The best laid plans: Process evaluation of a preventative stress-management strategy in the public sector
Hudson, J (2016) 'The best laid plans: Process evaluation of a preventative stress-management strategy in the public sector'.
The costs of poor psychological health to employees and organisations continue to mount, with the psychosocial work environment implicated as a causal factor. Despite this, organisational-level interventions aiming to address these working conditions have been under-represented in the literature and, where evident, provide inconsistent findings. Much of this inconsistency has been attributed to the complexity of such interventions and the many contextual and process- related factors that can affect their implementation and outcomes. Consequently, there is a growing recognition that research needs to consider this within research designs, which has previously been lacking, in order to learn from and improve interventions (Biron, Karanika-Murray, & Cooper, 2012). This study incorporated process evaluation in assessing the effects of an organisation-wide project to address psychosocial stress-risks in a large UK public sector organisation (N = 4,675) against a backdrop of austerity-related budget cuts. The project followed a stepwise process beginning with a baseline stress-risk assessment survey (n = 1,425) to identify the main psychosocial stress-risk factors (work demands, change & how it was managed, and manager support) and inform the development and implementation of interventions. This led the organisation to the develop interventions targeting communication, support, and recognition. A follow-up survey was conducted 14-months later (n = 1,008). Repeated measures ANOVA¿s of employees who completed surveys at both time-points (n = 552) showed that employees¿ exposure and perceptions of interventions were significantly associated with changes in psychosocial conditions targeted by them. Process evaluation also highlighted the crucial role played by the challenging context, which affected the time and resources available to the project, and its coordination. This thesis heeds calls for more consideration of process and context in intervention research, as well as supporting its value in terms of interpreting findings and drawing important lessons that can be used to improve future effort.