How to reduce stress and strengthen the resilience of lone workers
Derek Mowbray is a Chartered Psychologist and Chartered Scientist, with a doctorate in the psychology of leadership. At Safety & Health Expo 2017 he will be talking about preventing stress and strengthening resilience. We asked him to explain more about the the term ‘Resilience’ and how this can help prevent stress for lone workers:
“Active resilience is being able to cope with exceptional stressful and demanding situations without experiencing any stress problems. It requires flexible strength of mind to be able to do this., along with a positive attitude and strong motivation, and a positive answer to ‘what’s in it for me?’ question. Passive resilience is sitting out the experience hoping it will eventually go away and you can emerge afterwards unscathed. We are dealing with active resilience.”
“Stress occurs when we experience what we perceive as uncontrollable events and behaviours – we are effectively out of mental control and cannot see a way of regaining the control. Stress is at the wrong end of a continuum that starts with pressure, a stimulant, declines to tension, another stimulant, and further declines to strain, an impairment, to stress, which is a disaster, as it is dangerous to a person’s whole health. Most people who say they are stressed are probably experiencing tension and strain. By strengthening personal resilience you are strengthening your flexible strength of mind. In other words, by being in mental control you know you can overcome the adverse events and difficult behaviours because you are sharp enough mentally to think of all the alternative strategies for dealing with the situation.”
Resilience is a choice
“Mental control is about having mental clarity, sharpness, a sense of being on top of everything (of being in control). The more you feel in control the better your prospect of being resilient (if motivated to be so). Resilience is a choice; it’s a choice that depends on you having the capacity to be resilient and whether you want to be or not. If the working environment is toxic, for example, this will influence your attitude to adverse events and behaviours, and you may decide to sit things out rather than be actively resilient. This has a profound impact on performance, as you, basically, dis-engage with your surroundings, and concentrate on those things that get you through the day.”
Why is resilience is especially important for lone workers?
“Lone workers have to be resilient because they are, effectively, cut adrift from the organisation for which they work, and don’t necessarily gain the support they may require to overcome a particularly difficult situation. There are so many variations to the idea of lone working that it’s hard to generalise – those who enter other people’s premises on their own have particular needs in relation to security and backup, compared with those who work alone at home. All have to be self starters. All have to be on top of their game all the time. All need to feel the organisation that employs them can be contacted easily and provide the support they require. If the organisation doesn’t do this, the individual is further adrift than others and, de facto, requires greater resilience against whatever stressful event occurs.”
“Working alone doesn’t suit everyone, and for those for which this is a challenge to begin with, they need additional help to organise themselves and to self start, which is all part of having flexible strength of mind.”
What steps can organisations take?
Lone workers need to avoid feeling alone. Regular and effective links back to the mothership is important for all. Organisations need to ensure their lone workers have strengthened their resilience by providing programmes to strengthen mental control and within this, individual self belief.
In addition, help to organise individual working patterns, taking account of circumstances, together with help on such items as controlling anxiety and forming relationships from the lone worker base. Organisations should not adopt the role of spy as this, simply, becomes an adverse event for which resilience is required.
What are your top tips for increasing personal resilience?
- Always think and believe you are a fabulous person
- Always think and believe you can achieve the big things in life
- Always try to keep an open mind about everything
- Always try to stay tranquil, peaceful and calm
- Always be attentive to other people
Derek Mowbray specialises in the primary prevention of fear and stress at work. He uses organisational cultural and behavioural triggers as the means of substituting adverse events and behaviours that risk causing stress, with those that provoke psychological wellbeing and performance.
See him speak at resilience for lone workers at Safety & Health Expo 2017 by registering here.