A Case Study For Stress Coaching in the Workplace
Stress coaching in the workplace is producing excellent results: Jan Gerding HR Director Nordics Robert Bosch A/S Denmark
At the Wellbeing @Work Amsterdam event on the 11th of September 2018, Jan surprised a group of curious and desperate delegates on how he and his company; Robert Bosch A/S Denmark approached the high prevalence of stress-related illness and burnout in the company. Highly educated and skilled employees were burned out; the burnout rate was too high for comfort and to top it all after a long recovery from burnout employees returned to work for an average period of one month before handing in their notice and going to work for other companies, who they were convinced would look after their health better. Something had to be done; HR needed to find out why so many employees were being burned out and why so many left the company after their recovery. A wellbeing policy needed to be developed.
After some deep soul searching Jan based his potential wellbeing policy to improve the health of all employees and retain his best people, on the following questions:
- Why did our employees go down with stress?
- What could we do to prevent them from going down?
- How could we ensure that they returned and stayed in the job?
- What would a wellbeing policy entail and what would it cost?
A Robust and Resilient Workforce
The tree is only as strong as its roots
Based on the theory that the company is only as strong as the employees holding it up… like the roots of a tree holding the tree steady and in position… flexible enough to blow in the wind, take the stress and strain from all the external elements and be robust and resilient enough to bounce back; Jan and colleagues started to develop their wellbeing policy in the hope that stress-related illness and burnout statistics would decrease and employee retention would improve.
A wellbeing policy demands cooperation from all departments
The following areas were investigated:
- How to focus on wellbeing in the workplace?; attention to colleagues’ wellbeing.
- Who decides help is needed? HR decides.
- Who pays for the help? Department pays.
- How to introduce/incorporate a wellbeing policy? Pro-activity.
- How to execute a wellbeing policy? Stress coaching on the job.Pro-activity.
Based on these areas, Robert Bosch A/S Denmark set up their ‘On The Job Stress Coaching Programme’, on which all employees could rely on. With the cooperation of HR, all employees had access to stress coaching. To make sure the costs were responsibly shared, the managers of each department paid for the necessary stress coaching of their teams; the costs of coaching their team came out of their department’s budget. This had the effect of killing two birds with one stone. The employee got the help he/she needed and the manager, whether he/she liked it or not would eventually have to ask why the team were under so much stress; which in turn would force managers to examine management styles and maybe even request additional management training. One wellbeing being initiative led to another. A big part of the wellbeing policy was getting all employees to take part in the ‘On The Job Stress Coaching Programme’, not only to start looking after themselves in the workplace but also each other. Slowly but surely a support network was set up for all colleagues; especially those showing signs of stress.
The stress coach was accepted as part of the team
A stress coach was available on the work floor when necessary; one stress coach who eventually was accepted as being someone who belonged on the work floor. There were no recriminations about being or feeling stressed, the focus was on keeping all employees healthy with the knowledge that in reality, we are all prone to stress. It was and still is today accepted that feeling stressed is a normal part of life and a normal part of the working day.
What else did the stress coaching wellbeing policy include?
Additional initiatives introduced to increase coping:
- Sleep training
- Dietary advice
- Different after-work meetings (stress, mental robustness, info meeting concerning cancer, etc.)
What were the results of all the hard work done by the stress coach?
- Significant reduction in absence due to stress –75% the first year.
- Stress coach was paid by the company –and still was more financially favourable.
- ‘No’ burnouts (1 since 2006)
- 100% leaving after 12 months before the stress coaching on the job initiative –less than 5% leaving after 12 months, after the stress coaching on the job initiative.
What was learned?
Stress is a shared responsibility and not a management responsibility…and… Without trust –forget it!!!