Exploring the development of self-compassion in the workplace

Super, Amanda (2019) Exploring the development of self-compassion in the workplace. (DoBPsych thesis), Kingston University, .


Stress levels experienced by individuals in the workplace are highly prevalent and well documented. Self-compassion has been suggested as an approach that may support the health and wellbeing of individuals and enable them to stay well at work. Self-compassion is understood as, compassion directed inward, relating to oneself as the object of care and concern when faced with difficulty (Neff, 2003b). There is a growing body of research suggesting that interventions to develop self-compassion may impact positively on the health and wellbeing of a working population. The first study in this thesis, a systematic literature review, seeks to consolidate this literature in order to examine the potential benefits of interventions to develop self-compassion in workplace-based samples. This review was conducted using a systematic approach as outlined by Briner and Denyer (2012) which included several sifts of the resultant literature. Following this protocol, the review identified 12 studies that met the inclusion criteria which showed promising evidence to suggest that self-compassion can be developed and benefit the health and wellbeing of employees. The included studies varied in content, delivery mode and quality which hindered firm conclusions being drawn as to the most effective intervention. The studies also offered limited insights in terms of the mechanisms that may increase self-compassion and improve health and wellbeing. Interestingly, only four of the 12 included studies considered an intervention that explicitly focused on the core components of self-compassion (self-kindness/common humanity/mindfulness) as defined by Neff (2003b). Healthcare professionals are well documented in the literature as experiencing high levels of stress and burnout accompanied by reduced mental wellbeing. The second study in this thesis looked to test a novel, self-guided online intervention developed by the author based on the three core components of self-compassion; and assess the efficacy of the intervention on the health and wellbeing of a healthcare professional sample. Building on the study limitations identified in the systematic review, this study employed a randomised controlled trial. The study aimed to evaluate the veracity of the intervention by considering mental wellbeing, stress and burnout variables, and the self-compassion levels of participants, pre, post and one-month following their attendance on the programme. The healthcare professional sample (n=230) was drawn from several NHS Trusts around the UK and of these, 190 participants completed the baseline measures. To ensure robust evaluation of the intervention, a randomised waitlist control trial design was utilised. The results showed that the intervention group (n=54) significantly improved on measures of self-compassion (including the six additional subscales), mental wellbeing, stress and burnout immediately after the intervention and that these improvements were maintained at one-month follow up relative to the waitlist control group (n=60). These findings suggest that the intervention utilised in this study shows promise in terms of developing self-compassion and benefitting the health and wellbeing of a healthcare professional population. The implications of the study findings, for both research and practice, are discussed.

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