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Stress courses make things worse, says Employee Health Bulletin


The Financial Times reports on a study criticising stress management courses as a potentially harmful 'quick fix'.

In the latest edition of Employee Health Bulletin, Rob Briner, senior lecturer in organisational psychology at Birkbeck College, London, says that although stress is a serious issue to be tackled at work, there is a potential problem with sending people on courses in that being told about the dangers of stress can make things worse. Speaking to the Financial Times, Briner says that audits of stress levels in the workplace could unnecessarily worry employees: "People pathologies ordinary responses to work, like getting angry or depressed. If you go on a course that says these things are killing you, it could make things worse." He adds: "Much of what is done in the name of stress has become habitual knee-jerk, uncritical, lacking in innovation, and most importantly, not as helpful as it should be in dealing with the real problems employees and organisations face."

Counselling helplines are of little use, says Briner, arguing that there is little evidence that these are helping employees in their performance at work.

Briner says that the solution lies in redesigning jobs so that either workloads are reduced, employees are given more control over their work or that roles are clarified. In order to do this, a clear analysis needs to be made to look at the areas of the job which are causing particular problems for staff. These areas also need to be capable of being amended without causing additional problems.


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