We Try Softer!

Two experiments in stress management.

Corporate America seems to be trying harder than ever to reduce stress on the job. Here are two experiments in stress management. One is worth suggesting to your HR department; the second is an example of a Band-Aid approach thetas guaranteed to leave day-to-day stress untouched.


Silicon Graphics is discovering that its sabbatical program has an unintended benefit: it’s just as stimulating for the people who remain at work. Each employee gets a six-week sabbatical every four years. Almost everyone takes it, which means that 10% to 15% of the company is on sabbatical at any given time. Instead of feeling overworked, employees who cover for people feel recharged by trying out new assignments. Taking on new challenges helps them avoid burnout. And there’s no fear of failure since the job is temporary.

Case in point: Denise Espinoza this past March made a permanent job switch from payroll manager in the finance department to compensation analyst in the human resources department. The move was virtually risk free: she had spent the previous year filling vacancies in the human resources department left by a maternity leave and three sabbaticals. By the time she transferred for good, she knew the job was right for her.

“It’s like playing with a new job while using training wheels,” says staffing director Eric Lane. “I don’t know if it’s a cure for burnout, but it certainly creates a longer fuse.”

Coordinates: Eric Lane, (

This past August, American Express brought in Corporate Body therapists to give neck and shoulder massages to 500 customer-service reps. The on-site massages usually take 15 minutes. Amex cut the time to 8 minutes, so the massages wouldn’t run past the employees’ breaks. From all appearances, it was more of a perk than a serious effort to reduce stress. We asked American Express to comment, but the company declined. Guess they were too stressed.

Coordinates : The Corporate Body, Pompano Beach, Fla.; 305-969-9556