Business Insight: Strategies to managing stress proving valuable

Published 6 May 2019
Mindfulness at work column

Article by Southern Cross University final-year occupational therapy student Sophie Edwards

Practices such as meditation, yoga and focussed breathing have the ability to shift perspectives on stress for employees and can provide low cost, on-site strategies for stress management in the workplace.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health not only as being the lack of disease, but the complete physical, social and mental wellbeing. Likewise a healthy workplace must have sustainable health promoting conditions, not only the lack of detrimental ones.

Research by health insurer Medibank shows that annual cost of absenteeism and presenteeism (working while sick) in Australian workplaces is around $15 billion.

In 2016 Margaret Chapman-Clarke from EI Coaching and Consulting in the UK launched new research about the importance of human resource teams in driving mindfulness practices. The research linked outcome benefits to organisational metrics such as reduction in sickness and leave, identifying managers who subordinates can turn to for support, and identifying stakeholders to gain their commitment to mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques.

There is a lot of research that shows employees who are subject to excessive caseloads, poor supervisor relationships and limited professional autonomy are more likely to contract cardio vascular disease and depression as a form of work-related non-communicable diseases.

I was recently involved in a health promotion community research project with my colleague Daniel Cavanagh which showed that successful mindfulness-based stress reduction interventions re-orient the individual’s response to stress through conscious discipline.

Our review showed supporting evidence that brief mindfulness interventions did not require extensive training, discipline or time investment. However the positive neurobiological, physiological and psychological effects of these activities support the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction as an effective intervention.

Our project aimed to educate Gold Coast employers and employees about the impact of stress within the workplace, how to determine stressors and how to alleviate stress using cost-effective therapeutic interventions.

The outcomes of our systematic review showed that yoga can decrease anxious and depressive symptoms and is associated with positive biological changes such as blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol and cytokine levels on a heterogeneous group.

We created training packages that educate and enable people to use stress reduction interventions.

The delivery of the training package includes an interactive presentation highlighting what stress is and the subjective nature and interpretation of stress, what common stress reduction techniques are backed by evidence, and a multiple-choice questionnaire for knowledge assessment. It also addressed and corrected the common myth that using alcohol and tobacco works a stress reduction tool long-term.

Final-year allied health students will present their community health project findings at the 2019 Allied Health Conference at Southern Cross University Gold Coast campus on Friday May 10. Six professional development points (CPD) are available for health professionals who attend.

Tickets are $10 from coastrs.com.au/events with free entry for people with disabilities and their carers.

This article originally appeared in the Business Insight section of the Gold Coast Bulletin newspaper on 04/05/2019 and is for general information purposes only.

Media contact: Jessica Nelson 0417288794 or jessica.nelson@scu.edu.au