Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Development of Workplace Interventions to Reduce Job Stressors Among Corrections Officers
Author Affiliations
  • St. Louis University
Article Information
Health and Wellness / Professional Issues / Prevention and Intervention
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Development of Workplace Interventions to Reduce Job Stressors Among Corrections Officers
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011515264.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011515264.

Date Presented 4/8/2016

Job stressors were explored among jail correction officers. Thematic analysis of focus group data shows stressors in policies, communication, and culture are of interest to corrections officers for the development of workplace interventions using a Total Worker Health approach.

Primary Author and Speaker: Chelsey Mattingly

Additional Authors and Speakers: Brooke Davidson, Emily Polovick, Lisa Jaegers

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to explore corrections officers’ (COs’) job stress to inform future workplace programs. In this study we seek to answer the question “What are the job stressors identified by COs and workplace interventions to potentially reduce those stressors?”
BACKGROUND: It is estimated that 37% of COs experience job stress and burnout compared with an estimated 19%–30% in the general working population. Breakdown of work, culture, communication, and policy implementation increase COs’ risk for job dissatisfaction, burnout, and personal life conflict. This study is informed by the Total Worker Health (TWH) strategy developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which supports an integrated approach to developing workplace interventions.
DESIGN: We utilized an exploratory design and qualitative methods through the use of focus groups to determine COs’ needs for workplace interventions. Supported by the TWH approach, the study is participatory by gaining CO input for the design of focus group questions and gaining COs’ opinions of workplace stressors to assist with the design of stress reduction interventions.
PARTICIPANTS: COs employed by a large, urban jail in the Midwestern United States participated in this study. Groups of COs were recruited to participate in one of two focus groups through flyers posted at the jail. Researchers recruited COs (N = 13) who worked for the jail for ≤3 yr, with women representing 54% of participants.
METHOD: This study was approved by the institutional review board of Saint Louis University. A focus group guide developed from worker health research, CO literature, and input from a CO representative from the jail were used to develop focus group questions. Jail COs were asked questions relating to their work and health, culture and communication, and suggestions for workplace interventions. Researchers conducted two focus groups with COs (N = 13), each lasting 1 hr.
ANALYSIS: Focus group audio recordings were transcribed by the researchers and analyzed using qualitative coding and thematic analysis methods described by Miles and Huberman. Data were coded by three researchers independently, who then performed a thematic analysis through consensus. We organized themes of stressors and developed suggestions to propose to the jail for a stress reduction program, based on the TWH approach to be implemented in collaboration with COs, administration, and occupational therapy practitioners.
RESULTS: Workplace stressors identified by COs were primarily in the area of management support and coworker support. COs were concerned with how new policies were developed and initiated, poor communication between workers throughout the jail, and lack of teamwork. Officers suggested interventions that would allow them to talk to a supportive staff member confidentially, feel recognized for their work contributions, and receive mentoring during training.
COs report job stress due to a variety of management and coworker issues. A needs assessment utilizing focus groups and management input and support can inform the development of workplace interventions for occupational therapy practice. A TWH approach can be used to address COs’ stressors surrounding policies, communication, and teamwork.
IMPACT STATEMENT: Occupational stressors were explored among COs using a TWH approach. Information from two facilitated focus groups provided insight into the lived experience. Thematic analysis showed stressors in policies, communication, and culture, which can be effectively addressed through occupational therapy’s scope of practice.