Organizations are constantly undergoing change through new demands, changing technology, demographic changes and increased competition. Due to the increase in workload, psychological problems related to occupational stress have increased rapidly. There is a growing awareness of how stress adversely affects organizational efficiency. The implementation of stress management programs to counteract this problem has been slow. In this paper I will examine a stress management program in an organization who claimed that they were active and successful in stress management for their employees.
The purpose of this research paper is to illustrate the overall importance of stress management in the workplace. The research paper will start by giving a definition of the term stress management. After that, it will illustrate the stress management programs implemented by the organization. Next, it will suggest additional stress management components and ideas beneficial for the company. Finally, the last point will cover the comparison of the organization’s implementation of stress management program to possible other stress models.
Stress Management Paper
The first step in combating stress is identifying its origin. Stress can attack from every aspect of our life. The workplace is one of the most common places. There is the everyday threat of downsizing and losing your job, taking on a change of responsibilities and work overload. Work related stress has been emerging as one of the main causes of adverse symptoms of mental health in today’s industrial societies. The direct result of excessive pressures and/or demands placed on individuals at work, work-related stress has caused some people to develop symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other adverse mental health effects. While it might be possible that other co-factors contribute to the development of anxiety and depression, evidence suggests that pressure from work is more likely to trigger adverse reactions in some people.
In fact, positive correlations have been established between symptoms of work stress and mental health problems. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (2005), stress management can be defined as follows: “A set of techniques used to help an individual cope more effectively with difficult situations in order to feel better emotionally, improve behavioral skills, and often to enhance feelings of control” (Sandmaier, 2005). To first manage stress in the workplace it is first wise to understand the stressors that are causing the stress for the individual(s). As stated by Thomas & Hersen, “the successful management of stress requires us to state and define clearly what we mean by stress in the work environment” (2002, p.55). To manage stress in the work place some companies have taken on the notion of implementing a stress management program. It is not wise to implement a stress management program without first having an understanding of why the company needs a stress management program.
“Have a clear understanding of why you are implementing the program; stress management should not be a flavor-of-the-month activity. The need for clearly defined objectives and goals is paramount in gaining the commitment of the workforce” (Thomas & Hersen, 2002, p.55). Not all work force stress can be treated with the same techniques and programs because the stressors of working for an organization may be entirely different from one organization to the next. So, it is important for an organization to implement a stress management program that will be beneficial to not only the wellbeing of the employees but to the organization as a whole.
Corning Incorporated: Stress Management Program
When doing my research for this assignment I came upon the organization of Corning Incorporated. The executives of the organization Corning Inc. implemented a stress management program, entitled the Corning program, to help the workers understand the nature of stress and its healthy effects and improve their stress coping skills. The stress management program at Corning incorporates many of the features that have become standard practice in effective programs. The program evolved out of a collaborative partnership between Corning, Inc. and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Developed by Jeff Monroy, Hank Jonas, and Joseph Mathey from Corning, Inc., and by Lawrence Murphy from NIOSH, the program took place in approximately 50 locations and involved about 3,000 individuals (Emmerling, 2012). The initial goal of the program was to address the sources of non-value-added stress on the job. Workers were provided introductory information on stress through multiple channels, from in-house media communications to formal conferences featuring well-known researchers in the field.
A series of weekly training sessions taught workers stress management skills including muscle relaxation, biofeedback, meditation, and cognitive restructuring. Like most such programs, it impacted social and emotional competencies such as self-confidence, self-control, communication, and adaptability (Emmerling, 2012). One of the first tasks of the program was to assess the level of stress in the organization, which was accomplished through a climate survey that allowed comparison with national benchmark data. It was due to the survey that Corning identified the need to improve workers’ coping abilities. The second aspect of the program was the initial individual intervention. Initial individual interventions focused on educating employees about the basic nature, sources, symptoms, and consequences of stress. The distribution of this information took on various forms from “simple in-house media communications to formal conferences featuring well-known researchers and personalities.”
The company also held a few “kick-off” events, which focused on certain topics related to stress. The goal was to give people permission to talk about skill building, while creating an environment and a culture where it was more comfortable for people to sign up for training (Emmerling, 2012). Another valuable tactic used by the organizers was to give the participants as many immediately positive experiences as possible such as innovative and exciting demonstrations or fun exercises that would lead participants to spread the word that the program was enjoyable. The organizers also tracked carefully from which departments in the organization people were coming, and they encouraged the leaders of those various departments to promote the program. Another component of the interventions phases was the establishment of various training classes, which focused on teaching well-established stress management skills such as muscle relaxation, tai chi, biofeedback, meditation, yoga, guided imagery, and cognitive restructuring.
The goal of these classes was to promote and strengthen the individual’s potential to understand and experience work situations and life events in a way that compelled one to act constructively rather than adopt a more non-assertive, blaming perspective. These free, weekly, open-enrollment training classes each lasted anywhere from sixty to ninety minutes and took place outside of working hours, sometimes during lunch. The participants had the opportunity to choose the stress management techniques they wanted to learn (Emmerling, 2012). Last but not least, the final aspects of the Corning program were the sessions. At the onset of the training, these groups met once a week, for 12 weeks; however, the organizers eventually reduced the number of sessions to eight.
Each participant had to sign an agreement that they would share the knowledge that they obtained from the workshops with at least one person in their lives. A 25-item behavioral checklist that the participants filled out at the onset of training was used as a form of feedback, providing the participants with an opportunity to see what changes took place during the program. Most of the sessions were designed for the participants to learn and practice their techniques and new skills during the sessions. Each session gave the participant some new approach to the particular skill that was learned earlier. Once the participants were able to gain some understanding of one technique, they would continue to practice that technique in class and at home.
They were encouraged to do homework and practice their techniques on a daily basis so that they would be better prepared with questions or concerns during the next session. The organizers also set up an arrangement with a local health club where participants could use the services of massage, tai chi, yoga, etc. for only $5 per hour, making it easier for participants to continue practicing their techniques both during and after the program (Emmerling, 2012). A standard symptoms checklist was used to evaluate individuals as they went through the program, particularly focusing on weeks one (baseline), eight, and twelve.
The questionnaire assessed the individual’s symptoms of stress, stress management skills (i.e. the ability to identify stress and to relax), and other life areas (i.e. using physical exercise). An analysis of the data comparing weeks eight and twelve to week one revealed significant changes on measures of stress symptoms, stress management skill, and other life areas. The largest changes occurred in selected stress symptoms (e.g. restlessness, depressed feeling, trouble sleeping, excessive worry), followed by stress management skills (e.g. ability to relax)” (Emmerling, 2012).
Additional Components to the Corning Program
After reviewing the Corning program I realized that most of the techniques and procedures that were implemented in the program were used outside of work or during sessions. I wanted to add a component that will allow employees to utilize a few techniques to lower their stress level while at work. The component that I would add would be brief mediation during work. When the work day seems to get a little more stressful than usual I suggest that employees take a few minutes to step away from the stress inwardly and gather their thoughts. This component would involve teaching the employees brief (5-15 minutes) meditation practices that explicitly target work-related stress and work-life balance. This component would be very cost efficient for the organization because it wouldn’t involve the employee physically leaving the work place to relieve stress, which could cause absence and could ultimately bring the production of the organization down.
It also decreases the stress level of the employee which in turns decreases the amount of medical cost caused by health problems relating to stress. Another component that I would suggest to the Corning program would be workshops. Not workshops on the aspect of stress but workshops that involve training and mentorship of job duties in the organization. So much of work stress comes from not being entirely competent of job duties and because the competence level is low there is likelihood that the obligations of the job will not be fulfilled. “Stress at work is claimed to have increased in most of the developed and developing world.
The drive toward manpower cost-cutting has led to fewer people doing more work and feeling more insecure in their jobs” (Kenny & Cooper). I recommend that that the Corning program provides seminars and or workshops every three months to make sure that the employees have current information of their job description and duties. This will be beneficial to the organization because there will likely be less errors, which is cost efficient for the company, and less stress on the employee because they will hopefully be more confident in their ability to perform their job duties to the organization.
Comparison of the Corning Program to how other programs may be implemented
Similar stress management programs like the Corning program implemented in other settings have been evaluated in an even more rigorous fashion. Several of the evaluations have employed pre/post-test control group designs with follow-ups of six to 12 months or even longer. They also have assessed change on a number of different types of outcomes. Several studies, like the Corning one, have shown that stress management training can produce significant improvements in measures of subjective well-being and physical symptoms.
A few studies also have shown that stress management training, of the sort offered at Corning, can have a positive impact on objective physiological measures such as electromyography, adrenaline levels, and blood pressure. In one study, a 10-week program for hypertensive employees in a large corporation led to a sharp cut in health care claims: the average value of claims for the year following the program were half the annual averages for the previous 2-1/2 years. In another study, a program for highway maintenance workers led to a significant improvement in attendance records. And a study involving 44 hospitals found that a comprehensive stress management program led to a significant reduction in malpractice claims (Emmerling, 2012).
Evidently, the knowledge gained during this research will assist me in my career in many ways, especially given the fact that I will be working with vulnerable populations. As a future counselor and a having a mother who currently works as a mental health care employee, I am all too familiar with the level of stress associated with working in the mental health care industry. Therefore, I have always managed to find ways to cope with work-related stress, so that I may continue to be able to provide for myself and further my education as an aspiring counselor. To this end, the knowledge gained during research will undeniably be helpful as far as its usefulness and practicality to my development of future strategies to deal with work-related stress.
In fact, the concepts of commitment, challenge, and control will be of utmost importance to me in the future, given that I am fully aware of what it will take for me to become a counselor and work in the health care industry. Overall, it was the goal of the present research analysis to explore the relationship between work stress and stress management programs that was implemented in Corning Incorporated. The evidence demonstrates clearly that stress management programs implemented in the organization could be very beneficial to the success of employees as well as the organization.
Although further research would have to be done I do believe that there could be a positive correlation between workplace stressors and stress management programs. Therefore, cautions must be taken by people working in highly stressful environment, so that they may explore ways to cope constructively with work-related stress. Although the knowledge gained from this research will be useful in the future, it is hoped that more research will be conducted in the area in order to generate new perspectives regarding work-related stress and stress management programs.
Emmerling, R. (2012). Stress management training. Retrieved from http://www.eiconsortium.org/model_programs/stress_management_training.html Kenny, D. T., & Cooper, C. L. (2003). Introduction: Occupational stress and its management. International Journal of Stress Management, 10(4), 275-279. Sandmaier, M. (2005). Your guide to living well with heart disease. Retrieved from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/other/your_guide/yg_livingwell.htm Thomas, J. C. & Hersen, M. (2002). Handbook of mental health in the workplace. ThousandOaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.