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Companies Try Tested Techniques to Cut Employee Stress


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Companies looking to reduce the stress of their employees are turning to “mindfulness-based stress reduction.”

The technique, pioneered by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is being adapted for the office, the Wall Street Journal reports. The eight-session program, which ends with a full-day retreat, teaches meditation techniques, stretching, yoga and “body scans” in which participants tune in to their stress and learn to lessen their response. Studies show the program is associated with increased activity in brain regions involving self-control.

Dow Chemical Co. tried an adapted version of the program for the workplace, using online webcasts and exercises to teach employees how to cope with stress, the story says.

One part of the program taught employees the art of “mindful communication” to prepare them for stressful meetings with bosses. The workers were taught to visualize meetings in which they paid attention to the conversation and asked questions rather than becoming defensive. The results are being tested by a corporate-health research firm.

The Union Pacific Corp. trained employees in another increasingly popular technique—cognitive-behavioral skills—taught through telephone coaching and online training. The idea is to reduce negative thoughts and focus on the positive.

In one part of the program, coaches helped employees explore whether negativity was holding them back. In another, employees were asked to identify a major life goal, and then to examine whether their daily actions were helping or hurting their ability to achieve it. The stress-busting results are being monitored by a company that offers health and wellness programs.

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