ACT in the workplace

Recent statistics reveal that a significant proportion of British workers, specifically around one in six individuals, face the challenges associated with mental health problems1. This has huge implications for both employee well-being and the wider economy, as lost productivity becomes a concern. Consequently, there is a growing desire for programs that can assist workers in cultivating psychological health and overall well-being, even in the face of the demanding nature of today’s work environment. This is another example of a scenario where ACT can be particularly useful.

What is the ACT in the workplace programme?

Knowing this, Dr Paul Flaxman and his team at City, University of London developed a groundbreaking training programme that is rooted in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) but is specifically designed for the workplace. The aim is to provide employers with effective strategies that support their workforce and promote psychological well-being. It achieves this by empowering support staff to deliver the training and equipping employees with psychological behavioural skills.

How ACT in the workplace was developed

Recognising the detrimental effects of excessive workloads and limited resources on employees’ mental health, Dr Flaxman and his colleagues embarked on developing a new scheme adapted from ACT. They conducted extensive research by implementing the strategies in two local authorities in London between 2002 and 2004, followed by a central government department and four NHS trusts from 2008 to 2013. The goal was to equip support staff with the necessary skills to deliver the training independently, enabling them to empower their colleagues effectively but also future proof the organisations as they were now in the receipt of the necessary skills to continue to deliver an employee well-being programme.

Dr Flaxman says:“We trained staff support practitioners – psychologists, counsellors and vocational rehabilitation specialists – in how to deliver ACT in groups, so that they could then train their own staff and service users. This knowledge exchange means the NHS doesn’t have to rely on external agencies, given there is in-house expertise for delivering effective ACT interventions long after the initial project ends.” ¹

The power of psychological behavioural skills

The ACT in the workplace training offers participants a comprehensive set of psychological behavioural skills designed to navigate the challenges of the modern workplace successfully. These skills not only have a positive impact on employees’ professional lives but also extend to their personal lives, enhancing overall well-being.

The train the trainer programme includes:

  • Insight into the theoretical foundations that inform the structure, content, and exercises of the programme, enhancing your ability to explain its effectiveness to participants.
  • Learning effective techniques for delivering engaging acceptance and commitment training (ACT) programmes to groups of employees within workplace settings. Using strategies to capture participants’ attention, foster active participation, and create an inclusive and supportive learning environment.
  • How to effectively communicating the core components of ACT through live demonstrations. Demonstration of key concepts and techniques, showcasing their practical application in real-life scenarios. This interactive approach helps participants grasp the principles of ACT and understand how they can be implemented in their own lives.
  • A comprehensive understanding of the underlying rationale behind the design of the ACT programme and how it aligns with the core processes of acceptance and commitment therapy.
  • Methods to learn and practice the behaviours and skills necessary for effective ACT-oriented group facilitation. This includes creating a safe and non-judgmental space, active listening, empathetic communication, and guiding participants through experiential exercises. Developing the ability to adapt facilitation style to meet the unique needs of diverse employee groups.
  • The latest research updates and developments surrounding ACT in the context of workplace settings. Exploring studies, case examples, and evidence-based practices that demonstrate the effectiveness of ACT in improving employee well-being, reducing stress, and enhancing workplace satisfaction.
  • Essential strategies that secure buy-in from both employees and organisations for implementing ACT in the workplace. Learn how to effectively communicate the benefits of the scheme, address potential concerns or resistance, and create a compelling case for investing in employee mental health and well-being.

Measurable benefits

The effectiveness of the training programme lies in its evidence-based approach, allowing organisations to collect data on its impact. Support staff can administer pre- and post-training questionnaires to employees, enabling them to measure the effectiveness of the programme objectively. This data reveals significant improvements in employees’ mental health and psychological well-being.

The impact of the training programme is evident through the positive feedback received from employees who have undergone the training. Support staff have received letters, feedback, and data indicating the significant benefits experienced by their colleagues. A compelling example can be seen at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, where approximately 1500 senior nurses have been trained. Data collected from this initiative revealed an improvement in nurses’ general mental health.

Widespread adoption

The success of the programme has led to its widespread adoption across various sectors. Numerous organisations, including 25 NHS trusts, a central government department, schools in London and Bristol, UK and Canadian ballet companies, Nuffield Health, the Welsh Government, three UK police forces, Shoreditch Trust, and Mind, the mental health charity, have embraced the training programme. Moreover, international workplace well-being practitioners in the US, Australia, and Canada have also recognised its merits.
As of August 2023² this ACT-based training programme has been adopted across the UK by more than 30 NHS trusts, and thousands of NHS staff have participated. The programme has also been delivered to more than 200 practitioners working in schools, prisons, police forces and mental health charities.
As its popularity continues to grow, it is clear that the programme’s impact extends beyond individual organisations, fostering a culture of well-being and resilience in a variety of modern workplaces.

References

¹https://www.city.ac.uk/research/impact/case-studies/improving-mental-health-in-the-workplace
²https://www.ukri.org/who-we-are/how-we-are-doing/research-outcomes-and-impact/esrc/improving-the-mental-health-of-nhs-employees/

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