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allow them to relax and that they
take part in these activities regu-
larly. “These may be solo activities
such as going for a walk or to the
gym, cooking a meal, or listening to
a radio program; it depends on what
helps you switch off. Think about the
activities that replenish you and help you recover.
They can vary considerably between individuals,” she says.
Some firefighters may have little opportunity to spend quality
time with their family and friends, limiting their opportunities to
gain social support. Therefore, it may be fitting for the families
and friends of firefighters to take part in this process by making
provision for relaxation to happen. For example, firefighters can
often benefit from connecting with family and friends for 15-min-
ute yoga, meditation, or deep-breathing breaks, either during their
workday or after shift hours. This will enhance relationships while
also relieving any work-related stress.
The fire service may also wish to invest in programs where mem-
bers can become better equipped to unwind, as the job is unlikely to
become less stressful. “Provide staff with training on healthy ways to
unwind—mindfulness can be particularly useful,” says Kinman. She
also recommends that firefighters be discouraged from having over-
involvement in the job and that a review is undertaken into “shift
systems and on-call practices to make sure they are healthy” as well
as providing “opportunities for healthy eating and exercise.”
Enhanced levels of job control and a more democratic system
of organizational change management are crucial, with staff
involvement and better communication. Furthermore, work-life
balance can be easier to achieve with the control and regulation of
emotions. This goes a long way in protecting firefighters from the
negative effects associated with their job, such as intensive shifts
and trauma. “There is evidence that it is essential for firefight-
ers to have sufficient time and opportunity to process negative
experiences to avoid serious problems such as post-traumatic stress
disorder,” says Kinman.
Overall, Kinman believes there could be more opportunities for
facilitating work-life balance for the entire fire service. She says,
“Bear in mind that work-life balance is not just for people with
children; everyone needs enough time ‘off the job.’ Provide
opportunities for flexible working and make sure that its uptake is
not stigmatized.” It is imperative for management to invest in the
emotional, physical, and environmental well-being of firefighters
through innovative and organizational change aimed at promoting
work-life balance for those who have chosen the high-pressure life
of a fire and rescue service worker.
1. Demerouti E, Bakker AB, Nachreiner F, Schaufeli WB, “The job demands–resources
model of burnout,” J. Appl. Psychol. 86:499–512, 2001.
2. CareerCast, “The most stressful jobs of 2015,” 2015, Available from: http://www.
careercast.com/jobs-rated/most-stressful-jobs-2015 [Last accessed 16/03/2017].
Dr. Nicola Davies is a psychologist and freelance writer with expertise in occupational psychology and well-being. You can follow her on Twitter (@healthpsychuk) or
sign up for her free blog ( http://healthpsychologyconsultancy.wordpress.com/).