Neuroscience training – the key to reducing employee stress?

With employee stress on the rise, we look at whether training in neuroscience could help your workers deal with stressful situations

Neuroscience training – the key to reducing employee stress?
>by John Hilton

The cut and thrust of the workplace can take its toll on many employees. Is neuroscience training the answer?

When people are confronted with stressful situations their typical reactions can be summarised under three categories.

They can fight the situation, they can run away or they can freeze in paralysis. This is particularly relevant to learning and development, and the workplace where stress is common and often leads to further negative patterns of behaviour, explained Betina Szkudlarek, senior lecturer in management at The University of Sydney Business School.

“Neuroscience can give us insights into our subconscious’ fast response to everyday stress and everyday situations in the workplace that may hinder our performance, and how cognitively you can learn to reprogram yourself and have a response that is more positive,” she said.

“It makes me think about why I overstress and how it impacts my performance, how it generates a negative spiral of behaviours and how it all starts with a very little trigger.”

She added that the knowledge of these processes can make people stop when they are in the moment impacted by that trigger that gives an automatic response. Without that knowledge, they would just fall directly into that negative spiral. 

Moreover, Szkudlarek feels her students are more receptive to neuroscience than they are to psychology because neuroscience is harder linked to cognitive sciences and brain sensory research.

“There is more than just a series of experiments involved and we can really trace the neuro movement in the brain,” she said.

“I think and hope that neuroscience will increasingly have an impact on L&D.”

In particular, she feels that neuroscience is beneficial for leaders to allow them to understand the range of responses and the physical stress that is being placed on the individuals’ brains and bodies.

“I think if we cannot afford to get neuroscience training to all employees, it’s important for the leaders to understand the very basic responses of our bodies and our brains, and how different work situations will get them to manage people much more effectively,” Szkudlarek said.

“This is because it involves not just how the cognitive responses affect you, but also your followers. I think many managers should get that knowledge to understand their own behaviour and how they impact others.”          

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