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Tuesday, 2 January, 2001, 09:17 GMT
Stress management 'counter-productive'
Office
Many workers say they are stressed
Attempts to tackle stress at work may actually make the problem worse for some employees, according to research.

Dr Rob Briner, a senior lecturer in organisational psychology at Birkbeck College in London, said that a plethora of stress management policies had been introduced by employers in recent years.


Stress management techniques are often an extremely unfocused ragbag of ideas

Dr Rob Briner, Birkbeck College
But he said that many were doomed to fail because they were ill conceived and hastily implemented.

Dr Briner said: "Stress management techniques are often an extremely unfocused ragbag of ideas and techniques which are of little long-term benefit to employees or employers."

He told BBC News Online that part of the problem was that employees were often given inaccurate information about stress and its effects.

"This tends to make people scared about ordinary feelings. Everybody gets a bit depressed about their work sometimes, but that does not mean that they are suffering from stress."

Dr Briner said it was also wrong to place too much emphasis on stress as being at the root of all problems.

Often, he said, there were simple practical steps that could be taken to improve the working environment - for instance providing more resources - that would be far more effective than any stress management course.

Sarah Silcox, editor of Employee Health Bulletin, said stress was set to become one of the most important workplace health issues facing organisations in the next few years.

She said: "Employers need to ensure that they have the systems in place to identify stress in employees and the jobs they do."

Major problem

A survey by the Trades Union Congress last year found that stress was the number one concern among employees.

The TUC claims that British industry loses 90 million working days a year because of stress at work.

TUC figures also show the number of workers claiming compensation for stress has soared by 70% in recent years.

Meanwhile, three out of four employers told the Industrial Society that stress was likely to be their greatest health and safety issue over the next two years.

Research by Ohio State University in the US found that people who are stressed at work are more likely to develop bad backs.

This is because people under pressure tend to use the wrong muscle groups to pick up objects.

Symptoms of stress include aggression, irritability, anti-social feelings, suppressed anger, concentration problems and sleeping difficulties.

Other tell-tale signs include eating too little or too much, suffering repeated colds or flu, headaches or nervous twitches, drinking or smoking too much and watching too much television.

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See also:

26 Jul 00 | Health
Sterile offices 'causing stress'
02 Dec 00 | Health
Bad backs 'caused by work stress'
25 May 00 | Health
Job strain 'as bad as smoking'
15 May 00 | Health
Bogus sick days 'cost billions'
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