Workplace Wellness 2

Women get less credit than men in the workplace

December 13, 2017

Science Daily/University of Delaware

New research suggests that women receive less credit for speaking up in the workplace than their male counterparts.


Kyle Emich, an assistant professor of management in UD's Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, explored this topic with the University of Arizona's Elizabeth McClean, Boston College's Sean R. Martin and the United States Military Academy's Todd Woodruff for a forthcoming article in Academy of Management Journal.


"In sum, we find that when men speak up with ideas on how to change their team for the better they gain the respect of their teammates -- since speaking up indicates knowledge of the task at hand and concern for the wellbeing of the team," Emich said. "Then, when it comes time to replace the team's leader, those men are more likely to be nominated to do so. Alternatively, when women speak up with ideas on how to change the team for the better, they are not given any more respect than women who do not speak up at all, and thus are not seen as viable leadership options."


Emich said that in the case of the researchers' first sample, involving military cadets at West Point, "This difference is immense."


On average in 10-person teams, Emich said, men who speak up more than two-thirds of their teammates are voted to be the No. 2 candidate to take on team leadership.


"Women who speak up the same amount are voted to be the No. 8 candidate," he said. "This effect size is bigger than any I have seen since I began studying teams in 2009."


Further, in the team's second study, a lab study of working adults from across the United States, Emich said, "We find that men are given more credit than women even when saying the exact same thing."


"Of course, when I discuss this with women they are not shocked," Emich said. "The most common reaction I get is gratitude that we finally have data to show something they have been observing for years. However, men are mostly oblivious. This is because they do not need to consider their gender in most organizational contexts, thus their unconscious biases remain just that, unconscious."


To further explain what he means, Emich said that when most individuals imagine a leader, they are likely to expect that leader to be a man by default.


"This is the reason it is so easy for people -- both men and women -- to link men's voices (speaking up) with leadership," Emich said. "Implicitly, men are already considered leaders to a greater extent than women are. The reason I mention this is that correcting the problem will take effort and the conscious attention to biases against women in the workplace."


So how can individuals combat this biased thinking in the workplace?


"I challenge any man reading this to go into your next meeting and see who comes up with ideas and who gets credit for them," Emich said. "I know this was an eye-opening exercise for me -- being a man who was previously unaware of the level of bias women face.


"At first, just observe," he said. "Then, eventually, step up and give credit where credit is due."


Giving credit where credit is due can be as simple, Emich explained, as acknowledging that who the idea came from: If a woman's ideas have been floated around the room, you can acknowledge that by saying, "I think we all really like [name]'s idea."


Emich also recommends that professionals consider mentoring women in the workplace.


"Finally, at the very least, understand that we all use cognitive shortcuts to get through each day," he said. "We simply don't have the energy or ability to fully consider everything we run into. For example, think of what you had for breakfast. How did you decide? You probably just grabbed the closest thing to you, or followed a pattern of what you always eat.


"Well, we have patterns and shortcuts involving people too, and one of them is more easily considering men leaders even when women exhibit the exact same behaviors," Emich said. "And this shortcut has very real negative consequences for women and workplaces alike."


Doctors' burnout should be treated as organization-wide problem

December 5, 2016

Manchester University

Current approaches to dealing with burnouts in doctors on an individual case-by-case basis is not effective and the issue should instead be tackled with organization-wide initiatives, according to researchers.


A meta-analysis study, which brought together the results of previously conducted research, was carried out to explore the effectiveness of interventions in reducing burnout in doctors. It explored the comparison between doctor-directed interventions that target the individual and organisation-directed interventions that target the working environment. The strength of the doctor's experience and the particular healthcare setting they worked in was also assessed.


The research concluded that while doctor-focused tactics such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioural are important, the greatest success at preventing and reducing burnout in doctors can be achieved through the adoption of organisation-directed approaches such as improved working environment and organisational culture.


Burnout is a major problem in the healthcare industry and is often driven by excessive workload, imbalance between job demands and skills, a lack of job control and prolonged stress. It is a syndrome consisting of emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and a diminished sense of personal accomplishment. Importantly, burnout can result in an increase in medical errors, reduced quality of patient care, and lower patient satisfaction.


It was found that organisations that combined several elements such as structural changes, fostering communications between members of the health care team, and cultivating a sense of teamwork and job control tended to be the most effective in reducing burnout. However, such intense organisation-directed interventions were rare and had not been evaluated sufficiently.


What's more, the evidence indicated that young doctors starting out in their career, are at higher risk of burnout compared to those with more experience, and interventions focused on enhancing teamwork, mentoring, and leadership skills might be particularly suitable for this group.


Dr Maria Panagioti, Research fellow in Primary Care at the University of Manchester who led this study said: 'Our findings clearly show that we need more effective intervention models to prevent burnout in doctors. Such models could be organization-directed interventions which promote healthy individual-organization relationships and view burnout a problem of the whole healthcare systems.'


George Lewith, Professor of Health Research at the University of Southampton who supervised the research, said: "This work suggests that if we want to retain safe and professionally competent NHS clinicians working in very demanding front line jobs we need to support their mental and physical health and creating appropriate and enabling working environments for them. Efforts need to be focused on finding appropriate ways of reaching doctors who work in stressful environments to ensure their wellbeing is taken care of. If we don't patient safety could be at risk."

Employees of medical centers report high stress, negative health behaviors

September 8, 2016

Science Daily/Mayo Clinic

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of adults in the U.S. will report high levels of stress, several American surveys have found. A new study has identified stress and burnout as a major problem employees face within the medical industry, leading to negative health behaviors. With rising stress levels in the workplace for employees, many companies are looking to integrate, engage and enroll employees into wellness programs.


"It's important to teach individuals to monitor their stress levels over time and practice effective, ongoing stress-reduction strategies, such as getting involved in wellness programs, this will in-turn help health care employees live a happy and health life," says Matthew Clark, Ph.D., lead author of the study and resiliency expert at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.


The study, which is published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, measured stress and health behaviors (exercise, nutrition, sleep, etc.) by a series of five annual surveys administered to 676 participants who are employees at Mayo Clinic and have access to a wellness center. A significant relationship was found between the stress levels of an employee and four domains of quality of life: poor physical health, low mental health, poor nutritional habits and lower perceived overall health. Unfortunately, according to the study, employees who reported high stress levels and perceived poor quality of life also reported the lowest usage of wellness programs.


According to Dr. Clark, "Increasing the awareness of wellness centers and programs in academic medical environments will increase the quality of life of employees and lead to less physician and staff burnout."


Many companies are taking note of burnout and job strain in their staff and have created wellness centers, offer stress reduction programs, provide wellness coaching and healthy sleep programs for their employees in an effort to reduce stress, job strain and burnout. Muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility exercises are also beneficial to overall quality of life, Dr. Clark writes.


He adds, "We are beginning to encourage employees to monitor their stress levels and to engage in daily resiliency practices, such as exercise, time with family and friends, meditation or gratitude journaling, to help reduce their stress levels and improve their quality of life."


Given the significance of stress in the workplace, the researchers note that exploring ways to effectively engage employees who have high levels of stress into wellness programs warrants further investigation.

Feel anxious? Have trouble sleeping? You may be traveling for business too often

January 8, 2018

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

People who travel for business two weeks or more a month report more symptoms of anxiety and depression and are more likely to smoke, be sedentary and report trouble sleeping than those who travel one to six nights a month.  Among those who consume alcohol, extensive business travel is associated with symptoms of alcohol dependence.  Poor behavioral and mental health outcomes significantly increased as the number of nights away from home for business travel rose.


The Global Business Travel Association Foundation estimates there were nearly 503 million person-business trips in 2016 in the U.S. compared to 488 million in the prior year. "Although business travel can be seen as a job benefit and can lead to occupational advancement, there is a growing literature showing that extensive business travel is associated with risk of chronic diseases associated with lifestyle factors," said Andrew Rundle, DrPH, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. "The field of occupational travel medicine needs to expand beyond its current focus on infectious disease, cardiovascular disease risks, violence and injury to bring more focus to the behavioral and mental health consequences of business travel."


The study was based on the de-identified health records of 18,328 employees who underwent a health assessment in 2015 through their corporate wellness work benefits program provided by EHE International, Inc. The EHE International health exam measured depressive symptoms with the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), anxiety symptoms with the Generalized Anxiety Scale (GAD-7) and alcohol dependence with the CAGE scale.


A score above 4 on the Generalized Anxiety Scale (GAD-7) was reported by 24 percent of employees, and 15 percent scored above a 4 on the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), indicating that mild or worse anxiety or depressive symptoms were common in this employee population. Among those who consume alcohol, a CAGE score of 2 or higher indicates the presence of alcohol dependence and was found in 6 percent of employees who drank. GAD-7 and PHQ-9 scores and CAGE scores of 2 or higher increased with increasing nights away from home for business travel. These data are consistent with analyses of medical claims data from World Bank employees which found that the largest increase in claims among their business travelers was for psychological disorders related to stress.


Employers and employees should consider new approaches to improve employee health during business trips that go beyond the typical travel health practice of providing immunizations and medical evacuation services, according to Rundle, whose earlier research found that extensive business travel was associated with higher body mass index, obesity, and higher blood pressure.


"At the individual-level, employees who travel extensively need to take responsibility for the decisions they make around diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and sleep. However, to do this, employees will likely need support in the form of education, training, and a corporate culture that emphasizes healthy business travel. Employers should provide employees who travel for business with accommodations that have access to physical activity facilities and healthy food options."

Workplace sexual harassment 'a chronic problem,' says expert

More research needed to help predict who will harass, assess effective prevention strategies

November 16, 2017

Science Daily/American Psychological Association

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a pervasive, chronic problem that can cause enduring psychological harm, according to an expert.


"Sexual harassment in the workplace is a significant occupational health psychology problem," said APA President Antonio E. Puente, PhD. "Psychological research has offered understanding into the causes of workplace harassment, as well as some strategies for preventing or reducing it. However, there is limited research regarding the characteristics of harassers, which makes it difficult to predict who will do it and where and when it might happen. What we do know is that harassers tend to lack a social conscience and engage in manipulative, immature, irresponsible and exploitative behaviors."


Research has shown that sexual harassment is primarily aimed at women, but men are also targets of such behavior. Perpetrators of sexual harassment in the workplace are not only supervisors/superiors but are also coworkers, subordinates, customers and clients, Puente said.


According to the 2017 article "Sexual Harassment: Have We Made Any Progress?" published in APA's Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, women tend to report more adverse effects than men after experiencing workplace sexual harassment. These may include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, post-traumatic stress and a lower level of overall happiness.


Women are more likely to report sexual harassment than men, according to the article, but "studies indicate that men may be at a higher risk of mental health issues and depression." Men in the military are 10 times more likely to experience sexual harassment than civilian men, but an estimated 81 percent of military men who are harassed do not report it, the articles added.


Organizational climate is a strong predictor of workplace sexual harassment and can include situations where men outnumber women, where supervisors are predominantly male, and where there is a sense among employees that complaints will not be taken seriously. Research has shown that hierarchical power dynamics are at the root of sexual harassment.


"Psychology can help, in the form of sexual harassment training, but it only works if it is part of a comprehensive, committed effort to combat the problem," Puente said. "Most research points to sanctions as the primary way that organizations can be less tolerant of harassment.


"Organizations need to be proactive in establishing policies prohibiting sexual harassment, raising employee awareness, establishing reporting procedures and educating employees about these policies. More research is needed to identify the antecedents to harassment that will help employees and managers identify and respond appropriately."

Women-run start-ups hampered by bias among male investors

November 16, 2017

Science Daily/California Institute of Technology

Researchers examined data for nearly 18,000 start-ups and found that companies started by women have a harder time finding funding because male investors prefer companies started by men.


The study's authors, Michael Ewens of Caltech and Richard Townsend of UC San Diego, analyzed nearly 18,000 start-ups to identify the "chicken and egg" situation faced by women entrepreneurs. Because female-led start-ups face tougher funding prospects than male-led start-ups, fewer women enter the tech entrepreneur pipeline that ultimately feeds the ranks of venture capitalists. Without an adequate supply of female venture capitalists, women-founded start-ups continue to struggle to find funding.


"Women are treated differently than their male counterparts. They receive less interest and, in the end, less funding from male investors," says Ewens, a Caltech professor of finance and entrepreneurship.


To reach that conclusion, the authors analyzed data from 2010 to 2015 on the fates of start-ups with profiles on AngelList, a website that connects start-up companies with investors. Data collected by the site showed how much interest companies were garnering from investors as well as the gender of the founders and interested investors. Ewens and Townsend combined those data with other information they collected about whether the start-ups ultimately found funding, failed, went public, or were purchased by another company.


They found that male-led companies were almost twice as likely to receive funding from male investors than were female-led companies. Male-led companies also had a higher chance of being asked to meet with a male investor and of being "shared" from AngelList onto other platforms like Facebook or Twitter by a male investor.


Among the start-ups seeking funding on AngelList, 16 percent were founded by women. However, Ewens and Townsend found that female-founded companies only made up 13.5 percent of companies that had success finding funding on the platform.


Why were female-founded companies treated differently? Ewens and Townsend explored a few possible explanations that ultimately the data didn't support.


Do men build better companies?


One possibility is that start-ups founded and led by women have undesirable characteristics that investors are responding to that were not obvious to the researchers. If this were the case, potential investors of both genders would have good reason to prefer companies founded by men. However, the data revealed that women-founded companies were less desirable only to male investors. Female investors actually slightly preferred women-founded companies, suggesting that the women-founded companies did not have uniquely undesirable characteristics.


Ewens and Townsend also explored the possibility that women investors were partnering with women founders out of a desire to help other women succeed regardless of the start-up quality. "We wondered if maybe women investors are investing in women because they want to make money and help women," Ewens says. "That would result in women-women pairings that underperform."


To account for potential differences in the ability of investors to pick good investments, the researchers compared outcomes of companies against others within the same portfolio, asking the question, "When an investor funds a company founded by someone of their same gender, does the company perform differently than the same investor's other investments?"


The data revealed, however, that the worst performers were in fact male-founded start-ups that paired with male investors. Female-female, male-female, and female-male pairs all performed better.


A matter of focus?


Ewens and Townsend also wondered if sector focus -- the field in which the start-ups operate -- was playing a role. That is, if a female-founded company is focused on makeup, and a male investor isn't familiar with this sector, he might shy away and opt to invest instead in a male start-up that sells facial-hair grooming products.


To account for such possible preferences, the researchers developed a subsample of "gender-neutral" start-ups without a clear masculine or feminine focus -- biotech firms, for example. They found that even among these start-ups, male investors were more likely to pair with male-founded companies.


Risk and reward?


A third idea possibility that men and women prefer different levels of risk, both on the start-up side and the investment side, and that same-gender pairings between entrepreneurs and investors are driven by that preference.


"There is some experimental evidence that women are more risk averse," Ewens says. "So, female-founded firms may be less risky or the founders may pursue different growth strategies than male-founded firms do."


Female-run companies with more conservative business plans that present less risk -- but also less chance of a big payoff -- might align better with the interests of a risk-averse female investor. On the other hand, male-founded companies, which tend to take more business risks -- but have a higher potential for financial reward -- might appeal more to male investors.


To test the hypothesis, the researchers looked at cross-gender pairings of male founders and female investors.


If female investors are more risk averse, the argument goes, they should be more likely to choose male-founded companies with safer business approaches -- and, because of their conservatism, those same male-founded companies should have a harder time attracting male investors.


But these patterns are not observed in the data, Ewens and Townsend found. Male-run companies that paired up with female investors still garnered significant interest from male investors.


A matter of taste


With company quality, sector focus, and risk aversion ruled out, Ewens and Townsend were left with only one likely explanation: taste-based discrimination. That is, male investors simply prefer to fund male-founded companies for reasons that may include outright sexism as well as subtler factors, such as a desire among male venture capitalists to mentor young entrepreneurs who remind them of themselves.


Because investment preferences are personal and not easily identified, Ewens says it would be difficult, if not impossible, to create laws or regulations that would prevent discrimination in investments. A more successful approach would include efforts to increase the number of women investors, though that will take some time to begin paying off.


"There's no quick fix; however, if we continue to lower the barriers to becoming an investor, the pool of venture capitalists will begin to look more like the general population, and the gender gap will shrink," he says.

Black women working night shifts have an increased risk of developing diabetes

January 11, 2015

Science Daily/Diabetologia

Those who work night shifts are significantly more likely to develop diabetes than those who have never worked night shifts, with more years working the night shift resulting in a higher risk. These are the results from a large ongoing study into the health of African-American women. Furthermore, the increased risk of diabetes seen in shift workers was more pronounced in younger women than older women, researchers say.


Some previous studies have investigated the link between night shift work and diabetes, with the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) (of mostly white nurses in the USA), showing a link, and another study in Sweden showing a link. However, body-mass index (BMI) accounted for most of this association in the NHS, and all of that found in the Swedish study. However, given the increased prevalence of diabetes in black women in the USA (12.6%) versus white women (4.5%), the authors decided that this potential association should be further investigated in a population of black women.


n the Black Women's Health Study (BWHS), 28,041 participants free of diabetes provided information in 2005 about having worked the night shift. The women were followed for incident diabetes during the next 8 years. Thirty-seven percent of the women reported having worked the night shift, with 5% having worked that shift for at least 10 years. During the 8 years of follow-up, there were 1,786 incident diabetes cases.


Relative to never having worked the night shift, the increased risk of developing diabetes was 17% for 1-2 years night shift work; 23% for 3-9 years, and 42% for 10 or more years. After adjustment for BMI and lifestyle factors such as diet and smoking status, the association between increasing years of night shift work and increasing diabetes risk remained statistically significant, with a 23% increase in those who had worked night shifts for 10 years or more versus those who never had worked the night shift.


When black women having ever worked the night shift (any duration) were compared to those who had never worked it, they were found to be at a 22% increased risk of developing diabetes. After adjustment for BMI and lifestyle factors, this increased risk became 12%.


The authors also found that the association was stronger in younger women than in older women. Working night shifts for 10 or more years relative to never working the night shift was associated with a 39% higher risk of diabetes among women aged less than 50 years compared with 17% higher risk in women aged 50 years or over.


The authors explain: "Even though lifestyle factors and BMI explained a major part of the association of shift work with incident diabetes, women with a long duration of shift work had an increased risk of diabetes after control for those factors, suggesting the presence of additional causal pathways. Shift work is associated with disrupted circadian rhythms and reduced total duration of sleep. Similar to the effects of jet lag, which are short term, shift workers experience fatigue, sleepiness during scheduled awake periods and poor sleep during scheduled sleep periods. These alterations in the normal sleep-wake cycle have profound effects on metabolism... Even after many years of night-shift work, circadian rhythms do not fully adjust to the shifted sleep-wake cycle. The metabolic effects of long-term shift work likely underlie a part of the association with diabetes that we and others describe and that strengthens with years of exposure to sleep disruption."


They add: "The precise mechanisms by which these changes occur are still unclear. In animal models, circadian disruption in susceptible rats led to more rapid loss of beta cell function and increased beta cell death, resulting in decreased beta cell mass, decreased glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and accelerated development of diabetes."


They conclude: "In summary, we found that African-American women undergoing long-duration night-shift work had a higher risk of incident diabetes. The fact that the association remained, though reduced, after adjustment for lifestyle factors and BMI suggests that additional pathways such as disruption of the circadian system may be playing a role. In view of the high prevalence of shift work among workers in the USA -- 35% among non-Hispanic blacks and 28% in non-Hispanic whites -- an increased diabetes risk among this group has important public health implications. There is a need for continued research into facilitating circadian adaptation to shift work and consideration of avoiding shift work in favour of other work arrangements when possible."

Burnt-out workers more likely to make irrational decisions

January 7, 2015
Science Daily/British Psychological Society (BPS)
Employees who are suffering from burnout are more likely to make spontaneous and irrational decisions. Analysis showed that participants who showed signs of burnout displayed more spontaneous and irrational decision-making. They were also more likely to avoid making decisions.

This is one of the findings of PhD student Miss Evie Michailidis and Dr Adrian Banks from the University of Surreywho will present their findings today, Thursday 8 January, at the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology annual conference in Glasgow.

A total of 262 employees (119 males, 143 females) completed online questionnaires regarding their decision making styles and rates of burnout. Close to half of the employees worked on average 40 hours per week and they came from a wide range of occupations including business and finance, education, social services and healthcare.

A further test set out different workplace scenarios where participants were asked to imagine themselves in situations and choose on a scale which of the two actions they would take; one option involved more risk and the other less risk. Participants were also asked to rate the likelihood as well as the seriousness of the consequences of the worst-case scenario.

An example scenario is below:
Your colleague with whom you are sharing an office takes home confidential information without permission. You notice this couple of times and you are aware that this is a serious offence. If by any chance your boss realizes that the information is missing there is a possibility that you might be blamed as well.

You wonder what you should do?

You don't tell anything to your boss and hope that your colleague will not do that again

You tell your boss that your colleague is taking confidential information at home

Which option would you choose on a 0-10 scale (0=definitely A, 10=definitely B)? How likely is it that your boss notices that the confidential information is missing? (0=not likely at all, 10=extremely likely)

How serious would the consequences be for you if your boss notices that the confidential information is missing? (0= not serious at all, 10=extremely serious)

Analysis showed that participants who showed signs of burnout displayed more spontaneous and irrational decision-making. They were also more likely to avoid making decisions.

Further analysis also suggested that the participants who displayed signs of burnout took riskier decisions as they hadn't considered the seriousness of the consequences.

Miss Evie Michailidis said: "In addition to the existing characteristics of burnout this study suggests that burnt-out individuals may avoid taking decisions and are characterized by irrational and spontaneous decision making styles.

"As decision-making may lead to detrimental consequences both for the employee and the organization it is important to encourage managers to design work environments that provide more suitable support to employees who are responsible for decision-making tasks."
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Working long hours linked to higher risk of stroke

August 19, 2015
Science Daily/The Lancet
Working 55 hours or more per week is linked to a 33 percent greater risk of stroke and a more modest (13 percent) increased risk of developing coronary heart disease compared with working a standard 35 to 40 hour week, according to the largest study in this field so far involving over 600,000 individuals.

Mika Kivimäki, Professor of Epidemiology at University College London, UK, and colleagues did a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies and unpublished individual-level data examining the effects of longer working hours on cardiovascular disease up to August 20, 2014.

Analysis of data from 25 studies involving 603838 men and women from Europe, the USA, and Australia who were followed for an average of 8.5 years, found a 13% increased risk of incident coronary heart disease (a new diagnosis, hospitalisation, or death) in people working 55 hours or more per week compared with those putting in a normal 35 to 40 hour week, even after taking into account risk factors including age, sex, and socioeconomic status.

Analysis of data from 17 studies involving 528908 men and women who were followed up for an average of 7.2 years, found a 1.3 times higher risk of stroke in individuals working 55 hours or more a week compared with those working standard hours. This association remained even after taking into account health behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity, and standard cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Importantly, the researchers found that the longer people worked, the higher their chances of a stroke. For example, compared with people who worked standard hours, those working between 41 and 48 hours had a 10% higher risk of stroke, and those working 49 to 54 hours had a 27% increased risk of stroke.

Although the causal mechanisms of these relationships need to be better understood, the authors suggest that increasing health-risk behaviors, such as physical inactivity and high alcohol consumption, as well as repetitive triggering of the stress response, might increase the risk of stroke.

According to Professor Kivimäki, "The pooling of all available studies on this topic allowed us to investigate the association between working hours and cardiovascular disease risk with greater precision than has previously been possible. Health professionals should be aware that working long hours is associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke, and perhaps also coronary heart disease."

Writing in a linked Comment, Dr Urban Janlert from Umeå University in Sweden points out, "Long working hours are not a negligible occurrence. Among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Turkey has the highest proportion of individuals working more than 50 h per week (43%), and the Netherlands the lowest (<1%). 

For all OECD countries, a mean of 12% of employed men and 5% of employed women work more than 50 h per week. Although some countries have legislation for working hours--eg, the EU Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) gives people the right to limit their average working time to 48 h per week--it is not always implemented. Therefore, that the length of a working day is an important determinant mainly for stroke, but perhaps also for coronary heart disease, is an important finding."
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Study of RCMP officers finds quality of relationships with coworkers, supervisors helps reduce effects of workplace anxiety

The effect of workplace anxiety on job performance is closely connected to the quality of relationships between employees, their bosses and their co-workers, according to a new study.
John Trougakos is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and HR Management in the Department of Management at University of Toronto Scarborough, with a cross-appointment to the Organizational Behaviour area at the University's Rotman School of Management. His research explores the dynamics of employees' daily organizational life, focusing specifically on emotions, social interactions, emotional labor, and work recovery.
Credit: University of Toronto Scarborough

U of T Scarborough and Rotman School of Management professors Julie McCarthy and John Trougakos, along with Bonnie Cheng from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, explored the effects of workplace anxiety among officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), a national police service. They found the high levels of emotional exhaustion that come from workplace anxiety can directly lead to lower job performance.

"Workplace anxiety is a serious concern not only for employee health and well-being, but also for an organization's bottom-line," says Trougakos, an expert on organizational behaviour.

It's no secret that police officers' work in high stress environments -- not only do they confront violent offenders, crime scenes, and victims of abuse and death, they can also experience immense public suspicion and scrutiny. It's a challenging role especially while focusing on serving and protecting the public.

"Police officers, like all of us, have a finite amount of resources they can draw on to cope with the demands of their job," says McCarthy, an expert on work-life integration and stress management. "If these resources are depleted then high levels of workplace anxiety will lead to emotional exhaustion and this will ultimately affect job performance."

The study, which involved surveying 267 RCMP officers from across Canada, also found that the quality of relationships officers have with their peers and supervisors can help reduce the potentially harmful effects of workplace anxiety.

Supervisors and co-workers who are empathetic and provide emotional support by listening to their peers go a long way in fostering a positive work environment, notes McCarthy. These kinds of strong interpersonal relations are built on high levels of understanding and trust, which allows individual needs to be met.

"Our findings highlight the importance of programs that allow employees to recover, build resilience and develop strong social support networks in the workplace," she says.

Statistics about anxiety in the modern workplace are alarming, with one survey showing 41 per cent of employees from a range of industries reporting high levels of anxiety in the workplace. The hope, McCarthy says, is to highlight the importance of having strong social support networks not only in high-stress occupations, but in any line of work.

"Organizations like the RCMP have taken great strides in developing techniques to buffer the effects of anxiety among their officers," says McCarthy. "Our hope is that this research will trigger conversations among other organizations about the debilitating effects of a stressed-out workplace and the importance of developing strategies to help workers cope with workplace anxiety."
Science Daily/SOURCE :


Passion for your job? If not, it's attainable

August 21, 2015
Science Daily/University of Michigan
People who have not found their perfect fit in a career can take heart: There is more than one way to attain passion for work.

Contrary to popular wisdom, a love-at first-sight experience is not necessary when evaluating a potential job, according to a new University of Michigan study.

"The good news is that we can choose to change our beliefs or strategies to cultivate passion gradually or seek compatibility from the outset, and be just as effective in the long run at achieving this coveted experience," said Patricia Chen, a doctoral psychology student and study's lead author.

The dominant mentality in America is the belief that passion is attained through finding a fit with the right line of work, or "following one's passion." An alternative mindset is that passion can be cultivated over time as one gains competence in a line of work.

Researchers examined people's expectations, choices and outcomes associated with each of these two mindsets -- termed as the "fit theory" and "develop theory."

They found that both mentalities are similarly effective at achieving vocational well-being. What differs is how they motivate people to get to this outcome, Chen said.

People with the fit theory tend to select vocations that they enjoy from the outset -- an indication of compatibility that is important to them.

In contrast, people with the develop theory prioritize an immediate vocational fit less, but focus on cultivating passion and fit over time.

"Thus, they are more likely to prioritize vocational characteristics other than immediate enjoyment, such as pay," Chen said.

The findings, which appear in the recent issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, offer assurance to those who have not -- or have yet -- to find what they are passionate about: If you can't discover your passion, you can learn to develop it.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Covert and overt forms of sexism are equally damaging to working women

August 27, 2015
Science Daily/SAGE Publications
Frequent sexist wisecracks, comments and office cultures where women are ignored are just as damaging to women as single instances of sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention, according to a new study.

"Norms, leadership, or policies, that reduce intense harmful experiences may lead managers to believe that they have solved the problem of maltreatment of women in the workplace," wrote the study authors Dr. Victor E. Sojo, Dr. Robert E. Wood and Anna E. Genat. "However, the more frequent, less intense, and often unchallenged gender harassment, sexist discrimination, sexist organizational climate and organizational tolerance for sexual harassment appeared at least as detrimental for women's wellbeing. They should not be considered lesser forms of sexism."

Through an analysis of 88 independent studies of a combined 73,877 working women, the researchers found the following associations:

Sexism and gender harassment were just as harmful to working women's individual health and work attitudes as common job stressors such as work overload and poor working conditions.
•    When women are the targets of sexism and harassment in the workplace, they are more dissatisfied with supervisors than co-workers.
•    There was a trend of a more negative effect of sexism and harassment in male-dominated workplaces, such as the armed forces and financial and legal services firms. However, the authors suggested this required further research.
•    The authors further wrote: "Our results suggest that organizations should have zero tolerance for low intensity sexism, the same way they do for overt harassment. This will require teaching workers about the harmful nature of low intensity sexist events, not only for women, but also for the overall organizational climate."
Science Daily/SOURCE :

As adults continue to age beyond their reproductive years, despite physical frailty setting in, they are often regarded as experts - such as in music and storytelling

Chapman University's research on aging and skill development appears as the lead article in the latest issue of American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The study, called "Skill Ontogeny Among Tsimane Forager-Horticulturalists," provides the most complete analysis to date of skill development in a traditional society. The results show that most skills essential to Tsimane survival are acquired prior to first reproduction, and then develop further to meet the increasing demands of offspring. As adults continue to age beyond their reproductive years, despite physical frailty setting in, they are often regarded as experts -- such as in music and storytelling.

The research was conducted on the Tsimane--an indigenous population of about 15,000, who live in the Bolivian Amazon and depend on hunting, fishing, and gardening for their survival.

"Scientists have long wondered why our lifespans include an extended post-reproductive phase; the lifespans of our fellow primates, mammals and other species on the planet generally terminate once their reproductive business is over," said Eric Schniter, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor, in Chapman University's Economic Science Institute in the Argyros School of Business and Economics, and lead author on the study. "While most skill development studies have focused on subsistence skills like hunting, we wanted to examine the wider range of complementary skills that develops among aging humans."

According to the findings, older adults might be the go-to providers of many important services needed in human communities. In the field, the researchers interviewed 421 Tsimane adults across eight villages in the Bolivian Amazon and found that when it comes to many of the skills requiring lots of knowledge -- but not necessarily high-strength--such as music, storytelling, making bows and arrows, and textile production, seniors in the community report the most proficiency and are regarded by others as most expert.

While older folks, freed up from the primary responsibilities of feeding a brood, compensate for their increasing frailty by remaining productive with low-strength skills that complement their extended family's production, the extra time needed to focus on complementary skills is one possible factor explaining their expertise. But what impressed Schniter and his fellow researchers is that many of the skills older adults excel in also have a pedagogical component: they involve transferring conceptual and procedural knowledge to youngsters so that they might also someday develop the necessary abilities for life in a society dependent on interpersonal exchanges of resources acquired through hunting, fishing, and gardening.

"It shows that many important cultural skills, and not just food production like previously argued, take a long time to learn; and that not all abilities peak in middle adulthood as previously thought," Schniter says. "In (Tsimane) society people have an appreciation for that and they defer those roles to older adults."

The study leads to possible implications for industrialized societies and economies, too. Along with the skills specific to life in their traditional subsistence society in the Amazon, seniors were the age group that excelled most at planning, conflict negotiation, and delegation.

"Those are prized talents in any economy; so if baby boomers delay retirement, as some economists predict, it might behoove employers to better deploy them," says Schniter.

Other co-authors on the paper were Nathaniel Wilcox, Ph.D., and Hillard Kaplan, Ph.D., both of Chapman University; as well as Michael Gurven, Ph.D., of the University of Santa Barbara, and Paul Hooper, Ph.D., of Emory University. The research was conducted over the course of several field visits in collaboration with The Tsimane Health and Life History Project sponsored by the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of New Mexico.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

Longer breaks are good, but it's beneficial to take frequent short breaks.

While the study was unable to pinpoint an exact length of time for a better workday break (15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc.), the research found that more short breaks were associated with higher resources, suggesting that employees should be encouraged to take more frequent short breaks to facilitate recovery.

"Unlike your cellphone, which popular wisdom tells us should be depleted to zero percent before you charge it fully to 100 percent, people instead need to charge more frequently throughout the day," Hunter said.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

"Better breaks" incorporate activities that employees prefer.

A common belief exists that doing things that are non-work-related are more beneficial, Hunter explained. Based on the study, there was no evidence to prove that non-work-related activities were more beneficial.

Simply put, preferred break activities are things you choose to do and things you like to do. These could also include work-related tasks.

"Finding something on your break that you prefer to do -- something that's not given to you or assigned to you -- are the kinds of activities that are going to make your breaks much more restful, provide better recovery and help you come back to work stronger," Hunter said.

People who take "better breaks" experience better health and increased job satisfaction.

The employee surveys showed that recovery of resources -- energy, concentration and motivation -- following a "better break" (earlier in the day, doing things they preferred) led workers to experience less somatic symptoms, including headache, eyestrain and lower back pain after the break.

These employees also experienced increased job satisfaction and organizational citizenship behavior as well as a decrease in emotional exhaustion (burnout), the study shows.

The most beneficial time to take a workday break is mid-morning.

Hunter and Wu found that rather than the typical culture of working hard all morning only to take a lunch-hour or mid-afternoon break, a respite earlier in the workday replenishes more resources -- energy, concentration and motivation.

"We found that when more hours had elapsed since the beginning of the work shift, fewer resources and more symptoms of poor health were reported after a break," the study says. "Therefore, breaks later in the day seem to be less effective."

How to take better workday breaks

September 9, 2015
Science Daily/Baylor University
A new empirical study provides a greater understanding of workday breaks and offers suggestions on when, where and how to plan the most beneficial daily escapes from the J-O-B. The research also debunks some common break-time myths.

Most people take breaks during their workdays. Coffee breaks. Lunch breaks. Short chats with coworkers. Maybe late afternoon walks around the building.

But are they taking the best type of breaks? Breaks that boost energy, concentration and motivation?

Two Baylor University researchers have published a new empirical study -- "Give Me a Better Break: Choosing Workday Break Activities to Maximize Resource Recovery" -- in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The research provides a greater understanding of workday breaks and offers suggestions on when, where and how to plan the most beneficial daily escapes from the J-O-B. The research also debunks some common break-time myths.

Emily Hunter, Ph.D., and Cindy Wu, Ph.D., associate professors of management in Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, surveyed 95 employees (ages 22-67) over a five-day workweek, and each person was asked to document each break they took during that time. Breaks were defined as "any period of time, formal or informal, during the workday in which work-relevant tasks are not required or expected, including but not limited to a break for lunch, coffee, personal email or socializing with coworkers, not including bathroom breaks."

Hunter and Wu chronicled and analyzed a total of 959 break surveys -- an average of two breaks per person per day. They say the results of the study benefit both managers and employees.

"We took some of our layperson hypotheses about what we believed were helpful in a break and tested those empirically in the best way possible," Hunter said. "This is a strong study design with strong analyses to test those hypotheses. What we found was that a better workday break was not composed of many of the things we believed. "

Key findings of the study include:

Squabbles at work may be result of office design

September 9, 2015
Science Daily/KTH The Royal Institute of Technology
Your likelihood of squabbling with co-workers could be due to the design of your office, according to researchers in Sweden. A recent study shows that particularly for women, the risk of conflict at work increases in so-called combi- and flex-offices. And what's worse, women are more bothered by noise in these types of office plans than men are.

A recent study shows that particularly for women, the risk of conflict at work increases in so-called combi- and flex-offices. And what's worse, women are more bothered by noise in these types of office plans than men are.

The findings were published recently in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, by co-authors Christina Bodin Danielsson, a researcher at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology School of Architecture & Built Environment and Stockholm University's Stress Research Institute; Töres Theorell from SU's Stress Research Institute; Lennart Bodin from Karolinska Institute; and Cornelia Wulff, from Mäldardalen University.

Increasingly popular combi- and flex-offices are activity-based designs that offer employees a choice of work environments for different activities. Flex-offices also mean no one has their own, individual workstation. Combi-offices, on the other hand, offer individual workspaces but are designed for team-based work. They're highly stressful, too, says Bodin Danielsson.

"In a combi-office, the fact that you work as a team could be a possible explanation for the environment's negative impact on conflicts, Bodin Danielsson says. "Group work itself shown to lead to conflicts."

Surprisingly perhaps, the study also found that significantly fewer conflicts arise in large open office plans, where 25 more people work. This was especially true for women, Bodin Danielsson says. "Men appear to be less sensitive to the influence of office type for workplace conflicts."

But when it comes to combi-offices, Bodin Danielsson says that women are particularly vulnerable to the stress these designs create.

"Although men are also affected, it seems that other factors play a larger role in the occurrence of conflicts among men," Bodin Danielsson days. "We found among women that most conflicts occur in the two activity-based office types, combined and flex office."

Women were found to get into conflicts much less often in both medium (8.3 percent of the time) and large open plan office (8.1 percent) than men (11.9 and 17.4 percent). The result confirms other studies that find women have less workplace conflicts.

Of all office types, combi-offices are the only type where a significant increase in male conflicts can be found.

When it comes to noise, considerably more women than men are bothered by it in small, medium and large open plan office, the study also finds. Among the men surveyed, 46.1 percent of them reported being annoyed by noise in small open plan offices, compared to 59.5 percent of women.

"There have been other studies that find women are more affected than men by physical stimuli. There is a greater 'sensitivity', so to speak, something that is found in, among other things, research on shopping. For example, we know that women are more aware of the details of an environment than men," she says.

Bodin Danielsson points out that existing studies show women are more sensitive to the social aspects of a workplace than men. Women give and receive more social support among colleagues, she says. "This is might partly explain the differences we found between women and men in office design impact on the occurrence of conflicts."

The study was based on data collected by the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health, a nationally representative psychosocial survey of the Swedish working population.
Science Daily/SOURCE :

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