Work-related stress is highly prevalent and constitutes a growing challenge for employees, employers and the wider community. In addition to having a detrimental impact on staff themselves, elevated stress among human services workers (e.g., disability support staff, mental health care workers) has been found to have an adverse impact on client-staff interactions and client wellbeing. Beyond human costs, workplace stress can adversely affect organisations through absenteeism, presenteeism, staff turnover, reduced job performance, counter-productive work behaviours, and compensation claims. (Presenteeism refers to the loss of productivity that occurs when employees attend work but perform below their usual capacity because of physical or mental illness).
Mindfulness programs are now a widely researched and a well-established method of dealing with work-related stress, anxiety and depression. The core program of Occupational Mindfulness (OM) uses many components from the evidence-based programs of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, as well as compatible elements of positive psychology. The core program is designed to accommodate customised "add-ins" for specific workforces, including frontline and workshop floor staff as well as executive staff.
An evaluation of Occupational Mindfulness for disability services staff
In 2010, a demonstration study was undertaken to examine the feasibility and effectiveness of the Occupational Mindfulness Training program in the Victorian disability sector.
This significant collaboration on ‘Occupational Mindfulness’ began in 2009 with a project exploring the effects of mindfulness training on staff effectiveness in residential settings for people with intellectual disability. The Office of the Senior Practitioner commissioned this work with the role of this office in oversight, commissioning, and monitoring of services for people in Victoria with intellectual disabilities. Initial negotiations on this project were carried out between the Office of the Senior Practitioner and John Julian from Southern Synergy while Graham Meadows took the role of oversight of research quality and integrity in management of the work including reporting as applicable to the arising contracts. The resulting program combining as it does elements of positive psychology, occupational stress management and mindfulness was developed and initially piloted during 2009. The findings from this study are described in the two papers described below, both published in Mindfulness.
Brooker, J., Julian, J., Webber, L., Chan, J., Shawyer, F., Meadows, G. (2013). Evaluation of an Occupational Mindfulness program for staff employed in the disability sector in Australia. Mindfulness, 4 (2), 122-136. (Special Issue: Mindfulness and Acceptance in Developmental Disabilities). doi: 10.007/s12671-012-0112-7. IF: 3.024; Q1; SJR: 1.132.
Brooker, J.E., Webber, L., Julian, J., Shawyer, F., Graham, A.L., Chan, J. Meadows, G. (2014). Mindfulness-based training shows promise in assisting staff to reduce their use of restrictive interventions in residential services. Mindfulness 5(5), 743-755. doi: 10.1007/s12671-014-0306-2. IF: 3.024; Q1; SJR: 1.132.
An evaluation of Occupational Mindfulness for mental health services staff
In further exploratory work, we subsequently conducted an evaluation of Occupational Mindfulness for mental health services staff. This specific study aimed to consider the impact of Occupational Mindfulness in the mental health field in a pilot for a cluster RCT-style evaluation. In particular, it considered the specific issues and impact of attempting to introduce such a program to a mental health ward setting and secondly, the issues involved in attempting to undertake a pragmatic and low cost RCT styled evaluation of a work place training program. The OM project was the setting for work of a Bachelor of Psychological Science and Business (Honours) student during 2013, who investigated the perceived stress of mental health services employees following an Occupational Mindfulness intervention at 3 hospital wards.