Investigating the relationship between stress and worker behaviour

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Direct care staff working in six residential group homes for people with intellectual disability were asked to complete a questionnaire which asked for information on levels of stress (anxiety and depression), the types of demand experienced by the staff, the support they received and the constraints they faced at work. Staff were also observed at work using a schedule which detailed who they interacted with, the content and type of interaction, and what activities staff were involved in. Measurement of workers' anxiety and depression levels confirmed management assessments of staff stress levels in the homes: two residential group homes were classified as 'low stress' and four as 'high stress'. A number of differences emerged between the two groups. Staff in the high stress homes reported greater demands and less support than those in the low stress homes. Higher levels of interaction were found between staff and residents in low stress houses, where more of the interaction was given as assistance and positive interactions. However, activities in higher-stress group homes appeared to be more community oriented, with staff spending a much greater amount of time out of the house. The importance of these results for both staff and residents is discussed, and suggestions for further work are made.

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