The relevance of reinforcing strategic stress management and welfare programs in UN peacekeeping operations
Background and purpose Stress is a growing concern in many workplaces today and much research has been done on occupational stress. Some of these studies are focusing on military, police and other job categories where employees are exposed to extreme danger. However, very little research has been done on non-uniformed civilians working in volatile contexts. This thesis investigates what stressors civilian field personnel are exposed to while on assignment in different UN peacekeeping missions and what UN peacekeeping operations are doing to manage or mitigate the effects of negative long-term stress among civilian peacekeepers. Methodology Identification of environmental and organizational stress factors in different UN peacekeeping operations have been done with the help of an exploratory, cross-sectional online survey carried out in seven UN peacekeeping missions. Based on identified stressors, this thesis investigates how stress management can be improved in UN peacekeeping operations. Findings Long-term occupational stress can be damaging for the individual employee as well as the entire organization, therefore, a more pro-active stress management approach is required. The survey results showed that there are many different environmental and organizational stressors in UN peacekeeping missions. Civilian field personnel’s access to gym facilities must be improved in many missions. A number of actions can be taken on the organizational level to raise awareness about welfare and stress management. The main recommendations are: - More attention needs to be paid, at Headquarters and at mission level, in trying to reduce organizational stressors in missions; - Secretary General’s recommendations from 2008 and 2009 should be implemented, i.e. ensure gym facilities for all staff members; - Staff welfare should be a priority not an after-thought. Stress management strategies and welfare budgets, tailored to each mission, needs to be developed.
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