Workplace Wellness 4

Work-Related Stress Linked to Increased Blood Fat Levels, Cardiovascular Risks

May 16, 2013
Science Daily/Plataforma SINC
Spanish researchers have studied how job stress affects cardiovascular health. The results, published in the 'Scandinavian Journal of Public Health', link this situation to dyslipidemia, a disorder that alters the levels of lipids and lipoproteins in the blood.

Experts have been saying for years that emotional stress is linked to the risk of suffering cardiovascular disease as a result of unhealthy habits such as smoking, an unsuitable diet or leading a sedentary lifestyle, among other factors.

Now, a study conducted by the Sociedad de Prevención de Ibermutuamur, in collaboration with experts from the Virgen de la Victoria Hospital (Malaga) and the Santiago de Compostela University, analyses the relationship between job stress and different parameters associated with how fatty acids are metabolised in the body.

The study, published recently in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, was conducted on a sample population of more than 90,000 workers undergoing medical check-ups.

"The workers who stated that they had experienced difficulties in dealing with their job during the previous twelve months (8.7% of the sample) had a higher risk of suffering from dyslipidemia," Carlos Catalina, clinical psychologist and an expert in work-related stress, said.
Dyslipidemia is a lipoproteins' metabolic disorder that can manifest itself in an increase in total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) and triglyceride levels, in addition to a drop in high-density lipoproteins (HDLs).

Changes in the lipid profile

 

Specifically, in the study the workers with job stress were more likely to suffer from abnormally high levels of LDL cholesterol (the so-called 'bad' cholesterol), excessively low levels of HDL cholesterol (the 'good' cholesterol) and positive atherogenic indices, i.e. potential artery blockage.

"One of the mechanisms that could explain the relationship between stress and cardiovascular risk could be the changes in our lipid profile, which means higher rates of atheromatous plaque accumulation (lipids deposit) in our arteries," Catalina concluded.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130516063847.htm

Night Work May Impair Glucose Tolerance

June 3, 2013
Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine
A new study suggests that night work may impair glucose tolerance, supporting a causal role of night work in the increased risk of Type 2 diabetes among shift workers.

Results show that peak glucose levels were 16 percent higher during one night of simulated shift work, compared with one day of a simulated daytime work schedule. Compared with the daytime protocol, insulin levels during the night shift protocol were 40 to 50 percent higher at 80 minutes and 90 minutes after a meal.

"It is surprising that just a single night shift can significantly impair glucose tolerance and increase insulin levels," said lead author Christopher Morris, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow in the Medical Chronobiology Program of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. "These findings are important because they demonstrate, under highly-controlled lab conditions, that acute exposure to night work impairs glucose tolerance. Chronic impaired glucose tolerance is likely to lead to Type 2 diabetes."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130603114146.htm

Study Links Workplace Daylight Exposure to Sleep, Activity and Quality of Life

June 3, 2013
Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine
A new study demonstrates a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and office workers' sleep, activity and quality of life

Compared to workers in offices without windows, those with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night. There also was a trend for workers in offices with windows to have more physical activity than those without windows. Workers without windows reported poorer scores than their counterparts on quality of life measures related to physical problems and vitality, as well as poorer outcomes on measures of overall sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances and daytime dysfunction.

"The extent to which daylight exposure impacts office workers is remarkable," said study co-author Ivy Cheung, a doctoral candidate in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill.

"Day-shift office workers' quality of life and sleep may be improved via emphasis on light exposure and lighting levels in current offices as well as in the design of future offices," said Cheung.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130603114000.htm

Higher-Activity Jobs Tied to Sleep Extremes

June 3, 2013
Science Daily/Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
A study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has found that people who work in jobs that are more physically demanding tend to be either shorter sleepers (fewer than 6 hours a night) or longer sleepers (longer than 9 hours).

Since previous research has shown that people who report short or long sleep are more likely to have worse health over time, such as weight gain, heart disease and diabetes, the new study suggests that people's jobs may predispose them to unhealthy sleep patterns that could detrimentally affect their health. The findings go against the concept that physical activity in general seems to be healthy, and physical activity tends to be good for sleep.

Penn researchers examined sleep patterns and job classifications of over 17,000 study participants. Job activity was classified as low (mostly sitting or standing), moderate (mostly walking), or high (mostly manual labor). Compared to those in low activity jobs, those working moderate activity jobs, such as postal service employees, were more likely to be short sleepers and long sleepers, and those working high-activity jobs, such as construction workers, were more likely to be short sleepers.

According to the research team, possible explanations for the findings include:

1) the higher demands of the job require longer hours, not allowing for a full night of sleep;

2) job-related stress is keeping people up at night; and

3) the physical demands of the job are causing persons to stay awake.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130603163622.htm

Workplace and Financial Stress Lead to Poor Health Choices

June 12, 2013
Science Daily/Indiana University
Two studies from the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington highlight the negative impact workplace and financial stress can have on health behaviors. The lead author urges workplace wellness and smoking cessation programs to consider such impacts as the economy sputters along.

"When you look at the entire sample, health behaviors improved during a period that included a major recession," Macy said. "However, those most affected by the recession, those with the most financial strain, were least likely to abstain from smoking, to exercise or to engage in healthy eating behaviors."

A study published online in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research found that men and women who smoked daily reported that their smoking increased when conflict from work affected their home life. Women also reported the inverse: increased smoking when home conflict affected their work.

A second study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine looked at health behaviors practiced by almost 4,000 men and women before and after the recession began in 2008. Health behaviors, such as exercise and attention to nutrition, generally improved as the recession set in -- except for study participants who reported financial struggles.

"There's growing evidence that work-family conflict is related to a range of negative health behaviors, and it's something for workplace wellness programs to take into consideration when they're trying to get employees to engage in healthier behaviors, whether it's physical activity, nutrition or quitting smoking," said Jon Macy, lead author of both studies and assistant professor in the Department of Applied Health Science at the School of Public Health-Bloomington.

The study "The association between work-family conflict and smoking quantity among daily smokers," involved 423 adult Midwesterners who smoked daily. The study is unique because it examined the behavior of smokers; earlier studies tended to examine whether someone smoked, not whether the quantity of smoking fluctuated.

"Wellness programs are becoming increasingly prevalent in the workplace," Macy said. "If a program is going to deal with smoking, given how difficult it is for people to quit, it might be more successful by looking at some of the underlying issues. Our findings suggest that work-home conflict is one area that should be looked at and addressed in cessation counseling."

The study also found that employees who reported more lenient workplace smoking restrictions smoked more.

"It's another intervention that seems to work," Macy said. "We know from lots and lots of research that smoke-free air policies in the workplace result in reduced smoking either in the form of quitting or smoking fewer cigarettes per day."

Participants for both studies were drawn from the IU Smoking Survey, a longitudinal study that began in 1980. The study "Predictors of health behaviors after the economic downturn: a longitudinal study" involved 3,984 men and women ages of 37 to 50.

Overall, health behaviors improved after the recession, which is a finding of some previous studies.

"When you look at the entire sample, health behaviors improved during a period that included a major recession," Macy said. "However, those most affected by the recession, those with the most financial strain, were least likely to abstain from smoking, to exercise or to engage in healthy eating behaviors."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130612132537.htm

Transformational leadership has positive effects on employee well-being

July 1, 2013
Science Daily/American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
A transformational leadership style -- valued for stimulating innovation and worker performance -- is also associated with increased well-being among employees, a new study finds.

"A transformational leadership style, which conveys a sense of trust and meaningfulness and individually challenges and develops employees, could lead to greater employee well-being," according to the new research by Christine Jacobs of University of Cologne and colleagues.

Workers at six German information and communication technology companies were surveyed regarding their employer's leadership style. A transformational leadership score was based on qualities such as leading by example, making employees feel they are contributing to a common goal, providing intellectual stimulation, and giving positive feedback for good performance. Employees also completed a standard test of psychological well-being.

Based on the results, "Employees perceiving a higher degree of transformational leadership are more likely to experience well-being," the researchers write. The effect of transformational leadership remained significant after accounting for other factors linked to well-being, such as age, education, and job strain.

The findings add to studies from other industries suggesting that a transformational style can favorably affect employee well-being. That's especially important because company leadership and managers can readily learn communication skills used in transformational leadership, such as recognizing the needs of others and resolving conflicts. "Such training programs can be seen as another essential component of workplace health promotion and prevention efforts and therefore should receive wide support," Jacobs and coauthors conclude
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130701100552.htm

Women working shifts are at greater risk of miscarriage, menstrual disruption and subfertility

July 9, 2013
Science Daily/European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology
Shift work, which encourages sleep deprivation and patterns of activity outside the circadian rhythm, has been associated with a greater risk of ill health and loss of well-being in some studies. However, little is known about the effects of shift work on reproductive health and fertility. A new study indicates that working shift patterns is associated with an increased risk of menstrual disruption and subfertility.

Now, a study reported today at the annual meeting of ESHRE, by Dr Linden Stocker from the University of Southampton, UK, indicates that working shift patterns is associated with an increased risk of menstrual disruption and subfertility.

The study is a meta-analysis of all studies on the subject published between 1969 and January 2013. It compares the impact of non-standard working schedules (including night-shift work and mixed-shifts) with that in women not working shifts. The end-points were early reproductive outcome parameters, including menstrual dysregulation, female fertility and miscarriage rates.

The study, which included data on 119,345 women, found that those working shifts (alternating shifts, evenings and nights) had a 33% higher rate of menstrual disruption than those working regular hours (odds ratio 1.22, statistically significant) and an 80% increased rate of subfertility (OR 1.80, statistically significant).

Women who worked only nights did not have a statistically increased risk of menstrual disruption or difficulty conceiving, but they did have an increased rate of miscarriage (OR 1.29), although this increased risk of miscarriage was not observed in women who worked nights as part of a shift pattern.

The investigators describe their findings as "novel," but in keeping with other studies (which found adverse effects in later pregnancy). "If replicated," they said, " our findings have implications for women attempting to become pregnant, as well as for their employers."

On the implications of the study Dr Stocker said: "Whilst we have demonstrated an association between shift work and negative early reproductive outcomes, we have not proven causation. In humans, the long-term effects of altering circadian rhythms are inherently difficult to study. As a proxy measure, the sleep disruption demonstrated by the shift workers in our study creates short- and long-term biological disturbances. Shift workers adopt poor sleep hygiene, suffer sleep deprivation and develop activity levels that are out-of-sync with their body clock.

"However, if our results are confirmed by other studies, there may be implications for shift workers and their reproductive plans. More friendly shift patterns with less impact on circadian rhythm could be adopted where practical -- although the optimal shift pattern required to maximise reproductive potential is yet to be established."

In noting that only some reproductive outcomes were affected by shift work, Dr Stocker reported that the underlying biological disturbances involved in reproductive difficulties "are complex and not the same across all the disease processes." "Indeed," she said, "it is probable that completely different causes underlie menstrual dysfunction, miscarriage and subfertility.

This may explain why the effects of different types of shift work are seen in some groups of women, but not others."

She added that one possible explanation for the overall findings is that the disruption of circadian rhythm can influence the biological function of "clock genes," which have been shown to be associated with changes in biological functions.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130709094711.htm

Playing video games can boost brain power

August 21, 2013
Science Daily/Queen Mary, University of London
Certain types of video games can help to train the brain to become more agile and improve strategic thinking, according to scientists.

http://images.sciencedaily.com/2013/08/130821094924-large.jpg
Dr Brian Glass from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: "Previous research has demonstrated that action video games, such as Halo, can speed up decision making but the current work finds that real-time strategy games can promote our ability to think on the fly and learn from past mistakes." 

"Our paper shows that cognitive flexibility, a cornerstone of human intelligence, is not a static trait but can be trained and improved using fun learning tools like gaming." Professor Brad Love from UCL, said: "Cognitive flexibility varies across people and at different ages. For example, a fictional character like Sherlock Holmes has the ability to simultaneously engage in multiple aspects of thought and mentally shift in response to changing goals and environmental conditions."

"Creative problem solving and 'thinking outside the box' require cognitive flexibility. Perhaps in contrast to the repetitive nature of work in past centuries, the modern knowledge economy places a premium on cognitive flexibility."

Dr Glass added: "The volunteers who played the most complex version of the video game performed the best in the post-game psychological tests. We need to understand now what exactly about these games is leading to these changes, and whether these cognitive boosts are permanent or if they dwindle over time. Once we have that understanding, it could become possible to develop clinical interventions for symptoms related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or traumatic brain injuries, for example."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130821094924.htm

Higher Emotional Intelligence Leads to Better Decision-Making

November 19, 2013
Science Daily/University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management
The anxiety people feel making investment decisions may have more to do with the traffic they dealt with earlier than the potential consequences they face with the investment, but not if the decision-maker has high emotional intelligence a recent study published in Psychological Science suggests.

"People often make decisions that are influenced by emotions that have nothing to do with the decisions they are making," says Stéphane Côté, a professor at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, who co-wrote the study with lead researcher Jeremy Yip of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. "Research has found that we fall prey to this all the time.

"People are driving and it's frustrating," says Prof. Côté. "They get to work and the emotions they felt in their car influences what they do in their offices. Or they invest money based on emotions that stem from things unrelated to their investments. But our investigation reveals that if they have emotional intelligence, they are protected from these biases."

The study's first experiment showed that participants with lower levels of emotional understanding allowed anxiety unrelated to decisions they were making concerning risk influence these.

A separate experiment involving the willingness to sign up for a flu clinic found that people with lower levels of emotional intelligence can also block unrelated emotions from influencing their decisions about risk, simply by making them aware that their anxiety was not related to the decisions at hand.

"The findings suggest that an emotionally intelligent approach to making decisions is if you're feeling anxious because of something unrelated to the decisions, to not make the decisions right away," suggests Prof. Côté.

The findings likely apply not only to negative emotions a person may experience but positive ones too, such as excitement. And far from suggesting people should try to rid themselves of all emotional influence in their decision-making, the paper points out that learning to pay attention only to those feelings that are relevant to the decisions being made is what counts.

"People who are emotionally intelligent don't remove all emotions from their decision-making," says Prof. Côté. "They remove emotions that have nothing to do with the decision."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119153027.htm

Mindfulness in the Workplace

December 17, 2013
Science Daily/University of California, San Diego Health Sciences
The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness has launched a WorkLife Integration Program for companies that would like to help their employees reduce stress, increase focus and improve productivity. The convenient in-house training program is designed for companies of all sizes and for employees of all organizational levels. Program options include lunch-and-learn presentations, introductory mindfulness training workshops, the flagship 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction experience and programs customized to specific organizational goals.

"Stress is widely acknowledged as a drain on the bottom-line of workplaces of all kinds. The WorkLife Integration Program offers employers a solution that can be brought right into the work environment," said Steven D. Hickman, PsyD, executive director of the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. "The program helps shape a positive, better workplace culture through mindful awareness and practice. Tangible results include improved health, reduced absenteeism, and facilitating the expansion of mindful leadership."

The mission of the WorkLife Integration Program is to provide tools for employees who want to develop a healthier relationship with stress, one that allows them to control their response to stress, and not let stress control them. Additional benefits may include improved working memory and concentration and anxiety reduction.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217155225.htm

Getting Excited Helps With Performance Anxiety More Than Trying to Calm Down

December 23, 2013
Science Daily/American Psychological Association
People who tell themselves to get excited rather than trying to relax can improve their performance during anxiety-inducing activities such as public speaking and math tests, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.

"Anxiety is incredibly pervasive. People have a very strong intuition that trying to calm down is the best way to cope with their anxiety, but that can be very difficult and ineffective," said study author Alison Wood Brooks, PhD, of Harvard Business School. "When people feel anxious and try to calm down, they are thinking about all the things that could go badly. When they are excited, they are thinking about how things could go well."

Since both anxiety and excitement are emotional states characterized by high arousal, it may be easier to view anxiety as excitement rather than trying to calm down to combat performance anxiety, Brooks said.

Participants who said they were excited scored an average of 80 percent on the song based on their pitch, rhythm and volume as measured by the video game's rating system. Those who said they were calm, angry or sad scored an average of 69 percent, compared to 53 percent for those who said they were anxious. Participants who said they were excited also reported feeling more excited and confident in their singing ability.

"When you feel anxious, you're ruminating too much and focusing on potential threats," she said. "In those circumstances, people should try to focus on the potential opportunities. It really does pay to be positive, and people should say they are excited. Even if they don't believe it at first, saying 'I'm excited' out loud increases authentic feelings of excitement."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131223083917.htm

Fatigued nurses more likely to regret their clinical decisions

January 2, 2014
Science Daily/American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
Nurses impaired by fatigue, loss of sleep, daytime sleepiness and an inability to recover between shifts are more likely to express concern that they made a wrong decision about a patient’s care, according to a study.

"Association of Sleep and Fatigue With Decision Regret Among Critical Care Nurses" found that nurses impaired by fatigue, loss of sleep, daytime sleepiness and an inability to recover between shifts are more likely than well-rested nurses to report decision regret.

Decision regret is a negative cognitive emotion that occurs when an actual outcome differs from the desired or expected outcome. For nurses, it reflects concerns that the wrong decision may have been made regarding patient care.

Although decision regret reflects previous decisions and adverse outcomes, it may also contribute to work-related stress and compromise patient safety in the future.
This link between nurse fatigue and decision regret adds to the body of evidence that supports the need for appropriate staffing to ensure the use of fatigue management strategies to promote both patient safety and a healthy work environment.

Lead author Linda D. Scott, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, FAAN, is associate dean for academic affairs and an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing. Cynthia Arslanian-Engoren, RN, PhD, ACNS-BC, FAHA, FAAN, and Milo C. Engoren, MD, FCCM, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, served as co-authors.

"Registered nurses play a pivotal role as members of the healthcare team, but fatigued and sleep-deprived critical care nurses put their patients and themselves at serious risk," Scott said. "Proactive intervention is required to ensure that critical care nurses are fit for duty and can make decisions that are critical for patients' safety."

Critical care nurses and their employers must acknowledge the effect of fatigue, sleep deprivation and excessive daytime sleepiness on clinical performance and patient outcomes and must engage in strategies to mitigate these impairments.

Healthcare employers should implement scheduling models that maximize management of fatigue, ensure that support resources for clinical decisions are available and encourage the use of relief staff to provide completely relieved work breaks and strategically planned nap times.
"By working together to manage fatigue, critical care nurses and employers can ensure patients receive care from alert, vigilant and safe employees," Scott said. For the study, more than 600 nurses working full-time in critical care units completed a questionnaire on personal and work-related data, sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, sleep quantity, clinical-decision self-efficacy and decision regret.

Most respondents reported moderately high fatigue, significant sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness, all of which affect their ability to be alert, vigilant and safe. Furthermore, the nurses were not likely to sufficiently recover from their fatigue-related states during non-work periods.

Decision regret was most common among nurses who are male, work 12-hour shifts and have lower levels of satisfaction with their clinical decisions.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140102112043.htm

Workplace wellness programs can cut chronic illness costs

January 6, 2014
Science Daily/RAND Corporation
Workplace wellness programs have the potential to reduce health risks and cut health care spending, but employers and policymakers should not take for granted that the lifestyle management components of the programs can reduce costs or lead to savings overall.

Examining a large employee wellness program offered by PepsiCo, researchers found that efforts to help employees manage chronic illnesses saved $3.78 in health care costs for every $1 invested in the effort.

However, the program's lifestyle management components that encourage healthy living did not deliver returns that were higher than the costs. The results are published in the January edition of the journal Health Affairs.

"The PepsiCo program provides a substantial return for the investment made in helping employees manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease," said Dr. Soeren Mattke, the study's senior author and a senior natural scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "But the lifestyle management component of the program -- while delivering benefits -- did not provide more savings than it cost to offer."

RAND researchers say that with any prevention effort, it is often easier to achieve cost savings in people with higher baseline spending, as found among those who participated in the PepsiCo disease management program. Interestingly, the disease management participants who also joined the lifestyle management program experienced significantly higher savings, which suggests that proper targeting can improve the financial performance of lifestyle management programs.

"While workplace wellness programs have the potential to reduce health risks and cut health care spending, employers and policymakers should not take for granted that the lifestyle management components of the programs can reduce costs or lead to savings overall," Mattke said.

Workplace health and wellness programs are becoming an increasingly common workplace benefit in the United States. The federal Affordable Care Act has several provisions designed to promote such efforts as a way to lower health care costs.

A recent RAND study conducted for the U.S. Department of Labor found that about half of U.S. employers with at least 50 workers and more than 90 percent of those with more than 50,000 workers offered a wellness program during 2012.

The current RAND study provides an assessment of over seven years of PepsiCo's Healthy Living wellness program. The program includes numerous components, including health risk assessments, on-site wellness events, lifestyle management, disease management, complex care management and a nurse advice phone line. The study evaluated the experiences of more than 67,000 workers who were eligible for the disease management or lifestyle management programs.

Researchers found that the disease management program reduced costs among participants by $136 per member per month, or $1,632 annually, driven by a 29 percent drop in hospital admissions. Among people who participated in both the disease management and lifestyle management programs, the savings were $160 per month with a 66 percent drop in hospital admissions.

People who participated in the lifestyle management program reported a small reduction in absenteeism, but there was no significant effect on health care costs.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140106190145.htm

Want a Better Work-Life Balance? Exercise

January 9, 2014
Science Daily/Dick Jones Communications
Researchers have found that exercise plays a role in how individuals feel they can manage their work-life balance.

"Individuals who exercised regularly were more confident they could handle the interaction of their work and home life and were less likely to be stressed at work," said Russell Clayton, assistant professor of management at Saint Leo University and lead author on the paper.

Conflict between work and home can be categorized in two ways. Work interference with family describes typical job-based pressures that can lead to interference (either time or psychologically) of family time. Family interference with work is when personal issues find a way into the workday and compete with "work time." Researchers wanted to find if exercise helped both.

Previous studies have shown that exercise helps to reduce stress. A previous study examined Tai Chi exercise programs over 12 weeks. Another study looked at high-intensity aerobic exercise. Both showed reductions of self-reported stress. What researchers didn't know is if the reduction of stress actually helped empower individuals to feel they had better work-life balance.

"The idea sounds counterintuitive. How is it that adding something else to our work day helps to alleviate stress and empower us to deal with work-family issues? We think exercise is a way to psychologically detach from work -- you're not there physically and you're not thinking about it either -- and, furthermore, it can help us feel good about ourselves."

Researchers examined responses of 476 working adults to survey questions. Respondents were asked on a four-point scale (1 never -- 4 always) questions about exercise behavior. For example, "I exercise more than three days a week." Respondents were then asked a number of questions on a 7-point scale (strongly disagree -- strongly agree) about their confidence in handling work-family conflicts.
"Our findings suggest that employers can help employees with work-life balance by encouraging them to exercise."

These findings are forthcoming in Human Resource Management. Researchers were from Saint Leo University, Saint Louis University, University of Houston -- Victoria and Illinois State University.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109101742.htm

Correctional officer stress studied: Conflicts between work, family life common

February 20, 2014
Science Daily/Sam Houston State University
Conflicts between work and family life were the most significant issues that affect work stress and job satisfaction among correctional officers, a new study has found. As a result of the study, pointers have been published by the authors to help correctional officers reduce stress, from maintaining a healthy eating and exercise regime, to reducing drug and alcohol intake and getting enough sleep.

In a study of 441 correctional officers from adult prisons in the South, the most significant work-home issues experienced by correctional officers were demands and tensions from work that impact their home life; an incompatibility between the officer's role at work and at home; and family circumstances that place strain on work experiences.

In addition to work-home conflicts, the perceived dangerousness of the job and family support also weighed heavily on job stress, while supervisor support had a significant impact on job satisfaction.

"Criminal justice careers, particularly those in the field of corrections, consist of unique daily challenges," said Dr. Gaylene Armstrong, co-author of the study. "The demands on correctional employees are numerous, including monitoring a challenging population in a confined space, shift work, and an ongoing potential for danger. All of these aspects contribute to the challenges of successfully balancing demands between work and family life."

The study recommended training supervisory staff to maintain an open, yet professionally driven, line of communication with employees about family matters and work demands.

"It is critical for supervisors to take notice of the emotional and cognitive state of their subordinates to ensure a high level of job performance and professionalism," Dr. Armstrong said. "Not only are desperate or unhappy employees likely to exhibit emotional distress via job burnout, the odds of compromised decision making is also at stake."

To assist in the effort, CMIT developed a brochure for correctional officers to recognize the signs of stress and to find ways to address those issues. Stress can manifest itself in several ways, including memory problems, anxiety, racing thoughts, moodiness or irritability, agitation, depression, physical aches and pains, changes in sleep patterns or appetite, isolation, or increased use of drugs or alcohol.

The pamphlet offered several ways to reduce stress, including:

•    Exercise regularly and maintain proper nutrition

•    Use meditation and other relaxation techniques as part of your daily schedule
•    Reach out to co-workers, friends and family

•    Avoid drugs and alcohol; the reliefs from such self-medication are only temporary

•    Make a point to do something enjoyable every day

•    Be sure to get enough sleep

•    Use the confidential Employee Assistance Program
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140220112511.htm

Warning: Your open-plan office can make you ill

February 25, 2014
Science Daily/Taylor & Francis
Don’t blame other commuters if you catch a cold this winter: blame the people who designed your office. According to a study, workplace layout has a surprising effect on rates of sick leave. After crunching the numbers, the researchers found a 'significant excess risk' of short sick-leave spells in three types of open-plan office, especially among women. The study also revealed a higher prevalence of both short sick-leave spells and a higher number of sick days among men in flex-offices: open-plan layouts with no individual workstations, but some meeting rooms.

Four Stockholm University scientists examined data from nearly 2000 employees working in seven different types of office. Key to their research was the number of short and long-term illnesses the employees had, as well as their total days off sick each year.

After crunching the numbers, the team found a 'significant excess risk' of short sick-leave spells in three types of open-plan office, especially among women. The study also revealed a higher prevalence of both short sick-leave spells and a higher number of sick days among men in flex-offices: open-plan layouts with no individual workstations, but some meeting rooms.

Long suspected by the employees who use them, evidence from this and other studies confirms that in general, 'traditional open-plan offices are less good for employee health'. Why this should be so is not entirely clear, but environmental stresses (including being exposed to 'irrelevant sound', the lack of 'visual privacy' and a reduced ability to control one's own personal space), as well as the risk of infection, the types of jobs done in open-plan offices and group dynamics might all play a part. As the authors note, group dynamics have been shown to have a preventative effect on sick leave in small offices, and can even lead to 'presenteeism': employees coming to work when they're actually ill.

This fascinating study is an important initial investigation into the long-term effects of the modern office environment on employees. It prepares the ground for longer future studies more focused on the office environment itself -- with all its complex physical, psychosocial and organisational factors. Expanding this line of research is important because, in the words of its authors, "with such knowledge of the office environment's influence on different dimensions of employee health, important gains can be achieved in the long run." For their sake, and the progress of their upcoming research, let's hope that the Stockholm team isn't working in an open-plan office.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140225101141.htm

Business: Creativity and innovation need to talk more

April 8, 2014
Science Daily/Rice University
Creativity and innovation are not sufficiently integrated in either the business world or academic research, according to a new study. Scientists reviewed the rapidly growing body of research into creativity and innovation in the workplace, with particular attention to the period from 2002 to 2013.

The findings are the result of the authors' review of the rapidly growing body of research into creativity and innovation in the workplace, with particular attention to the period from 2002 to 2013.

"There are many of us who study employee creativity and many of us who study innovation and idea implementation, but we don't talk to each other; we're siloed," said Jing Zhou, the Houston Endowment Professor of Management at Rice's Jones Graduate School of Business. "The review's goal is to integrate both." Zhou co-authored the paper with Neil Anderson, a professor of human resource management at Brunel, and Kristina Potocnik, a lecturer in human resource management at Edinburgh. The paper will be published in the Journal of Management's annual review issue.

The authors said creativity and innovation are complex, multilevel phenomena that pan out over time and require skillful leadership to maximize the benefits of new ways of working. However, Zhou said, the vast majority of companies operating today are "not doing a good job in translating creative ideas so they have an impact on the firm's performance. Management needs to pay attention to capture employee creativity and implement the creative ideas."

Zhou said companies focus too specifically on current goals and don't take the risks creativity requires. She said two companies that have found a way to incentivize, encourage and institutionalize employee creativity are 3M and Google, which allow employees time to explore creative ideas.

"We need to better train managers to see an idea and run with it," Zhang said. "If you wait for the idea to be ready to be implemented, it might be too late. Managers need to capture promising ideas and then translate them into products, processes and improved customer service."

The study proposes 60 specific research questions for future studies as well as 11 themes that warrant greater attention from researchers. They include the roles of customers, the Internet and social media, organizational culture and climate in creativity and innovation, and leadership style in the creativity-innovation cycle.

The authors said addressing these questions and themes would generate a "quantum leap" forward in understanding the complex phenomena comprising workplace creativity and innovation. "Researchers active in this diverse field need to embrace these challenges," the authors concluded. "Without innovation, few organizations can hope to survive and prosper; we believe that precisely the same holds true for research into creativity and innovation research in the future."

This Journal of Management article comes on the heels of a 2013 article titled "Core Knowledge Employee Creativity and Firm Performance: The Moderating Role of Riskiness Orientation, Firm Size and Realized Absorptive Capacity" by Zhou and co-authors in the journal Personnel Psychology. That first-of-its-kind study found that employee creativity did not directly lead to company performance and that only when firms made an effort was creativity channeled into performance.

"Firms all say they want their employees to be creative," Zhou said. "The assumption is that once the employees demonstrate creativity, firms can translate it to firm-level performance. Our study proved otherwise." The study suggested managers need to cultivate, recognize and channel their employees' creativity into actual firm performance.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140408112218.htm

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

April 16, 2014
Science Daily/San Francisco State University
Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by an organizational psychologist. Creative pursuits away from work seem to have a direct effect on factors such as creative problem solving and helping others while on the job.

Creative pursuits away from work seem to have a direct effect on factors such as creative problem solving and helping others while on the job, said Eschleman, an assistant professor of psychology.

The study examined whether creative activity might have an indirect impact on employees' performance by providing them with a way to recover from the demands of their job, by restoring them through relaxation, increasing their sense of control, or challenging them to lean to new skills that can be transferable to one's job.

But the findings reported in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology suggest that creative activity seems to also improve job performance outside of its effect on these traditional types of recovery.

"It can be rare in research to find that what we do in our personal time is related to our behaviors in the workplace, and not just how we feel," Eschleman said.

The employees in the study were free to define creative activities however they wished. In previous studies, Eschleman noted, people say they spend creative time doing everything from writing short stories to playing video games.

Despite this diversity, "they usually describe it as lush, as a deep experience that provides a lot of things for them," he said. "But they also talk about this idea of self-expression and an opportunity to really discover something about themselves, and that isn't always captured with the current recovery experience models."

The study included data on 341 employees from a major national survey who answered questions about their creative activities, recovery experiences like taking charge of their downtime schedules, and their own ratings of how creative they had been on the job and how they had supported their organization and coworkers.

It also included a second group of 92 active duty U.S. Air Force captains, who were surveyed on similar items about creative activity and recovery but were evaluated on their job performances by coworkers and subordinates.

Many studies of recovery have focused on employees working in notably stressful jobs in healthcare and the military, said Eschleman, who worked as a civilian researcher with the Air Force before coming to SF State. But he cautioned that the need for recovery is something that all employees may face at different times, during quarterly deadlines or organizational changes, for instance.

Eschleman said that employers can encourage their employees to engage in more creative activities outside work, but the encouragement has to strike the right tone.

"One of the main concerns is that you don't want to have someone feel like their organization is controlling them, especially when it comes to creative activities," he said, "because intrinsic motivation is part of that unique experience that comes with creative activity."

Instead, employees can encourage their employees to bring their creative activities into work, whether through a department cake baking contest or a program like the one used by Zappos, Inc., where employees bring in personal artwork to decorate their offices. Eschleman also suggested that companies could provide discounts to local art studios and other outlets for creative work.

"A lot of organizations carve time out where they talk about physical heath and exercise and eating habits, but they can also include in that a discussion of mental health and the importance of recovery and creative activity," he said.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140416225322.htm

Taking a walk may lead to more creativity than sitting

April 24, 2014
Science Daily/American Psychological Association (APA)
When the task at hand requires some imagination, taking a walk may lead to more creative thinking than sitting, according to research. "Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking," said one author. "With this study, we finally may be taking a step or two toward discovering why."

To see if walking was the source of creative inspiration rather than being outdoors, another experiment with 40 participants compared responses of students walking outside or inside on a treadmill with the responses of students being pushed in a wheelchair outside and sitting inside. Again, the students who walked, whether indoors or outside, came up with more creative responses than those either sitting inside or being pushed in a wheelchair outdoors. "While being outdoors has many cognitive benefits, walking appears to have a very specific benefit of improving creativity," said Oppezzo.

More research will be necessary to explain how walking improves creativity, the authors said. They speculated that future studies would likely determine a complex pathway that extends from the physical act of walking to physiological changes to the cognitive control of imagination. "Incorporating physical activity into our lives is not only beneficial for our hearts but our brains as well. This research suggests an easy and productive way to weave it into certain work activities," Oppezzo said.

While previous research has shown that regular aerobic exercise may protect cognitive abilities, these researchers examined whether simply walking could temporarily improve some types of thinking, such as free-flowing thought compared to focused concentration. "Asking someone to take a 30-minute run to improve creativity at work would be an unpopular prescription for many people," Schwartz said. "We wanted to see if a simple walk might lead to more free-flowing thoughts and more creativity."

Of the students tested for creativity while walking, 100 percent came up with more creative ideas in one experiment, while 95 percent, 88 percent and 81 percent of the walker groups in the other experiments had more creative responses compared with when they were sitting. If a response was unique among all responses from the group, it was considered novel. Researchers also gauged a participant's total number of responses and whether a response was feasible and appropriate to the constraints of the task. For example, "Putting lighter fluid in soup is novel, but it is not very appropriate," Oppezzo said.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140424101556.htm

Non-diet approach to weight management more effective in worksite wellness programs

July 7, 2014
Science Daily/University of Missouri-Columbia
Researchers have found that 'Eat for Life,' a new wellness approach that focuses on mindfulness and intuitive eating as a lifestyle, is more effective than traditional weight-loss programs in improving individuals' views of their bodies and decreasing problematic eating behaviors

Problematic eating behaviors and dissatisfaction with one's body are familiar struggles among women. To combat those behaviors, which have led to higher healthcare premiums and medical trends, employers have offered worksite wellness programs to employees and their families. However, the vast majority of wellness programs limit their approach to promoting diets, which may result in participants regaining the majority of their weight once the programs end. 

Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that "Eat for Life," a new wellness approach that focuses on mindfulness and intuitive eating as a lifestyle, is more effective than traditional weight-loss programs in improving individuals' views of their bodies and decreasing problematic eating behaviors.

"Intuitive eating and mindfulness are two relatively new intervention approaches that have been effective in supporting healthy eating and body image," Rossy said. "Eat for Life encourages individuals to become more engaged with their internal body signals and not the numbers on the scales."

Rossy found that women who participated in Eat for Life reported higher levels of body appreciation and intuitive eating and lower levels of problematic eating behaviors such as binging, purging and fasting, as compared to women who did not participate in the program. Eat for Life participants' weights ranged from normal to morbidly obese, and some women displayed eating disorder behaviors. At the end of the program, participants in the Eat for Life program were significantly more likely not to exhibit disordered eating. Mindfulness was a major factor in all of the positive outcomes, Rossy said.

"Eat for Life is not just for individuals with eating disorders," said Rossy. "This type of intervention program is for a variety of individuals who want to have more knowledge on how to be healthy and how to appreciate their bodies' value."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140707134331.htm

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