Workplace Wellness 3

Could Mindfulness Reduce Employee Absenteeism In the Workplace?

November 2, 2015

By Anne Foy. Guest Contributor

Whilst mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular, it tends to be a very personal experience which individuals find their own way to, and learn about at their own pace. However that could all be set to change. In research that could lead more employers to offer their employees dedicated mindfulness training, it has been revealed that mindfulness can help to reduce the levels of employee absenteeism in the workplace [1], saving the nation’s corporations millions of dollars. Absenteeism and the number of sick days being taken annually in the United States is a huge problem for the economy, with research suggesting that sick days (both valid and less so) cost an incredible $576 billion every year.[2]

Whilst mindfulness training isn’t amongst the most popular benefits offered by American employers right now (with that privilege being reserved for companies that offer both a high level of health care coverage, and assistance with retirement saving and planning [3]), enlightened firms are beginning to realise that by offering mindfulness training to their employees, and encouraging mindful practice both in and out of the workplace, they can support and enhance the wellbeing of their employees whilst simultaneouslyreducing their own expenditure on sick days and absenteeism. It can also help to reduce their health care and health insurance expenditure, as mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress related illness as well as helping to minimise and control any mental health problems too.

The Benefits of Mindfulness in The Workplace

Mindfulness can be incredibly beneficial in the workplace. Cultivating moment to moment feeling and self-awareness may seem like something that should be individual, but it can actually improve both the atmosphere and the levels of productivity in the workplace. [4] Mindfulness is a wonderful tool for building self-confidence as well as self-awareness, which is massively useful for team leaders and managers who are looking to share their vision with their teams and inspire them to get on board with new projects or new techniques. Research has also found, perhaps surprisingly, that mindfulness training can be just as efficient when delivered in an online environment as it can when it is delivered in an offline, face to face setting. This makes it much faster, easier, and more efficient for all employees to benefit from this training whilst causing the minimum amount of disruption to the workplace environment. Mindfulness is a wonderful workplace tool, particularly in workplaces that are fast paced and high pressured environments. The stress of working within these high pressure  workplaces can often lead to absenteeism. 65% of American employees have claimed that stress has caused them problems in the workplace, and cite this as one of the main reasons that they may choose to take time off work. [5] Practicing mindfulness can make you feel less stressed, more resilient, full of positive energy and better able to cope with the pressures of anything that your day throws at you, which is why mindfulness has so many positive applications in the workplace.

It is clear, then, that there are a myriad of positive ways in which mindfulness can be applied in the workplace that will be beneficial both to employers and their employees. Whilst wellbeing programmes (such as mindfulness training or utilising the Mind Spa system) should never be used in lieu of working to reduce stressors in the workplace, they can certainly be beneficial in helping to reduce stress, and better handle and manage those forces within a workplace that cannot be controlled. Now is an important time for the Mindfulness movement, with mindfulness becoming more wide stream and more widely accepted. That makes it the ideal time for the premises of mindfulness to be adopted by the corporate world, in order to reach and support as many people as possible.

References                                 

[1] “Mindfulness training reduces workplace stress and absenteeism”, Workplace Savings and Benefits, http://www.wsandb.co.uk/wsb/news/2432353/mindfulness-training-reduces-workplace-stress-and-absenteeism  

[2] “U.S. Workforce Illness Costs $576B Annually From Sick Days To Workers Compensation”, Forbeshttp://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2012/09/12/u-s-workforce-illness-costs-576b-annually-from-sick-days-to-workers-compensation/

[3] “An overview of employee benefit offerings in the U.S”, Society for Human Resource Managementhttps://www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Documents/14-0301%20Beneftis_Report_TEXT_FNL.pdf

[4] “Three benefits to mindfulness at work”, Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_benefits_to_mindfulness_at_work

[5] “Workplace stress”, The American Institute of Stresshttp://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/

 

Managers can boost creativity by 'empowering leadership' and earning employees' trust

October 8, 2014
Science Daily/Rice University
Managers can promote creativity in employees by 'empowering leadership' and earning employees' trust, according to a new study.

The researchers investigated, for the first time, the complex effect of the interaction among empowering leadership, uncertainty avoidance and trust on creativity. They collected supervisors' ratings of employee creativity in two separate studies in China: one with employees of an energy-saving light bulb design and manufacturing company and the other with the employees of a nonferrous metals manufacturing company.

"Our results reveal an interesting phenomenon," said Jing Zhou, the Houston Endowment Professor of Management at Rice's Jones Graduate School of Business. "Empowering leadership may be especially effective at promoting creativity for those who have high levels of both uncertainty avoidance and trust in their supervisors. In addition, we also found that creative self-efficacy (the degree to which the employees themselves believed they are capable of being creative) was a psychological mechanism that explained the three-way interaction's effect on creativity."

Zhou co-authored the paper with Xiaomeng Zhang, an associate professor of management at American University's Kogod School of Business. The paper was published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Zhou said managers might empower leadership by giving an employee the autonomy and freedom to carry out his or her job in the way that the employee deems to be the best way to achieve the company's goals and objective, or by getting an employee involved in decision-making processes. This approach worked well with employees who avoid "high uncertainty." They need and value detailed and consistent rules, directives and expectations.

The authors define creativity as "the generation of novel and useful ideas concerning products, services and work methods." They measure creativity using a scale that tracks a manager's rating of an employee's behaviors at work and the extent to which the employee has exhibited certain behaviors -- for example, the employee "comes up with new and practical ideas to improve performance," "comes up with creative solutions to problems" or "suggests new ways of performing work tasks."

Zhou and Zhang define empowering leadership as the extent to which supervisors express confidence in their employees' abilities, emphasize the significance of their employees' work, involve their employees in decision-making and reduce or remove bureaucratic constraints on their employees. The authors focused on affect-based trust, which is trust that reflects genuine concern, care and emotional bonds between employees and their supervisors, based on the employees' perceptions of the supervisor's motives.

The authors said the results have timely implications for management practice.

"To effectively encourage employee creativity, managers need to be aware that their own leadership behavior plays a key role in eliciting creativity from employees with different characteristics," Zhou said. "Our results suggest that to set the stage for enhancing creativity in their employees, managers first need to establish whether they can demonstrate empowering leadership behavior."

The authors suggested that managers participate in a diagnostic survey; those who have yet to be able to demonstrate empowering leadership can then participate in training programs to authentically develop their empowering leadership behaviors.

Managers should also give their employees opportunities to develop affect-based trust in them, the authors said. Once these two conditions are met, the managers may identify employees with high levels of uncertainty avoidance and then empower them. For employees with low levels of uncertainty avoidance, developing affect-based trust should be a higher priority for managers than empowering leadership, the researchers said.

Zhou said this trust is critical. "If my supervisor demonstrates empowering leadership, but I don't feel it's genuine, I'm not going to take the risk to be creative," she said.

Creativity seldom happens overnight, and it often takes time for employees to generate new ideas that are also feasible and potentially add value to the organization, Zhou said. "As a psychological state, creative self-efficacy usually precedes the behavioral outcome that is creativity."

She said the results suggest that one way for managers to monitor whether their empowering leadership will ultimately enhance employee creativity is to keep track of their employees' creative self-efficacy. "If they observe increased creative self-efficacy in their employees, the managers should be reasonably confident that there is a good chance that actual creativity will follow," the authors concluded.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141008121948.htm

Artificial light, biological clock disruptions, increase breast cancer risk

October 17, 2014
Science Daily/University of Georgia
The disruption of a person's circadian rhythm -- their 24-hour biological clock -- has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, according to new research. The culprit, in this study in particular, is artificial light. 'Exposure to artificial light leads to a significantly higher risk for developing breast cancer,' said one investigator.
http://images.sciencedaily.com/2014/10/141017183719-large.jpg

"Exposure to artificial light leads to a significantly higher risk for developing breast cancer," said Chunla He, a biostatistics graduate student in the UGA College of Public Health. "To decrease the use of artificial light, people should avoid working at night and implement earlier bed times."

Her research, published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, examined key studies that included risk factors for developing breast cancer.
"A large body of related research about circadian rhythms and breast cancer exists," He said. "However, these studies are inconsistent and have a variety of limitations."

Under the mentorship of Sara Wagner Robb, assistant professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health, He turned to previous studies to see what the research revealed.

In addition to other relevant exposures, He examined studies on breast cancer and flight attendants, who typically work both day and night shifts. The flight attendants represented a group of workers particularly susceptible to disrupted circadian rhythms, which are heavily influenced by light.

In her analysis, He found that employment as a flight attendant was related to an increased risk of breast cancer.

"People naturally secrete the hormone melatonin, which helps to regulate the circadian rhythm," He said. "When the sleep-wake cycle is disrupted by artificial light, melatonin secretion is adversely affected."

Robb recommends spreading this information to shift workers so they understand the harms in disrupting their circadian rhythms.

"Individuals engaging in this type of work should be aware of these risks and may make efforts to adjust their circadian rhythms," she said. "Although additional studies are certainly needed, scientists are becoming increasingly aware of the health risks associated with night workers and others exposed to circadian-disrupting behaviors."

Robb and He also advise that future research needs to examine social constraints -- which may foster disruption of circadian rhythms -- on shift workers. Additionally, shift workers should contact their primary care physicians for personalized treatment and options.

"This information tells us the harm in disrupting our natural cycle," He said. "With this new analysis, we must be cautious in our exposure to artificial light."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141017183719.htm

Resetting the circadian clock: Shift workers might want to skip high-iron foods at night

October 21, 2014
Science Daily/University of Utah Health Sciences
Workers punching in for the graveyard shift may be better off not eating high-iron foods at night so they don’t disrupt the circadian clock in their livers. "Iron is like the dial that sets the timing of the clock," the lead researcher says. "Discovering a factor, such as iron, that sets the circadian rhythm of the liver may have broad implications for people who do shift work."

Disrupted circadian clocks, researchers believe, are the reason that shift workers experience higher incidents of type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer. The body's primary circadian clock, which regulates sleep and eating, is in the brain. But other body tissues also have circadian clocks, including the liver, which regulates blood glucose levels.

In a new study in Diabetes online, University of Utah researchers show that dietary iron plays an important role in the circadian clock of the liver. Judith A. Simcox, Ph.D., a University of Utah postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry, is the study's lead author.

"Iron is like the dial that sets the timing of the clock," Simcox says. "Discovering a factor, such as iron, that sets the circadian rhythm of the liver may have broad implications for people who do shift work."

Each of the body's circadian clocks operates on its own schedule to perform its necessary functions. The circadian clock in the brain, for example, is set by light, telling people to wake up in the morning and sleep when it's dark. Ideally all the body's clocks would work on their correct schedules. But, as anyone who has ever been on a graveyard or swing shift knows, working off-hours can cause one's circadian clocks to get out of synch and disrupt sleeping and eating patterns.

Numerous studies have found that shift workers experience higher incidents of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders. The risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer also is higher among those workers. In 2007, a World Health Organization subcommittee declared that shift work is probably carcinogenic.

External Signals

The liver's circadian clock is set by food intake. As people sleep this clock helps maintain a constant blood glucose level, but then causes it to spike just before they wake up. When the clock in the liver gets out of synch with the one in the brain, it may contribute to metabolic diseases, according to Donald A. McClain, M.D., Ph.D., University of Utah professor of medicine (endocrinology) and biochemistry and senior author on the study.

McClain and Simcox wanted to identify external signals that set the circadian clock in the liver. They fed iron to mice as part of their natural eating cycle and observed that dietary iron increases the cellular concentration of heme, an oxygen-carrying iron compound found in hemoglobin. They found that when heme binds to a circadian protein-a substance whose function Simcox likens to that of a cog in a mechanical clock-the protein's activity increases and causes the liver to optimally control blood glucose levels.

Increased activity of a circadian protein is healthy when it occurs in the liver's natural clock cycle. But if this happens at a time that is out of synch with the circadian clock, such as during a graveyard shift, it could result in abnormal blood glucose levels.

"When a shift worker eats foods high in iron at night it could exacerbate the lack of synchronization between the clock in the liver and the main one in the brain," says McClain, who's also the University Health Sciences' associate vice president for clinical research and director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science. "By tending to flatten the circadian variation of metabolism, high iron in tissues may also interfere with the normal day to night fluctuations associated with a healthy metabolic system."

More research is needed to see how the results of their study could affect dietary recommendations for everyone, and shift workers in particular. The investigators are quick to point out that too little iron is also unhealthy. Ultimately, they hope their studies define an optimal range of iron that is much narrower than the current "normal" range.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141021134825.htm

Walking workstations improve physical, mental health, builds healthier workplace

October 29, 2014
Science Daily/Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science
Walking workstations can improve not only physical, but also mental health during the workday, a new study has found. With growing concerns regarding obesity in the United States, the author hopes the study encourages employers to examine methods to assist workers in in healthy living.

"We found that the walking workstations, regardless of a person's exercise habits or body mass index (BMI), had significant benefits," Sliter said. "Even if you don't exercise or if you are overweight, you'll experience both short-term physical and psychological benefits."

A sample of 180 participants were evaluated on boredom, task satisfaction, stress, arousal, and performance while completing work-related computer tasks across four randomly assigned workstations: seated, standing, cycling or walking.

The researchers found walking workstation participants had higher satisfaction and arousal, while experiencing less boredom and stress than the standing and sitting workstation participants. In comparison, the cycling workstation related to reduced satisfaction and performance.

The paper "Workout at work: Laboratory Test of Psychological and Performance Outcomes of Active Workstations," which Sliter wrote entirely while using a walking workstation, appears online in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Occupational Health Psychology and in the January 2015 print edition.

Sliter plans to continue exploring the psychological benefits of walking workstations in future studies. Particularly, he is interested in examining long-term psychological and physical benefits of such workstations.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141029124618.htm

Resilience training shows promise in preventing burnout among ICU nurses

November 3, 2014
Science Daily/American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
A multifaceted approach to teaching coping mechanisms may help critical care nurses better handle their stressful work environment, according to a study.

"Feasibility and Acceptability of a Resilience Training Program for Intensive Care Unit Nurses" documented several strategies important for successfully coping with the constant pressure in critical care units.

"Helping nurses develop stronger coping strategies may help reduce the high rate of turnover within the ICU," said lead author Meredith Mealer, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, Aurora. "Resilience can be strengthened and taught, and this study is an initial step to learn how to structure training programs."

Nurses who develop healthy coping strategies to build resilience are able to adapt to stressful work experiences in a positive manner. Factors already found to encourage resilience include a supportive social network, attention to physical well-being and development of active coping skills.

The study examined a multifaceted resilience training program that incorporated various coping mechanisms, such as mindfulness-based stress-reduction techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, expressive writing and regular exercise over a 12-week period.

During weekly sessions, participants wrote about topics such as challenges faced at work and received feedback from expressive writing experts. These sessions identified four overarching themes: • Patient-centric, such as death and dying, justice and interactions with patients and families • Cognitive processing, such as rumination, guilt and regret • Work structure, including understaffing and cumulative stress • Workplace relationships, such as conflict with peers and personal and professional boundaries

Each participant was also asked to attend cognitive behavioral therapy sessions with a licensed counselor after a triggering event, such as a patient death, caring for patients with traumatic injuries or participating in end-of-life discussions with family members. The sessions focused on challenging negative thoughts and promoting resilience through cognitive flexibility and restructuring.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141103082315.htm

Office stress? Workers may wait before acting out

November 7, 2014
Science Daily/San Francisco State University
When office stress increases, some employees may wait weeks or months before engaging in 'counterproductive work behaviors' such as taking long lunches or stealing office supplies. The research suggests that companies or other organizations need to account for this delayed response when planning for changes in employee behavior due to stress. Researchers also found that an employees' personality can also affect their response.

The research from SF State organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman shows that many employees wait weeks or months before engaging in "counterproductive work behaviors," like taking a longer lunch or stealing office supplies. As a result, this behavior, which by some estimates costs businesses billions of dollars annually, may actually be far more expensive.

"People don't just respond immediately with these deviant behaviors. They may also have a delayed response that isn't caught by the organization," said Eschleman, an assistant professor of psychology. "That means the organization is not taking into account long-term costs associated with these delayed behaviors."

Psychologists have known that high levels of workplace stress lead to counterproductive work behaviors, but previous research had primarily looked at snapshots in time: an employee's response at one specific moment to his or her current level of stress. Eschleman and his colleagues wanted to know how and when employees handled changes in workplace stress, as well as whether workers' personalities affected their response.

"Maybe you don't have the opportunity to engage in these deviant behaviors right away, and you want to wait until no one is around," Eschleman said. "Or maybe you think you can cope right away, but then down the road you end up engaging in these behaviors."

That effect was especially seen in workers considered to be more "agreeable" (those who are cooperative, good-natured and trusting of the organization) or more "conscientious" (those who are ambitious, responsible and abide by ethical principles). While these individuals were less likely to engage in counterproductive behaviors initially, they were just as likely -- and the research suggests may be even more likely -- to do so later on.

Why? According to Eschleman, these workers have more "resources" available to help them cope with the increased stress, at least at first. For agreeable workers, that means there are more friends and other kinds of support to buck them up during tough times. Conscientious workers, for their part, receive more tangible benefits. Employers tend to invest money, benefits and more in employees they view as hard workers.

An effective training program, for instance, can make adjusting to a new computer system easier. Eventually, though, the added stress will win out for many: "Your personality might influence how you try to cope initially, but if things are bad for a really long time, it doesn't matter what your personality is. At the end of the day, you're going to do these deviant things," Eschleman said.

Companies should take care to tailor programs to help employees deal with stress, he added, since the research shows personality can complicate how and when employees respond.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141107134943.htm

Employees offered financial incentives were 33 times more likely to participate in wellness programs

November 7, 2014
Science Daily/Obesity Society
Employers increasingly offer financial incentives to employees for participation in wellness activities; however whether these incentives lead to improved health behaviors and outcomes is unclear. This study gathered data on adult health plan members for three years, and compared the uptake of telephone health coaching among members who received employee incentives to those who did not. Results show those offered incentives were 33 times more likely to use the health coaching, and also did so sooner.

"While the jury is still out about whether workplace wellness programs improve health, the programs have great potential," said lead author Jason Block, MD, TOS Member and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School's Department of Population Medicine. "Our goal was to evaluate what motivates people to participate in these programs and what strategies companies and insurers can use to get everyone involved. Our data show that financial incentives clearly work to motivate participation in a health coach program."

From October 2010 to July 2013, researchers led by Dr. Block gathered data on adult members of one non-profit health plan. They compared the uptake of a telephone health coaching program among the 16,961 members who received financial incentives to the 974,782 members who did not. Their research found that during the nearly 3 year follow-up period, 10% of the members with incentives began using the telephone health coaching, whereas only 0.3% of those without the incentives did so. Financial incentives were also strongly associated with how long it took members to begin using the program. Members who used the telephone health coaching typically had 6 -- 7 interactions with a coach over an average duration of four months, where they discussed their lifestyle, assessed their health situation and concerns, and worked to develop specific health goals.

"The idea of using employer incentives to participate in health coaching is relatively new," says Eric Finkelstein, PhD, MHA, an Associate Research Professor in the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University speaking on behalf of TOS. "This research gives us a solid foundation to build upon. The next step is to measure changes in these participants' health behaviors, and identify long-term success."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141107154657.htm

Obesity-related work absences are 'financial drain' for states

November 13, 2014
Science Daily/Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Obese workers miss more work days, and those absences carry high costs at the state and national level, according to a study. "Obesity-attributable absenteeism among American workers costs the nation an estimated $8.65 billion per year," report the researchers, who analyzed nationally representative data to assess obesity-attributable workdays missed due to health, and the associated costs on the state level.

"Obesity-attributable absenteeism among American workers costs the nation an estimated $8.65 billion per year," report Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD, of Yale University and colleagues. The researchers analyzed nationally representative data to assess obesity-attributable workdays missed due to health, and the associated costs on the state level.

The results showed that obese workers missed significantly more work days: an average of 1.1 to 1.7 additional absences per year, compared to normal-weight workers. There was no increase in absences for workers who were overweight but not obese.

The costs associated with obesity-related absences varied by state, mainly reflecting variations in average daily earnings. Obesity accounted for an average 9.3 percent of total absenteeism costs, ranging from 6.5 percent in the District of Columbia to 12.6 percent in Arkansas.

Obesity is associated with high direct costs for medical care, but the societal costs due to health-related work absences and reduced productivity could be even higher. Because many obesity-related policies are made on the state and local levels, it is important quantify the costs of obesity at these levels.

Dr Andreyeva and colleagues conclude, "Obesity-attributable costs of absenteeism are substantial and impose a considerate financial drain on states" Calling for further research, they add, "It is important to discuss further how these costs vary across employers, employees, and industries, and what policies prove effective in reducing productivity losses of obesity."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141113122242.htm

Check less to reduce email stress

December 3, 2014
Science Daily/University of British Columbia
Is your inbox burning you out? Then take heart -- research from the University of British Columbia suggests that easing up on email checking can help reduce psychological stress.

Some of the study's 124 adults -- including students, financial analysts medical professionals and others -- were instructed to limit checking email to three times daily for a week. Others were told to check email as often as they could (which turned out to be about the same number of times that they normally checked their email prior to the study).

These instructions were then reversed for the participants during a subsequent week. During the study period, participants also answered brief daily surveys, including information about their stress levels.

"Our findings showed that people felt less stressed when they checked their email less often," says Kostadin Kushlev, the study's lead author and a PhD candidate at UBC's Dept. of Psychology.

Changing inbox behaviour may be easier said than done, however. "Most participants in our study found it quite difficult to check their email only a few times a day," says Kushlev. "This is what makes our obvious-in-hindsight findings so striking: People find it difficult to resist the temptation of checking email, and yet resisting this temptation reduces their stress."

Kushlev's inspiration for the study came from his own experiences with email overload. "I now check my email in chunks several times a day, rather than constantly responding to messages as they come in," he says. "And I feel better and less stressed."

He also notes that organizations may help reduce employee stress by encouraging their workers to check their email in chunks rather than constantly responding to messages.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141203142644.htm

Relationship between sleep cycle, cancer found

December 3, 2014
Science Daily/Virginia Tech
People who work around the clock could actually be setting themselves back, according to biologists. A protein responsible for regulating the body's sleep cycle, or circadian rhythm, also protects the body from developing sporadic forms of cancers, researchers have found.

"The protein, known as human period 2, has impaired function in the cell when environmental factors, including sleep cycle disruption, are altered," said Carla Finkielstein, an associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Science, Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate, and a Virginia Bioinformatics Institute Fellow.

Results from these studies may help develop new, more effective prevention strategies for populations at risk due to circadian disruption, such as women working night shifts.
"These findings highlight the complexity of the circadian-controlled network and emphasize its physiological relevance for human health and for new therapeutic interventions," Finkielstein said.

"Over the past two decades we've learned a great deal about the inner workings of the circadian clock, the internal timepiece that controls our sleep:wake cycle and a whole host of other daily bodily rhythms," said Ignacio Provencio, a professor of biology at the University of Virginia who was not involved with the study. 

"The Finkielstein lab discovered that a molecular gear of this clock interacts directly with a well-studied protein whose role is to suppress tumor formation. This remarkable finding is likely to provide insight into how disruption of the internal clock can lead to cancer."

Finkielstein has long studied the connection between circadian rhythms and cancer development, particularly the incidence of breast cancer in women who work night shifts like nurses and flight attendants.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141203142432.htm

Worksite health promotion programs: Why don't people participate?

December 16, 2014
Science Daily/Taylor & Francis
Worksite health promotion (WHP) programs are designed to help identify and address health and lifestyle issues, and are offered by 40–75% of employers in Europe and the US. But research suggests that a high proportion (50–75%) of workers do not participate. Why do so many employees choose not to take part? Researchers investigated the reasons for nonparticipation, and have identified a variety of barriers.

According to the World Health Organization, workplaces are "one of the priority settings for health promotion into the 21st century." Previous studies suggest that WHP programs can enhance employees' health, offering significant physiological, behavioural and work-related benefits. However, the success of these programs is limited by the high rates of nonparticipation.

Toker, Heaney and Ein-Gar survey 1,926 university employees who had been invited to take part in a two-stage WHP programme. The first stage was an online health risk assessment (HRA) questionnaire, for which participating employees received a US$150 incentive payment. This stage had to be completed in order to move on to the second stage, a health education workshop.

The researchers focused on five employee characteristics and beliefs ("implicit barriers" to participation): age, gender, position at work, perceived personal health, and perception of organizational commitment to employees' health. They also considered "explicit barriers," which were employees' self-reported reasons for nonparticipation (e.g. lack of time, low expectations). In addition, they tied the two types of barriers to give a better understanding of nonparticipants' decision processes.

The Conservation of Resources (COR) theory was used as a framework. COR concerns the way in which individuals try to retain and protect the things they value, such as time, energy and access to information. If such resources are threatened, individuals aim to minimize losses. In the case of a WHP program, nonparticipation can be seen in terms of reducing the loss of resources, or as a response to low expectations of resource gain.

The study found a range of reasons for nonparticipation. Generally speaking, men, employees in lower occupational positions, and employees with impaired health tended to withdraw from both stages of the WHP program. Nonparticipation in the first stage -- the questionnaire -- was more common among older employees, and employees who perceive the organization as not committed, while for the second stage -- the workshop -- nonparticipation was more common among younger employees and those who were not interested in making lifestyle changes.

Toker, Heaney and Ein-Gar conclude: "Our findings suggest that organizations should not only pay attention to the potential gains that WHP programs offer but should also identify the resources that are at risk and minimize their actual and perceived potential loss."

The main practical implication is that WHP programs should be tailored to specific employee groups. This could include tailoring communication channels to particular types of employees to ensure full awareness of the programs. Employees' fears about confidentiality in completing the online questionnaire could be addressed by providing reassurance on anonymity. Having a designated health educator could help in encouraging participation from those employees who need the programme most (namely those with impaired health) but who are less likely to take part.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141216082448.htm

Insomnia can predict the appearance of back pain in adults

December 17, 2014
Science Daily/University of Haifa
Insomnia can predict the appearance of back pain in adults, researchers suggest. Back pain is a very common ailment: Between 60% to 80% of the adult population will suffer from it at some point in their lives. Moreover, back pain is the single most costly condition in terms of total workers' compensation costs. The reasons for back pain are varied, though experts say that some 90% of those suffering from it have no identifiable cause.

"After controlling for a range of variables, including socioeconomic status and lifestyle issues, we came to the conclusion that insomnia is a marker for the increased risk of back pain, though the reverse is not the case," say researchers Dr. Maayan Agmon, of the University of Haifa's Cheryl Spencer Department of Nursing, and Dr. Galit Armon of the Department of Psychology. The study was conducted in cooperation with Prof. Shlomo Berliner and Prof. Itzhak Shapira of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov).

Back pain is a very common ailment: Between 60% to 80% of the adult population will suffer from it at some point in their lives. Moreover, back pain is the single most costly condition in terms of total workers' compensation costs; for example, in Europe, it accounts for 0.5%-2% of the gross domestic product. The reasons for back pain are varied, though experts say that some 90% of those suffering from it have no identifiable cause.

But some 50% of back-pain sufferers also complain of insomnia, which is defined as difficulty initiating and/or maintaining sleep, prolonged awakening during the night, or waking up too early in the morning for more than a one-month period. It is known that insomnia increases a person's sensitivity to pain and that those suffering from it are liable to suffer from spontaneous pain more often and with more intensity compared to others, but this study is the first to show a direct connection between insomnia and back pain.

The subjects of the study were self-reported healthy, working adults who come to Sourasky Medical Center for routine periodic health exams; a total of 2,131 people were examined between January 2003 and December 2011 at three different junctures. The subjects were an average of 46.2 years of age, with 15.8 years of schooling, who worked an average of 9.6 hours a day. The large scope of the study was one of its clear advantages, as were the heterogeneous sample, the fact that those with health problems were weeded out and not included in the final results, and the lengthy period over which the study was conducted.

Diagnosing the subjects' back pain was done using two criteria: Confirmation of the patient's medical record by a doctors' examination at least once during the previous 12 months, and interviews confirming consistency of back pain for at least three months. It was found that the chances of those suffering from insomnia to also suffer from back pain were nearly 150% greater than among those whose sleep was regular. Among women, the correlation between insomnia and back pain was even higher.

"This comprehensive study, that took place over such a long period of time, is the correct way to demonstrate the link between these two common medical phenomena," the researchers said. "We examined healthy, employed adults, over three periods of time. After controlling for variables like socioeconomic status, lifestyle, and more, we arrived at the conclusion that insomnia is a predicting factor for back pain, though the reverse is not the case.

"The reason for this is not yet known, but it's possible that the link between the two conditions stems from a third biological factor that we haven't yet succeeded in identifying," they continued. "One possible link is stress; people suffering from insomnia generally describe their lives as stressful, so it's almost certain that they would suffer from chronic restlessness that will increase muscle tension and reduce the number of micro-pauses in muscle activity, which leads to back pain."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141217074152.htm

Long working hours linked to increased risky alcohol use

January 13, 2015
Science Daily/BMJ-British Medical Journal
Employees who work more than 48 hours per week are more likely to engage in risky alcohol consumption than those who work standard weeks, finds a new study. Risky alcohol consumption is considered as more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men. It is believed to increase risk of adverse health problems, including liver diseases, cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and mental disorders.
http://images.sciencedaily.com/2015/01/150113204339-large.jpg

In order to protect the health and safety of the workforce, the European Union Working Time Directive (EUWT) ensures that workers in EU countries have the right to work no more than 48 hours a week, including overtime. But many people, for example well educated managers and professionals work much longer hours to achieve faster promotions, salary increases, and more control over work and employment.

Previous research has found a link between working longer hours and risky alcohol consumption, but this has involved only small, tentative studies. While alcohol may help to ease the stress of working long periods of time, risky consumption is also associated with difficulties in the workplace, including increased sick leave, poor performance, impaired decision making and occupational injuries.

Marianna Virtanen and colleagues here provide the first systematic analysis on the association between long working hoursand alcohol use.

In a cross sectional analysis of 333,693 people in 14 countries, they found that longer working hours increased the likelihood of higher alcohol use by 11%. A prospective analysis found a similar increase in risk of 12% for onset of risky alcohol use in 100,602 people from 9 countries.

Individual participant data from 18 prospective studies showed that those who worked 49-54 hours and 55 hours per week or more were found to have an increased risk of 13% and 12% respectively of risky alcohol consumption compared with those who worked 35-40 hours per week.

The authors point out that no differences were seen between men and women or by age, socioeconomic status or region.

Although, in absolute terms, the difference between the groups was relatively small, the authors argue that any exposure with avoidable increases in disease or health damaging behaviour, or both, warrants careful examination.

The findings also provide support for the recommended 48 hours per week as enforced by the EUWT.

"The workplace is an important setting for the prevention of alcohol misuse, because more than half of the adult population are employed," write the team of researchers. "Further research is needed to assess whether preventive interventions against risky alcohol use could benefit from information on working hours."

In an accompanying editorial, Cassandra A Okechukwu, an Assistant Professor at Harvard School of Public Health, US, writes that the results have implications for exceptions to recommended weekly working hours, which could lead to more alcohol consumption and greater health risks for millions of people. She suggests that the regulation of working hours could constitute a public health intervention and concludes: "Given mounting pressure to exclude an increasing proportion of workers from current standards that limit working hours in Europe and other developed countries, long working hours is an exposure that we cannot afford to ignore."

Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150113204339.htm

Workplace bullying a vicious circle

February 17, 2015
Science Daily/University of East Anglia
Bullying at work grinds victims down and makes them an 'easy target' for further abuse according to new research. The research suggests that employers should not only crack down on workplace bullies, but also help victims gain the skills to cope with difficult situations.

A study published today reveals a 'spiral' of abuse in which the victims of bullying become anxious, leaving them less able to stand up for themselves and more vulnerable to further harassment.

The research suggests that employers should not only crack down on workplace bullies, but also help victims gain the skills to cope with difficult situations.

Dr Ana Sanz Vergel, from UEA's Norwich Business School, said: "This study shows that the relationship between workplace bullying and the psychological impact on victims is much more complex than expected.

"Examples of Bullying at work include harassing, offending, or socially excluding someone repeatedly over a period of around six months.

"Workplace bullying leads to poor health because the victim is exposed to a very stressful situation - resulting in anxiety and lack of vigour. We wanted to see whether deteriorated health could make the employee an easy target for bullying. For example, the victim may have less energy to respond to difficult situations and therefore receive less support from colleagues or supervisors.

"Another explanation is the so-called 'gloomy perception mechanism' in which anxious employees may evaluate their environment more negatively."

The research team, which included colleagues from the Complutense University and Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain, tested their theory on 348 Spanish employees. Participants were interviewed about their experiences of bullying and assessed for anxiety and vigour.

Dr Sanz Vergel said: "We found that being exposed to workplace bullying leads to deteriorated mental health and decreased well-being. But at the same time, showing anxious behaviour puts the victim in a weak position and makes them an easy target - leading to a spiral of abuse.

"We are by no means victim-blaming here. Clearly employers need to have strong policies against workplace bullying. But training programmes to help victims learn coping mechanisms could help to break the vicious cycle."
Science Daily/SOURCE : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150217083930.htm

Workplace negativity can hurt productivity

February 25, 2015
Science Daily/Michigan State University
Employees who point out problems in the office may help the company improve, but could be hurting themselves in the process. Such negative-minded workers are more likely to become mentally fatigued and defensive and experience a drop-off in production, according to a first-of-its-kind study.

Suggesting ideas for improvement, on the other hand, can have a positive effect.
While both behaviors can help a company, it's important that workers find a balance between the two, suggests Russell Johnson, a management professor who co-authored the study with doctoral student Szu-Han Lin. The findings are published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

"The moral of this story is not that we want people to stop raising concerns within the company, because that can be extremely beneficial," Johnson said. "But constantly focusing on the negative can have a detrimental effect on the individual."

With a background in organizational psychology, Johnson investigates the well-being and motivation of today's worker. His research, which ranges in scope from the effects of nighttime smartphone use to the downside of being a fair boss, has implications for both employee quality of life and company success.

The current research is the first to examine the effects of positive and negative workplace suggestions on the individual engaged in the behavior. The study involved two field surveys of more than 300 total workers in a variety of occupations such as accounting, retail, manufacturing and health care.

Johnson said workers who regularly point out problems or errors might be mentally fatigued because this often means they're highlighting other workers' shortcomings and causing tension in these relationships.

"The irony of that is, when people are mentally fatigued they're less likely to point out problems anymore," Johnson said. "In addition, their own work performance suffers, they're less likely to be cooperative and helpful, and they even exhibit deviant behaviors such as being verbally abusive and stealing from the employer."

Johnson suggests companies consider rewarding employees who point out problems that lead to improvements. "In that case, maybe other employees would be more accepting of someone pointing out errors if they know this is what the company wants them to do -- that the person isn't acting outside the norm."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150225094315.htm

Workplace lifestyle intervention program improves health

March 6, 2015
Science Daily/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
A healthy lifestyle intervention program administered at the workplace significantly reduces risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, according to a new study.

The program was well-received by participants at Bayer Corp., who lost weight and increased the amount of physical activity they got each day, when compared with a control group in the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

"Health care expenditures associated with diabetes are spiraling, causing widespread concern, particularly for employers who worry about employee health and productivity," said lead author M. Kaye Kramer, Dr.P.H., assistant professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology and director of the school's Diabetes Prevention Support Center. "This leads to an interest in workplace health promotion; however, there are very few evidence-based programs that actually demonstrate improvement in employee health. This study found that our program not only improves health, but also that employees really like it."

This demonstration program is based on the U.S. Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a national study that found people at risk for diabetes who lost a modest amount of weight through diet and exercise sharply reduced their chances of developing diabetes, outperforming people who took a diabetes drug instead.

Dr. Kramer and colleagues built on the DPP to create a group-based program that puts the findings into practice, called Group Lifestyle Balance™. The program is divided into 22 sessions over a one-year period and aimed at helping people make lifestyle changes to improve health. The sessions can be done as a group with a lifestyle coach or through a DVD coupled with brief weekly phone or, in certain cases, email consultations with the lifestyle coach. The option of the DVD with lifestyle coach support not only served as the main intervention option for those employees who traveled or who did not want to participate in the program in a group venue but also offered a valuable replacement for employees who chose to participate via group setting but had to miss an occasional session.

"Our Group Lifestyle Balance program has proven successful in diverse community settings, so we adapted it for the workplace since we found that there was a real need for effective programs that could fit into people's work lives," said senior author Andrea Kriska, Ph.D., professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology and principal investigator of the study. "This current effort in the worksite shows clearly that a proven healthy lifestyle program, like the Group Lifestyle Balance program, offered to people where they work is not only feasible but effective in reducing risk factors for diabetes and heart disease for participating employees."

A total of 89 employees at Bayer Corp. in Robinson Township, Pa., who were at risk for diabetes or heart disease were enrolled in the demonstration program in the fall of 2010 and followed for 18 months.

Over the course of a year, participants lost an average of 5 percent of their body weight (10 pounds), shrunk their waistlines by about 2 inches and brought down the levels of fat and sugar in their blood -- all measures that reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. They also increased their physical activity by almost twofold.

Of the participants, 96 percent said they felt it was beneficial to offer the program at the worksite, and 99 percent said they would recommend it to their co-workers.

"The positive results that employees experienced from this lifestyle program speak to the benefits of personalized health programs in the workplace," said Phil Franklin, M.D., U.S. corporate medical director, Bayer Corp. "I would like to congratulate the University of Pittsburgh researchers on the study."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150306102501.htm

New work schedule could cure your 'social jetlag'

March 12, 2015
Science Daily/Cell Press
Many of us are walking around all the time in a fog caused by 'social jetlag.' That's what happens when we lose sleep because our daily schedules don't match our bodies' natural rhythms. The condition can be a particular problem for shift workers, who work into the night or on a shifting schedule. Now, researchers report that sleep and workers' wellbeing could be improved if schedules took workers' biological clocks into account.

"A 'simple' re-organization of shifts according to chronotype allowed workers to sleep more on workday nights," says Till Roenneberg of Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Germany. "As a consequence, they were also able to sleep less on their free days due to a decreased need for compensating an accumulating sleep loss. This is a double-win situation."

Such a change might have other long-term health implications, too, although that remains to be seen. An earlier report by Roenneberg's team, also in Current Biology, showed a link between social jetlag and obesity, along with other unhealthy habits, including smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol and caffeine.

The researchers got the chance to implement their ideas about sleep and work schedules in a real-world factory setting thanks to a former labor director at ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe. He was interested in finding ways to improve workers' health and lower their stress.

Factory workers were assigned to an early, late, or intermediate chronotype based on their normal sleep patterns. The researchers then implemented a chronotype-adjusted ("CTA") shift schedule. People with chronotypes on either extreme weren't assigned to the shift that would be the most challenging for them. In other words, morning people were never made to work late and night owls were never forced to get up early for work. Those with an intermediate chronotype served as controls. With the new schedule in place, the researchers watched what happened to the workers' sleep duration and quality, social jetlag, wellbeing, subjective stress perception, and satisfaction with leisure time.

With those adjusted schedules, people felt more satisfied with the sleep they did get and experienced slight improvements in their general wellbeing. It also reduced social jetlag--the difference between the midpoint of workers' sleep on work versus free days--by one hour. The improvements weren't as great for those who naturally prefer to stay up late, they found, which shows that night work is hard on everyone. After all, Roenneberg says, even people who like to stay up late aren't nocturnal.

While the new findings weren't exactly a surprise, Roenneberg says, it was still "utterly satisfying to find that theory actually works in the real and 'dirty' world. In so many cases it doesn't."

The findings also show that flexible work schedules aren't just more convenient, they can really make a difference in the way we feel, and perhaps also for our long-term health. To further explore the connections between shift work and health, the researchers are conducting experiments designed to replicate what they've seen in their field and epidemiological studies in laboratory mice. They hope the evidence will ultimately lead to changes in work cultures and in the way people generally choose to manage their time.

"We know that sleep has important implications not only on physical health but also on mood, stress, and social interactions, so that improving sleep will most probably result in many other positive side effects," says Céline Vetter, the first author of the study.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150312123308.htm

Workplace-based wellness programs reduce weight

March 30, 2015
Science Daily/University of Rochester Medical Center
Workplace wellness programs can be effective in helping people lose weight by providing healthier food choices and increasing opportunities for physical activity, particularly if these efforts are designed with the input and active participation of employees, a new study confirms. The two-year project successfully reduced the number or people considered overweight or obese by almost 9 percent.

"Worksites are self-contained environments with established communication systems where interventions that modify food options and provide physical activity have the potential to reach large numbers of adults," said Diana Fernandez, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Department of Public Health Sciences and lead author of the study. "This study shows in particular that when employees are empowered to help shape wellness programs, these programs appear to result in meaningful improvements in health."

Americans spend on average a third of their lives at work. Work-related stress, the sedentary nature of many office jobs, and the temptation to dip into the bowl of candy on a co-worker's desk or raid the vending machine for a bag of chips can all contribute to weight gain.

In recent years, many companies have established wellness programs in an effort to improve productivity, decrease absenteeism, and reduce health insurance costs. Recent surveys by the Rand Corporation and the Kaiser Family Foundation estimate that as many as half of U.S. firms have wellness programs or incentivize healthy behavior. While studies have indicated that these programs can reduce employees' health risk and potentially slow the growth of health care costs, the impact of these approaches on obesity rates has not been studied in depth.

It is estimated that 68 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Reducing obesity rates -- through changing diets and increasing physical activity -- is a key target for public health policy as it places individuals at greater risk for conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers worked with a Rochester-based company with sites throughout the Northeastern U.S. Ten different sites were randomized into two groups and the study examined a total of 3,799 individuals. The researchers worked with management and employees in the intervention group to establish workplace programs that focused on healthy eating and increasing physical activity. The control group did not receive any intervention.

In each of the intervention sites, the researchers and the company established employee advisory boards to help them better understand the particular worksite's culture and determine which approaches would be appropriate and well-received. The authors point to employee involvement as a key factor in driving broader participation.

Dietitians met with cafeteria managers to help them modify recipes so that the same meals could be prepared with fewer calories or in smaller portions. Employees who made healthy choices at the cafeteria or the vending machine were rewarded with free meals. They also organized workshops that shared healthy recipes for the home, especially before and during the holidays.

Physical activity programs varied depending upon the worksite. Some sites marked out walking routes or organized walking clubs or other outdoor activities, such as Frisbee golf or bocce, during breaks. Locations with gym facilities were upgraded and staff held tours, promotions, and competitions to encourage usage.

To measure the effectiveness of these changes, the researchers measured the body mass index (BMI) of employees at the beginning and the end of the two-year program. BMI is a calculation that takes into account weight and height. A person with a BMI of more than 25 is considered to be overweight and a score of greater than 30 is considered obese.

At the end of the study period, the number of employees in the control site who were overweight/obese increased by about 5 percent, while the number in the intervention group had decreased by 4 percent resulting in a net difference of 9 percent.

"This study suggests that worksite environmental interventions might be promising strategies for weight control at the population level," said Fernandez. "These observations lend support to the approaches that might eventually reduce the incidence and prevalence of overweight and obesity on a larger scale."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150330122534.htm

Managers: Motivating the employee willing to go the extra mile

April 6, 2015
Science Daily/University of Iowa
Managers can improve their work teams' performance by focusing their motivation efforts on that "extra miler" instead of trying to motivate everyone equally. A new study finds that teams function better when the team member who shows the most willingness to go above and beyond their job description -- whom the researchers dub the extra miler -- is in a more central position in the workflow where they come into contact with as many teammates as possible.

We all know that person at work who goes above and beyond their job description, who puts in a little extra effort and makes it easier for everyone. A new study from the University of Iowa suggests managers can improve their work teams' performance by focusing their motivation efforts on that "extra miler" instead of trying to motivate everyone equally.

The study finds that teams function better when the team member who shows the most willingness to go above and beyond their job description -- whom the researchers dub the extra miler -- is in a more central position in the workflow where they come into contact with as many teammates as possible.

A more strategically placed extra miler, the study suggests, improves team dynamics and performance.

"The extra miler has more of an influence in the center because they have more contact with other workers and because others can see what they're doing," says lead researcher Ning Li, professor of management sciences in the Tippie College of Business. "Through this role modeling, everyone on the team becomes better. If the extra miler is on the periphery, they don't come into contact with as many team members and nobody notices them."

Li and his researchers studied 87 teams of laborers at a petroleum plant with an average number of 8 workers per team. They identified the extra miler in each team through interviews with peers, and the top performing teams through interviews with managers.

They found that extra milers typically went the extra mile by showing two behaviors -- helping and voice. Li says helping behavior means they physically assist other workers with their jobs, for instance, if they're overwhelmed, or out sick. Voice behavior means they provide leadership by speaking up to make constructive changes that provide a better work flow, or work with management to make the job easier for the workers.

They then looked at where the extra miler was located in each team's workflow network -- were they in a place that required they come into contact with many other team members, or were they relatively isolated and came in contact with fewer co-workers?

The researchers found that in the teams rated highest by the managers, the extra miler was more centrally located in the workflow and had frequent contact with other team members. In teams that rated lower, the extra miler was on the periphery.

Li says the higher performing teams in the study typically had such outcomes as a more balanced work load, more self-developed solutions to team challenges, and less direction from management.

He says the study shows that managers should organize work teams based on the individual characteristics of the team members, and not just treat workers as interchangeable.
"It demonstrates that you need to pay attention to key players in a team because some of them are more important than others," he says. "Management can rely on the extra miler to have a positive impact on the team and know that person will help to manage the team."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150406120905.htm

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