Reducing Causes of Cumulative Stress

Emergency response work is stressful.  There are many causes of this, and most of them we will not be able to control.

This makes it very important that we address the causes we can control.

There are three main ways we can reduce cumulative stress on the team.

  1. Keep stressors in working and living conditions to a minimum.  See a list of standards for office and housing here: Office & Guest House Set-up Standards.
  2. One of the most effective staff care practices is to have sufficient numbers of experienced staff and give them well-defined, widely-understood roles.  At the beginning, bring them in on TDY.  Later, hire them.  Having enough staff who know what they are doing – and who have clear roles so they are not stepping all over each other – is the most comprehensive way to reduce stress on all team members.
  3. Establish routines and habits at the office and guest house (some ideas below). Research shows that we spend a lot more mental energy the first time we carry out a task. Once the task becomes routine, we use no energy at all to do the very same thing.  Use this fact to your advantage.  Some examples of small things you can do:
    1. As soon as possible, give medium and long term staff a set work space in the office so they don’t have to scrounge for a new space every day.
    2. Establish permanent locations for departments that all staff will use a lot (finance, purchasing, HR) as soon as possible, and make sure everyone knows where they are.
    3. Have administrative departments post clear, step-by-step instructions about how to use their services.  This exercise of writing down the procedures will help the department itself establish their routines in their own minds and posting them will provide clarity for those will be using the system.
    4. If group transport (between guest house and office) is required, schedule it for standard times every day.
    5. Have meetings and meals at the same times each day.

These practices will certainly not eliminate stress, but they will help to minimize it.  In another section, we also provide some tips on relieving the stress that remains.