Identifying vulnerabilities to stress, improving wellbeing, and building resilience in the workplace
Roger Baker, PhD
Jessie Candy, Hogrefe Ltd
The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened our awareness and understanding of the importance of emotional wellbeing and the impact of stress, isolation, grief, and trauma on mental health. Working from home has highlighted issues such as the need for a healthy work/life balance, the desire for finding meaning and purpose in our work, and the crucial role of social bonds for individuals. Employers are more mindful of the need to ensure the emotional wellbeing and mental health of their staff. And yet they may struggle to know where to start.
The new Emotional Processing Scale – Wellbeing (EPS-W) authored by Clinical Psychologist Dr Roger Baker and published by Hogrefe Ltd addresses this gap. The EPS-W is a rigorous, yet practical and efficient measure that taps into how people deal with the changes and challenges in their working lives. It also provides invaluable guidance for improving wellbeing and building emotional resilience. Important for everyday work and critical amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
What is emotional processing?
The term ‘emotional processing’ will likely be an unfamiliar concept for many, and yet it is key to our daily functioning. It refers to the way in which we cope with, or ‘process’, emotional events; it is the process by which emotional disturbances are absorbed or decline and the extent to which they no longer bother or interfere with our normal experience of life.
Processing emotions involves many unseen psychological mechanisms that come into play when we deal with hurts, frustrations and stresses. The purpose of these mechanisms is to unconsciously absorb and deal with our hurt, frustrations and stresses to the point where our equilibrium is restored, and distress does not interfere with normal everyday functioning. The signs of incomplete emotional processing include preoccupation, repeatedly replaying a stressful event, intrusive thoughts, agitation, restlessness, poor sleep, bad dreams, disproportionate expression of emotions, tearfulness, and irritability. All of these suggest that some distressing event or events have not been properly integrated or absorbed.
In these turbulent times employers need to confront the realities of what their employees will likely be experiencing – negative emotions such as stress, distress, and low motivation being just a few examples. With the EPS-W, organisations have the opportunity to help their employees improve their emotional wellbeing, combat their vulnerabilities to stress, and ultimately build greater resilience.
The development of the original EPS and the new EPS-W
The background of the new EPS-W has a long and impressive history. It was based on a 15-year NHS and University research project cumulating in the publication of the original Emotional Processing Scale (EPS) by Hogrefe in 2015 for clinical and therapeutic applications.
Watch this video to hear more about the development of the original EPS:
The development of the scale involved 80 research groups around the world and 19 different translations of the scale. This involved a range of different psychometric studies including reliability studies (Internal consistency, split –half, inter-item reliability, test-retest) and validity studies (factorial, concurrent, predictive, sensitivity to change, diagnostic comparison, identifying caseness). Altogether, data was provided on 6,400 participants, providing a wealth of clinical, cultural and demographic information for the test user.
The research identified five important dimensions which together contribute to either a healthy or unhealthy ‘Emotional Processing Style’ (these dimensions are outlined for the EPS-W, alongside their clinical equivalents from the original EPS in Table 1).
Table 1: Occupational (EPS-W) and Clinical (EPS) dimensions
In constructing the original EPS, Hogrefe Ltd and Dr Baker worked closely to produce a scoring method and profile sheet whereby the respondent’s scores could be graphically presented in comparison to the healthy normal typical population. This proved incredibly useful clinically for explaining to clients the nature of their emotional processing style and where any problems lay, and in the planning of therapy. Over a 6-year period Dr Baker used this with nearly every person seen for therapy, advice, or counselling, providing an invaluable source of information on the meaning and interpretation of scores. This has been built into the Personal Insight Report of the EPS-W in the form of tailor-made interpretation and guidance for personal development in facilitating emotional resilience.
The EPS-W process
The EPS-W is a 25-item questionnaire administered online in typically just 5 to 10 minutes. It presents the respondent with a series of statements, and they must rate the extent to which each of the statements applies to the way they felt or acted during the last week.
Results can indicate a generally healthy approach to emotional processing (high scores), while lower scores can provide suggestions for enhancing their style. When lower scores are found, the Personal Insight Report includes Daily Emotions Charts that can help respondents examine and thus identify and even change the way they process their emotions. The EPS-W Personal Insight Report also includes Development Suggestions, which are intended to provide insight and guidance into how the respondent could practically apply the knowledge they have gained from their scores.
The goal of the assessment is to help individuals understand their own emotional processing style and provide guidelines for developing a more resilient style if appropriate. The EPS-W reports are not to be used in the context of employee selection.
Ideally the administration of the EPS-W will involve a personal feedback session. This session could take different forms; it may be a standalone one-to-one session with the respondent, a group workshop with multiple respondents, or part of a coaching process where the individual’s emotional processing style can evolve over several sessions.
Areas of application
The EPS-W is a very versatile instrument, so organisations can use it in different ways. Some of the uses relate to the organisation as a whole, while others are more individual. Some example areas of application include:
- coaching or training to enhance resilience and wellbeing;
- on-boarding in occupations that experience high stress or emotional events;
- developing employees in customer facing roles;
- coaching individuals who are or will be experiencing extremely stressful or demanding work environments;
- as part of emotional intelligence development / wellbeing programmes;
- leadership and management training;
- personal development; and
- helping those who are moving into new working practices for example individuals returning to work in an office environment after remote working.
The EPS-W is not so much a measure of emotions at work – rather it taps into the dynamics of how we handle emotional events. In this way, it not only assesses where the employee is at that moment in time but also their potential for handling stress in the future. Importantly, it provides positive guidelines to help employees facilitate their strengths and, in this sense, it is a genuine tool for improving emotional wellbeing across the whole of the workforce – at the exact point in our lifetime when this is badly needed.
The Emotional Processing Scale – Wellbeing (EPS-W) is now available to occupational psychologists and TUOP-trained professionals. Administered online via the Hogrefe Testsystem, the measure features a new Guide to Interpretation and Feedback, Technical Report and Personal Insight Report, providing practical guidance for improving wellbeing and building resilience. To find out more please visit our website or contact Hogrefe to discuss using the EPS-W at your organisation at email@example.com or +44 (0)1865 797920
About Dr Roger Baker
Roger is Professor of Clinical Psychology at Bournemouth University and formerly a Consultant Clinical Psychologist with the Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust (now retired). He has worked in a dual role as researcher and clinical psychologist at Leeds, Aberdeen and Bournemouth Universities and in National Health Service Mental Health Trusts in the UK. He has specialised in Emotional Processing, developing and conducting therapy, writing self-help books, and with his research team at Bournemouth University producing the Emotional Processing Scale for Clinical and Research use in 2015. The success of this has led to the recent publication of the new EPS-W.