Stress Management: What Can Organisations Do?

Stress Management: What Can Organisations Do?

In the US government’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for the prevention of Work Related Psychological Disorders, they propose a number of organisational changes to increase organisational and employee wellbeing. These changes include changing the work load and pace so that it matches the capabilities of employees; developing a work schedule that emphasises a suitable congruence between work and home life; an emphasis on job security and career development, changes to the social environment that focuses on social networks and support and job content, which gives the role meaning. These organisational level interventions focus on structural changes that help make the workplace a happy and healthier place. The emphasis is on organisational changes, rather than being employee focused. However, their proposed changes tackle the known organisational level stressors that contribute to employee stress.

Another approach postulated by Cooper and Cartwright (1997) is a three-tier approach to stress management that focuses on primary, secondary and tertiary level interventions. Primary level interventions focus on the organisational level stressor reduction, while secondary level interventions focus on stress management and prevention of the stress escalating. Tertiary level interventions are employee assistance led such as counselling that addresses existing problems. Many stress management programmes have been employee-focused, which have been criticised for attributing responsibility and ownership of stress management to the employee, and an over emphasis on increasing productivity. However, a broad range of interventions are recommended. Although the emphasis is on tackling organisational stressors through primary interventions first, building employees’ repertoires of positive emotions will complement an organisation through fostering a happy and healthy workforce that can adapt to any changes and development that are a natural part of the modern working life.

Individual, Team, and Organisational Resilience

Individual training interventions on resilience focuses on, not only teaching resilience itself, but also on stress management approaches such as mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), positive psychological interventions, and hardiness and self-efficacy training. Employee focused interventions on their own are likely to have short- term effectiveness, however, fostering resilience on multiple levels (employee, team, and organisational levels) mean it is much more likely to be effective.

If there are a range of resilience strategies at an organisational level, these will, in effect, increase the ability to respond to challenges. Similarly, fostering team level resilience means increasing social support and collective efficacy, that essentially means employees do not feel alone when going through challenging situations. Despite the interdependent approach to resilience training, and its general effectiveness on multiple levels, it can be argued that organisational level interventions must be prioritised to maintain effectiveness. The focus of employee wellbeing must still be a top-down approach.

Resilience training, although useful in broadening an employee’s ability to cope, should not be a measure taken only so that organisations can abdicate responsibility for their employees’ wellbeing. As a result, the Human Resources Development (HRD) model has two approaches to developing resilience, which they call reactive and proactive HRD. Reactive HRD focuses on individual level interventions that utilise a broaden-and-build model. This approach emphasises the need to broaden the employee’s coping style of positive emotions that in effect supports the growth of positive psychological capital. Paradoxically, proactive HRD is an organisational level measure to increase psychological assets and reduce risk.

Although resilience training has shown effective improvements in organisations that implement it, there are a number of limitations to the research studies that have been conducted. There has been a lack of longitudinal research and an over-focus on self-reports that may be limited by memory bias and may affect validity due to their subjective nature.

There has also been too much focus on the individual rather than situational factors that impact on resilience. However, interventions have been useful in addressing job design, leadership behaviour, processes and culture at an organisational level. On an individual level, positive changes have occurred through addressing personality and external environmental factors, with group level resilience fostering competence and growth.

Read More…

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Acknowledgement Of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.