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...