Resilience and well-being in difficult times can be developed via online interventions in the workplace. An international team of researchers from France, the UK, and Russia (with the participation of researchers from the HSE International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation) studied the effectiveness of SPARK Resilience, a programme for developing resilience, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of the study were published in the PLOS One journal.
By creating the SPARK Resilience programme, psychologists focused on helping people gain resilience—the ability to successfully adapt to and overcome challenging times. It is based on models of cognitive behavioural therapy and positive psychology. Training based on the SPARK model involves analysing the situation, its perception, resulting affect, reactions, and knowledge gained in real-life situations. The researchers state that in order to develop resilience, it is important to consider the situation as a set of neutral facts, to understand the features of one’s perception of difficulties (for example, a tendency to catastrophise or to ignore problems), as well as to notice and to regulate one’s automatic reactions that could result in non-productive behaviour. Usually, this conscious approach leads to a deeper understanding of the situation and of one’s role in it, making it possible to effectively manage stress.
SPARK Resilience was originally developed as a universal school programme. It is widely used in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Japan, and Singapore. Previously, the programme’s effectiveness was investigated in groups of children and adolescents. Recently, a new version of the programme—SPARK Resilience in the workplace—has been created. It involves group coaching designed for employees and work teams and is based on a wide range of positive psychology practices. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the study authors worked with this version of the programme, which allowed them to understand how SPARK Resilience training can help adults.
The data for the study was collected at the beginning of the pandemic (in April 2020) in France. The participants were French-speaking volunteers who took part in group coaching via Zoom video conferences. Eight one-and-a-half-hour sessions were conducted over four weeks. The SPARK sessions combined training, group interaction, surveys, quizzes, discussions in small virtual groups, mindfulness exercises, and optional homework. They were conducted by two coaches with a degree in psychology and extensive experience in group work.
The sample included 101 intervention programme participants and 86 participants in the wait-list control group. Everyone filled out surveys before and after the programme. The analysis revealed a statistically significant increase in resilience and psychological well-being, as well as a decrease in perceived stress in the group that took part in the intervention. Most participants reported a desire to apply what they had learned during the programme in their life. The participants reported high levels of satisfaction, which can also be explained by the pandemic context—the study was conducted during the first lockdown, which was introduced in France on March 17. It was exactly the time when people needed serious psychological support.
Based on the research of the last 20 years, we know that positive psychology really does help people not only feel better, but also to cope more effectively with life problems. A recent meta-analytical study with fifteen hundred samples has confirmed the high effectiveness of interventions aimed at developing resilience. Our research shows that such interventions can also be applied in a remote setting, which allows coaches to successfully work with large groups comprising hundreds of participants. As a result, we can more effectively share the knowledge and the practices that can help people live successful and happy lives under stress and uncertainty.
The researchers note that SPARK Resilience can be used to work with both individuals and teams. This approach is quite flexible and can be developed further, incorporating new findings in positive psychology.
One of the study authors, Deputy Head of the International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation