Title: Managing work-related stress in humanitarian fieldwork: aid workers and resilience resources

Authors: Georg Schmidt

Addresses: Alfred Nobel Open Business School, Unit 706,7/F South Seas Centre, Tower 2, 75 Mody Road, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR

Abstract: This study explores which challenges in humanitarian fieldwork trigger stress and what factors and conditions enable humanitarian aid workers (HAW) to withstand adversity without developing negative physical or mental health outcome. A qualitative approach was selected to interview aid workers, using an in-depth semi-structured question guide. Selected participants completed at least three missions while employed with an organisation and the type of fieldwork was restricted to emergency response, complex emergencies and early recovery. Results show that general workload, teamwork and the connection to headquarters are perceived as the biggest challenges. Important resilience resources can be identified in team-members, professional experience and possessing a satisfying life back home. Intercultural understanding was researched as one of the most important personality traits within humanitarian fieldwork. This study suggests better preparation for HAW prior fieldwork and better education programs within the field to compliment professional experience.

Keywords: resilience resources; stress management; humanitarian field work; HAW; humanitarian aid workers; disaster management; stress; fieldwork; teamwork; intercultural understanding; qualitative research.

DOI: 10.1504/IJEM.2017.087220

International Journal of Emergency Management, 2017 Vol.13 No.4, pp.382 - 397

Received: 11 Apr 2016
Accepted: 09 May 2016

Published online: 08 Sep 2017 *

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