Understanding CBT: Develop Your Own Toolkit to Reduce Stress and Increase Well-being: Volume 1
It offers practical workplace change techniques that can help you to transform stressful situations by changing the way you think and behave. Packed with real life examples and helpful tips, this jargon-free guide is for anyone who wants to know more about CBT and what it can do for them. Provides practical and realistic advice to help you manage work place stress, anxiety and trauma Includes appendices, templates and examples to help you develop your own CBT toolkit and work your way through the book Helps individuals to develop tailored action plans to manage their stress, anger and low mood.
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Targets: Work environments, technologies, or organizational structures and functions. Reactive: Minimize damage of stressors by helping people cope with the outcomes. There are a number of strategies and interventions at the organizational level. Although they seemingly take a preventative, primary intervention approach, they are less evident in practice compared to the team or individual approaches. The prevention of stress at an organizational level, rather than the ones that solely focus on the individual, is often identified as the most effective stress management intervention van der Klink et al.
Research suggests that approaching stress as an individual issue can be counterproductive and that organizations should focus on dealing with the causes of stress in the workplace ibid. Embedding the principles of preventative stress and risk management into existing business processes and procedures is also largely recommended ibid , as such approaches prompt decision-makers to think about sources of stress when developing new strategies, planning new services, and during periods of organizational change HSE In this way, by taking a preventative approach, organizations will be in a position to mitigate or reduce sources of workplace stress before they become an issue, which has a direct impact on the health and well-being of individuals working in or associated with a business organization.
Optimum organizational conditions for reducing workplace stress. Adapted from Johnson For example, a leader with an inspiring vision; exciting career development opportunities. For example, responsibility of making key decisions; involvement in making improvements. For example, manager uses team meetings to gather input and take this into account. Health balance between work and home life, challenging but manageable work demands.
For example, challenging but realistic deadlines; difficult but important problems to solve; desire to balance work and home life. For example, new systems and processes that bring clear benefits; new job opportunities. For example, colleagues sharing the workload when someone is absent; sharing expertise. Interesting, stimulating roles with motivational rewards and working conditions. For example, motivational bonus scheme; stimulating and varied work; demanding but appreciative manager and customers.
For example, transparency of remuneration and benefits; a clean, bright work environment; recognition of success. In many developed countries, organizations are required to conduct assessments of workplace hazards including those related to causes of stress and psychological harm. When conducting a stress risk assessment, organizations are expected to identify specific aspects of its management and design that may cause stress at work and put in place a stress management strategy Edwards et al.
A stress management strategy will describe the proactive measures that are being adopted, control the risks related to stress, and encourage improvements in health and well-being at work along with targets or measures by which the effectiveness of the strategy can be assessed Theorell In addition, keeping stress management strategies and interventions under continuous review assists the organization in ascertaining whether the stress management strategy is working as intended which can be achieved by ongoing monitoring of key performance indicators along with feedback from staff HSE As with other organizational strategies, the principles and practices outlined in the stress management strategy will be more effectively adopted if they are integrated within existing processes, systems, and management procedures ibid.
Implementing a stress management strategy requires investment in time and people, so it is imperative that senior management allocate sufficient resources to make it happen e. Of particular importance is the need to provide training and support to managers and workers who are responsible for delivering work and organizational strategies as an operational level.
Providing managers with training and guidance on how to manage and allocate work, how to provide positive leadership and behavioral styles, and on how to offer feedback and development to staff in a meaningful and constructive manner, will increase the prospects of the stress management strategy delivering on its key objectives and outcomes ibid. Table 3 outlines other workplace conditions which influence the experience of stress in the workplace.
Positive leadership and management commitment are also fundamental to implementing a stress management strategy and reducing workplace stress in a sustainable and proactive manner CMI Senior management has a significant role in supporting and championing proactively managing stress Parsloe and Needham ; indeed, without positive leadership and management buy-in, workers and teams will not embrace the initiative or take it seriously Lock The evidence suggests that they need to lead by applying the principles and practices in their own work, with their own direct reports and ensuring that they are doing the same with their teams Lee et al.
Similarly, adopting a culture of openness and understanding about mental health stress requires a culture that encourages constructive feedback and avoids blame and criticism Stevenson and Farmer ; Wall Building this type of culture requires that senior management leadership act as role models and take positive steps to develop and implement stress policies systems and review points that seek to continuously improve how the organization manages stress at work.
It can take time to foster the positive behaviors and culture across the organization so that all workers receive constructive feedback and support management that is associated with improved workplace mental well-being ibid. Such conditions are summarized in Table 3. There are a number of strategies and interventions that can be adopted at the team level to tackle stress, and these are discussed below. While it is generally acknowledged that workplace stress is most productively managed as an organizational issue, there are also strategies and tactics that can be done at the team level to reduce the stress that is experienced.
At the team level, leadership styles and the behaviors of managers are known to generate both positive and negative effects on staff and can cause undue stress at work LePine et al. Within this context, studies in developed countries have identified that managers who are aware of their leadership style and adopt a supportive and inclusive leadership style are less likely to cause stress and anxiety among their team Yarker et al. Similarly, when managers adopt an indirect approach to leading and supervising their team, levels of well-being and productivity are enhanced because workers are encouraged to take ownership of their work and engage other colleagues who tend to experience less stress at work and others.
Indeed, Gilbreath and Benson suggest that the extent to which managers allow their staff control over their work has a considerable impact on reducing levels of stress and strain. However, it may not be within the gift of some managers to afford this level of control over their work.
Often, middle managers themselves are bound by organizational constraints, a work stressor itself Pindek and Spector This can of course include projects relating to corporate social responsibility or sustainable development Wall et al. Studies have also identified that workers are compelled to follow the behaviors exhibited by managers and other superiors Bartone As an example, when managers work long hours, there is a tendency for their team to follow suit often because they believe that it will improve their career success or reduce the potential for them to be made redundant.
In a culture where workers feel obliged to come into work early each morning and do not feel able to leave until late every evening, there is a higher potential for limited work-life balance, burnout, and low productivity.
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A cluster of strategies at the team level then address the extent to which managers model and embody the behaviors of a healthy work life as well as work-life balance Giorgi et al. A wider cluster of strategies targets the development of positive relationships within and among staff; teams with positive and supportive relationships develop greater capacity to deal with stressors. Such teams are more likely to discuss work pressures and workloads generally, find potential solutions, and find ways to support each other which can, in turn, reduce pressure and stress at work Sai Wong et al.
Indeed, promotion of good communication is cited as being associated with reduced psychological distress Houtman et al. Similarly, and reflective of these wider cultural aspects, the use of collaborative and coaching approaches in the workplace has been adopted in tackling health and well-being in the workplace and particularly in reducing stress Wall et al. Here, the adoption of coaching can foster a culture where workers can be open and discuss potential workplace stressors and mental health issues more confidently Rossetti and Wall ; Wall et al.
Adopted in this inclusive fashion, a coaching culture can foster collective support of each other, and can be important in dealing with the stigma that can surround mental health issues in the workplace ibid; Wall ; Zohar As such, coaching practices have been linked with reduced stress, improved well-being, increased levels of employee engagement, and improved productivity Wall et al. At the team level, stress can also be managed by allocating and distributing work in a manner that does not negatively impact on workers.
For example, team managers can reduce stress related to workload by giving their workers challenging but achievable targets and deadlines and ensuring that workers have sufficient time and resources to complete their work Johnson ; HSE Here, the principle is that when individual works feel like they do not have the time or skills necessary to do their work, this can increase pressure and stress. In line with this, by forward planning, managers can identify any particularly busy times for individuals and teams and put plans in place to ensure employees are not overwhelmed at predictably busy times of the year ibid.
Finally, at the team level, flexible working and work-life balance strategies are increasingly important to workers and if effectively managed can reduce stress and improve productivity HSE These might include remote working, flexible hour accumulation, and alternative working patterns. As such the way managers approach requests for flexible working or dealing with work-life balance issues is particularly important so that the individual, the team, and the organization can benefit from flexible working arrangements Clarke and Holdsworth If unaddressed, such behaviors and attitudes can eventually reflect the working conditions outlined above and — despite intending to decrease levels of stress — can increase levels of stress within a team and wider organizational culture ibid.
There are a range of interventions at the individual level, and many but not all adopt a secondary or tertiary stance to managing workplace stress. Studies have found that individual interventions were only effective at the individual level and not at an organizational level, whereas organizational level interventions were effective at both an individual and an organizational level Lamontagne et al. This suggests that, to be effective, SMIs should be conducted at the organizational level thereby reducing the sources of stress in the work environment van der Klink et al.
Individually focused stress management interventions, while not considered the most effective way to reduce the impact of stress, can have an important role in managing the experience of stress in organizations; there are times when tertiary stress management interventions can be appropriate or necessary to reduce or mitigate the stress experienced by individual workers ibid.
For example, this might include the investment in a range of reflective or contemplative practices to support individuals Wall and Meakin , forthcoming , or it can involve making resources available to help individuals identify their individual traits which make them more prone to experiences of stress and tactics to help them cope with the effects of uncertain situations or workplace changes Robins et al.
It might also include one-to-one counselling and other types of psychological support for workers who are already displaying signs of stress.
There is also a diverse cluster of learning, development, and training interventions which can directly shape the experience of individual stress in the workplace. Some of these interventions, such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy, directly tackle stress and focus on how to deal with stress and recognize or interrupt behavior patterns when stress reactions commence can have a positive in tackling workplace stress and can include techniques such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy.
These techniques have their roots in positive psychology and are intended to help individual workers cope with situations or behaviors that might ordinarily result in stress-related issues; in a broad sense, positive thinking techniques can help develop habits which address beliefs and attitudes that can perpetuate the experience of stress Wall et al.
Other skills and coping techniques that are associated with reducing individual stress include assertiveness or positive communication skills as they help individuals when they are confronted with stressful situations. For example, Robins et al. The evaluation activity identified strategies to embed the successful impacts and disseminate it to others within the wider managerial span of control.
However, other forms of training are not directed at stress as such, but wider self-management techniques that can include time management, problem-solving, leadership, and people management have also been associated with helping staff cope with stress along with improving performance and productivity at work. For example, Wall et al. Whereas workplace coaching can be developed at the organizational and team levels to develop supportive cultural aspects of work, coaching programs or techniques can also be useful ways to help individuals improve their personal resilience which are beneficial to both organization and the worker Gyllensten and Palmer Workplace coaches and managers can help workers to develop cognitive behavioral techniques that will help them to increase their optimism, reframe problems, find solutions, and avoid the tendency to think negatively, including in the context of feeling more connected to the earth and the wider community Wall et al.
Studies that have measured the effects of techniques such as neurolinguistic programming and developing positive mental attitudes have found that they lead to improvements in individual physical and mental health Weinstein et al. In a broad sense, such techniques deployed at the individual level can help workers to be more effective at work, work with others, improve communication, and develop positive relationships at work ibid.
Promoting individual health and well-being is increasingly incorporated within organizational well-being and health strategies designed to improve both physical and mental health of workers. Some studies have found that organizations are increasingly using tertiary interventions which are often outsourced to external providers and predominantly provide tertiary interventions such as employee assistance programs, counselling, and therapy services to workers affected by stressors Arthur Corporate health and well-being initiatives provided to workers can include sporting activities, free membership of gyms and exercise classes, access to health assessments, and mindfulness and relaxation classes.
In addition, services such as counselling and support helplines provided by employee assistance programs are often provided to individuals once they have started displaying signs of stress or mental health issues. These initiatives can result in positive benefits to the organization, individual workers, and society in general through improvements in the health that ease the burden on health-care systems and increase economic productivity Giga et al. However, Giga et al. Workplace stress has become a global sustainable development issue because of an overemphasized focus on economic growth and development; as Di Fabio argues, sustainability encapsulates not only ecological and socioeconomic dimensions but also those dimensions focused on developing the quality of life of every human being.
It also led to me experiencing bouts of fatigue.
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I am a work psychologist and executive coach, and have been in the work and wellbeing field for more than 15 years — but until my own health made it essential that I reduce my levels of stress and build my mental resilience, I did not fully understand the concepts in the way that I do now. One of the first modules is about helping people to identify their life and work values.
What are the things that they would not compromise on? When your heart and your head are moving in the same direction, life becomes much simpler — it becomes more joyful.
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We talk about thought processes and thinking styles, becoming aware of automatic thought patterns and negative thinking styles. We help people to identify the things that cause them stress, and help them plan ways to reduce these. We use the image of scales to talk about the balance between the demands that are made on us and our capacity to cope with those demands. We explore with them how we can increase our capacity to cope — in other words, our resilience — and reduce the stress of constant demands. We introduce the concept of "mindfulness", which we define as the art of being present in the moment — not regretting the past and not worrying about the future, but being right here and right now.
Our mindfulness module has three guided meditations for members to download. We also look at our energy levels. Before experiencing fatigue, I thought this was something that could be solved by an early night. Only through losing the vital energy that propels you out of bed in the morning do I understand how precious it is and how not to squander it on inconsequential things.
Perhaps most importantly, we talk about learning to let go. We must learn to not spend our energy on things that we have no control or influence over, and not ruminate on things we cannot change. We teach people how to let go and focus on the things that they can change. The essential message of WorkGuru is that we cannot always change the situation we are in, but we can change how we think about and respond to it.