Any company can be seen at any time before an unexpected event with great emotional impact. Work accidents and massive layoffs due to downsizing, for example, tend to be the most common challenges. In these contexts, having tools for stress management in critical incidents is decisive.
When an organization has a well-integrated plan for coping with difficult strategies, the benefits are noticeable: Employees face these circumstances in a more adaptive and resilient way.
Likewise, the work scenarios themselves also quickly recover productivity. It’s a useful and effective mechanism. We’ll give you all the keys to this type of strategy.
Offering coping strategies in critical situations within a company can prevent subsequent post-traumatic stress.
Stress management program in critical incidents: Definition and application
A good part of the organisms of our society have programs to handle crises and emergencies. Events such as natural disasters, accidents, or even terrorist attacks have their own protocol for action. Since organizations should also have this type of mechanism, the “CISM” program was designed.
Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) was developed in 1997 by JT Mitchell and George S. Everly. The objective of this resource was to describe the set of useful interventions in adverse situations to safeguard people’s mental health.
Both professionals published a book that has improved over the years. Therefore, the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing: An Operations Manual (2001) was the first reference for many companies. Below, we’ll describe its implementation mechanisms.
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Preparatory measures and training
A publication by Aggression and Violent Behavior highlights that this program integrates a wide number of interventions and, among them, training prior to the onset of crises is key. For this, the following guidelines are carried out:
- Formation of a team: Organizations will choose a series of people who will be in charge of applying the stress management program in critical situations. This work is feasible from the human resources department.
- Evaluation: An analysis of possible stressful events and critical emergencies that may arise in the organization itself will be carried out.
- Development of the protocol: Starting from those identified threats, the keys for action are developed. We can’t ignore the fact that each organization has its own peculiarities, and these must always be taken into account.
- External support: The advice of psychologists is essential in the creation of these programs.
It’s very important that leaders and managers are also trained for this work.
Information and training for employees on the “critical incident plan”
Within the organizational culture itself, it’s essential that every figure in the company knows that there’s an action plan for this type of situation. In this way, in the event of an incident, each person will know who to turn to and what mechanisms to activate.
At the same time, it’s decisive to train in prevention. Although adverse situations aren’t always preventable, we can offer psychological training to employees. The most appropriate are the following:
- Emotional regulation techniques.
- Strategies in problem solving.
- Stress management is always essential.
Any company that seeks to implement stress management in critical situations must be trained in psychological first aid. With this tool, it helps the person who is in crisis and who has just suffered an adverse experience.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health specifies in an article that the relevance of this method offers an adequate psychosocial response in emergency situations. The steps to apply emotional or psychological first aid are listed below:
- Stabilize the victim and take them to a safe place.
- Provide physical care: Water, food, blankets, etc.
- Facilitate emotional relief.
- Explain to them that what they feel is normal.
- Give information about the situation in a simple but clear way.
- Call their relatives.
- Contact other services (health or police) if necessary.
Intervention in large groups
Many types of emergency situations can occur in work environments: Chemical disasters, fires, electrical accidents, etc. Something that BMC Psychology points out to us is that, in general, companies aren’t always well-trained on how to prepare for and cope with the psychological impact of these experiences.
The critical incident stress management program provides leaders and managers with tools to act both individually and as a group. If the disaster involves a large number of people, this protocol applies:
- Request outside help if the situation requires it.
- Inform local institutions if the situation demands it.
- Gather all the company’s staff.
- Inform employees about the situation that the organization is going through in a simple way.
- These data and exposure will be made by the person or persons trained for this purpose in the preparatory phase.
- Answer all questions.
- It’s key to provide support and be close and empathetic.
- The action steps from that critical moment will be indicated.
- Help will be provided in logistical matters: Trips to go home, to the hospital, calls to relatives of employees if necessary, etc.
Periodic evaluation of the implemented program
Lastly, as is usual in all programs for action in emergency situations, it’s essential that it be reviewed on a regular basis. Only through a critical analysis of these protocols, true efficacy is achieved.
A useful and practical stress management program in serious situations will guarantee the physical and mental well-being of employees. Therefore, it’s worth considering the following:
- Meeting and evaluation: After a critical situation experienced in the company, a joint meeting will be held to analyze the results. Improvement strategies will be proposed.
- Annual review: Every year, the usefulness of these action guidelines will be verified. Companies are organisms that change over time, and often, what was designed two years ago will no longer be effective for today’s circumstances.
What a person needs most in a crisis or emergency situation is emotional support, closeness, and having all the information possible about what’s happening.
What we consider to be “critical incidents”
When introducing the stress management program in critical incidents in the company, it’s crucial to clarify what these adverse events consist of. Therefore, and as a first example, the challenges that organizations must face include the dynamics of conflict and violence.
Research such as that published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine highlights that numerous behaviors, such as workplace bullying, enter this area. These are experiences that have a great impact on worker health. However, there are more circumstances that we can label as “critical incidents”, such as the following:
- Company thefts
- Work accidents
- Deaths of companions
- Criminal or terrorist attacks
- Witness adverse events
- Being in dangerous situations
- Car accidents
- Natural disasters that affect the organization
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Companies and the challenge of prevention in critical situations
As you already know, every company must have its own occupational risk prevention plan. This area integrates, in some cases, aspects related to mental health. However, organizations don’t always have a specific strategy to act in critical contexts and with great mental anguish.
People spend much of their time in these settings. Therefore, what happens to you at work has a great impact on your psychological well-being. All these dynamics must have their respective mechanisms of action in order to minimize the stressful effect in the long term. We hope that our society and businessmen become much more aware of this matter.
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