How business schools help stressed-out MBAs

There's no denying that the world of business can come with intense pressure and immense stress. For those with an MBA or executive MBA to their name, the strain can start on campus.

The workload in such programs is tremendous. EMBA students at Smith School of Business at Queen's University, for example, can expect to put in about 25 hours a week on top of their work and family obligations, according to Elspeth Murray, the school's associate dean of MBA and master programs. If those external demands aren't enough, many place intense pressure on themselves to excel or outdo their classmates.

"These are students coming from a variety of fields who are usually top in their class," adds Michael Maier, associate dean of master programs at the University of Alberta's business school. "They may be getting Bs when they're used to getting all As. It's humbling."

Although figures don't exist for Canadian institutions, research by the Higher Education Statistics Agency in Britain shows that mental-health conditions among higher education students – which include undergraduates, postgraduates and MBAs – rose to 35,500 in 2015 from 13,060 in 2010. Dropout rates among these same learners more than tripled during the same period.

In 2016, the London-based Association of MBAs found that, from among more than 2,000 member business schools from 104 countries, stress-management skills were included in 37 per cent of MBA programs because of rising mental-health challenges at the graduate level.

With universities increasingly sensitive to mental health, especially as the subject gains greater awareness through initiatives like this month's Bell Let's Talk day on Jan. 31, several business schools across Canada are taking steps to address related challenges among its MBA and EMBA students.

While all students at the University of Toronto have access to its central health and counselling services, two years ago its Rotman School of Management implemented an embedded counsellor specifically for its students. Similarly, while there's a multifaith space at U of T for all students seeking a place for prayer or quiet contemplation, Rotman recently created a similar room within its own building. Students are also connected with "buddies" and career coaches, who are all well-versed in what supports are available to students who may be struggling.

Neel Joshi, director of student life and international experience at Rotman, says the school's approach to mental health among its students is holistic, with different supports available to respond to various student needs. The multifaith centre, for instance, came in response to feedback from one student who found it difficult to make his way to the U of T space to pray several times a day...
Read full story: The Globe and Mail

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