a 3-month waitlist control, in this multicenter feasibility pilot study. Line managers in the intervention arm will complete a baseline questionnaire at screening, immediately post intervention (approximately 6 weeks after baseline), and at 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Line managers in the control arm will complete an initial baseline questionnaire, repeated after 3 months on the waitlist. They will then be granted access to the MMW intervention, following which they will complete the questionnaire post intervention. The direct reports of the line managers in both arms of the trial will also be invited to take part by completing questionnaires at baseline and follow-up. As a feasibility pilot study, a formal sample size is not required. A minimum of 8 clusters (randomized into 2 groups of 4) will be sought to inform a future trial from work organizations of different types and sectors. Recruitment for the study closed in January 2022. Overall, 24 organizations and 224 line managers have been recruited. Data analysis was finished in August 2023. The results from this feasibility study will provide insight into the usability and acceptability of the MMW intervention and its potential for improving line manager outcomes and those of their direct reports. These results will inform the development of subsequent trials.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere48758
Number of pages13
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Research Protocols, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.


This study is funded by the Midlands Engine as part of the Mental Health and Productivity Pilots project.


  • acceptability
  • anxiety
  • burnout
  • cluster randomised control trial
  • depression
  • digital training
  • feasibility
  • intervention
  • managers
  • mental health
  • stress
  • usability
  • work
  • workplace


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