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Focus on ‘resilience’ to improve wellbeing, says Shell's health chief

Organisations should focus on improving resilience rather than managing stress if they want to improve workplace wellbeing and drive business performance, Shell’s VP of health Alistair Fraser said yesterday.

Speaking at the Good Day at Work conference in London, Fraser said that focusing on stress can drive negative behaviour. He called stress management a kind of "trained helplessness", saying it can imply: "If you don’t manage your stress, terrible things will happen."

He told the conference that’s why Shell had shifted its focus from stress to resilience training, a decision he called “a no-brainer”.

“Resilient people are more likely to speak their mind,” he said. “They are more likely to take principled decisions and are better at tolerating change and pressure.”

He said that since starting peer-to-peer resilience training, Shell has seen engagement and resilience go up.

“If you want to improve human performance, the key is the person, so how do you give them the tools, techniques and policies to help them deal with a fast-changing world,” he said.

He explained that Shell had moved from a mindset of managing risk around health to one where health was seen as “a business enabler”.

Good Day at Work is run by business psychology company Robertson Cooper, founded by professor Cary Cooper, number two on HR’s Most Influential UK Thinker list, and fellow psychology professor Ivan Robertson.