Stress management in the workplace: A comparison of a computer-based and a group-based stress management intervention

Date of Completion

January 2005


Psychology, Clinical|Psychology, Industrial




This investigation evaluated the effectiveness of a computer-based worksite stress management intervention, in comparison to a traditional group-based intervention and a waitlist control group. Given the high medical, psychological, and financial costs of stress to both employers and employees, computerized stress-management interventions offer a promising alternative to traditional group-based interventions. Computerized interventions have the advantage of being cost-effective, flexible, self-paced, private, and available at all times. ^ It was hypothesized that (a) employees in both treatment conditions would report significant reductions in perceived stress following relaxation exercises, (b) in comparison to the wait-list control group, employees in both treatment conditions would rate themselves as experiencing less stress at the completion of the intervention and at a one month follow-up, and (c) compared to employees in the live in-person group, employees in the computer-based group would exhibit greater compliance with skills taught in the intervention, thereby resulting in increased stress reduction at a one-month follow-up. ^ Strong support was found for the first hypothesis. After practicing relaxation exercises, individuals in both treatment conditions showed highly significant reductions in perceived stress. Support was not found for the second hypothesis. There were no differences between the three conditions on measurements of global distress at follow-up. In addition, support was not found for the hypothesis that individuals in the computer-based group would exhibit greater compliance. In fact, the attrition rate among individuals in the computer-based group was significantly higher than for individuals in the live treatment group. Post-hoc testing revealed that, regardless of group assignment, there were significant correlations between compliance with relaxation exercises and reductions in multiple indices of stress at follow-up. ^ These findings indicate that the relaxation skills taught in this intervention were effective whether they delivered via a computerized program or a live group. However, the intervention is effective only if participants regularly practice the skills that they learn. Future research should examine ways of enhancing individuals' motivation to complete computerized stress-management interventions. "Blended learning" interventions that combine traditional, face-to-face learning with computer-based learning, is a promising direction for future interventions. ^