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  • Esther Orioli 11:28 am on April 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Study: Millennials are more stressed than older generations 

    Milliennials experience higher levels of stress than other generations.

    The world that Generation Y came of age in is certainly different than that of their parents and grandparents, and this influences many things for them, including their stress levels. According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Association (APA), Millennials – individuals currently in their 20s and early 30s – are more stressed than any other age group. On a 10-point scale where 1 means very little stress and 10 means "a great deal of stress," the average of all American adults is 4.9. For Millennnials, however, it's 5.4.

    "Younger people do tend to be more stressed than older people do," Mike Hais, a market researcher and co-author of two books on that generation, including 2011's Millennial Momentum, told USA TODAY.  "It may be they are more willing to admit to it. It may be a phase of life."

    Other key findings of the study include:

    • 39 percent of Millennials say that their stress levels have increased in the past year 
    • 52 percent of young adults say that stress has kept them awake at night at least once in the past month
    • The top sources of stress for Milliennials   are work (76 percent), money (73 percent) and relationships (59 percent)
    • More than any other age group, Milliennials report being told by a health care provider that they have either depression or an anxiety disorder.

    Employers looking to help Milliennials with stress need to provide technology solutions that include personal assessment and behavior change. Most importantly, to be successful any stress or resiliency program should give individuals the choice to focus on the things they are most interested in improving, rather than dictating what they work on. When it comes to managing stressors and building resiliency, like so many things, self-interest drives behavior.

  • Esther Orioli 11:25 am on April 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    EQ becoming increasingly important at international firms 

    Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a key leadership trait.

    In a recent post we discussed a Gallup study that found that majority of companies pick the wrong members of a team to take a managerial or leadership position. Businesses often make the mistake of placing a disproportionate amount of importance on a person's experience and hard skills rather than their ability to lead. 

    While the Gallup study focused on companies in the United States, the same issue is plaguing firms in India, according to Live Mint, an Indian newspaper affiliated with The Wall Street Journal. Many of the human resources and leadership professionals interviewed by the source said companies in India have been slow to screen applicants for emotional intelligence (EQ). A few firms, however, are discovering that EQ is a critical skill for good leader. 

    "It's a competency. It is about understanding what you are feeling and what others are feeling," Pratap Nambiar, director of Leadership Circle India told the source. "It essentially includes things like empathy, compassion. It is like the elephant in the room, it is always there. When your emotion gets the better of you it means that you will do something that you will regret later."

    The key challenge for companies is finding candidates with just the right amount of experience and essential leadership characteristics. 

    Being a great leader involves more than having extensive knowledge about a subject or organization. Managers must also harness the power and acumen of their emotions, and use them as a source of energy, information, and connection, to inspire their teams and lead by example. The key challenge for companies is finding and promoting people who have just the right blend of experience and essential EQ competencies for leadership. Fortunately, EQ is a skill that can be measured and developed and that makes for a much bigger pool of candidates.

  • Esther Orioli 6:06 am on April 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    The Big Lie – Health and Wellness Programs Address Stress 

    While many organizations believe their Health and Wellness programs
take care of employee stress, surveys report stress is a bigger, and more expensive, problem than ever.

    As a stress and resiliency analytics expert working with global organizations, I feel compelled to talk about one of the greatest myths in the workplace that's costing U.S. employers $300 billion* annually.

    Everywhere I go, when I ask company leaders what they are doing to address employee stress, I hear the same thing, "Oh we offer a health and wellness program to all our people and it handles stress."

    There's the lie. Not intentional, but misleading nonetheless. Because if companies were doing a good job with stress, then their people would be healthier, more productive, more attentive and able to harness their creative energies. Instead:

    • Stress is (still) the number one workforce risk issue in the workplace globally. It ranked above lack of physical activity and obesity. In fact, it ranked higher than smoking, substance abuse and poor nutrition.**
    • Nearly eight in 10 (78%) companies identify stress as a top workforce risk issue, but employers and employees have vastly different opinions on the causes.**
    • Only 15% of employers identify improving the emotional/mental health (i.e., lessening the stress and anxiety) of employees as a top priority of their health and productivity programs.**
    • Some 83% of American workers say they feel stressed out by their jobs, up from 73% in 2012***

    Companies hope that employee stress is being handled by the health and wellness programs they already offer. Not so. Despite decades of traditional health and wellness programs targeting what's known as The Big Four of Health Promotion: nutrition, weight control, exercise, and smoking cessation, stress is a bigger issue than ever. And the skyrocketing healthcare costs associated with obesity, inactivity, stress related illness, and other expensive problems like depression and anxiety, are often outcomes of poor stress management, rather than root causes. That's how companies end up spending big bucks treating symptoms. It's like an exterminator who removes the mice but doesn't patch the hole where they got in. So after forty years of these types of programs being in place, stress is still a big workplace issue. A pervasive, expensive, "but what can we do about it?" problem.

    So what are they doing wrong? First, they lump stress under the health and wellness category, and focus on the physical symptoms, with little regard for its unique, contributory facets to productivity, overall performance, engagement, and poor interactional patterns of decision making, communications, and motivation.

    Another important thing they do wrong is to ignore the majority of their population that current day health and wellness programs are not addressing. How do The Big Four programs help healthy weight, physically fit, non-smoking employees who have a lot of stress? They don't.

    Further, stress contributes greatly to employee disengagement, a workplace issue costing U.S. businesses $450 to $550 billion per year, according to Gallup Inc.'s 2013 State of the Global Workplace survey. And that's also not being addressed by health and wellness programs.

    It's critical, and way overdue, for organizations to look at workplace solutions that specifically target stress and build resiliency. If they continue to ignore stress in all of its forms, emotional, mental, and behavioral, in addition to the physical, or to shove it under the catch-all of health and wellness, their healthcare costs will continue to rise, overall performance will drop and talent will leave. Most frustratingly, people will continue to suffer from this measurable and manageable current day issue. And you'll read about this again in next year's studies.

    *World Health Organization
    **2013/2014 Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey, conducted by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health
    *** 2013 Work Stress Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for Everest College

  • Esther Orioli 2:30 pm on April 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Study: Fear and technology keep Americans from taking paid time off 

    According to the survey, most American workers are not using all of their paid time off.

    American workers only use half of their annual paid vacation, according to a recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the career website Glassdoor. More alarmingly, 61 percent of the individuals polled said that they continue to work during their vacations, despite complaints from their family members.

    According to the survey, 85 percent of employees reported taking at least one day off in the past 12 months, leaving 15 percent who worked through the entire year. Taking time off doesn't necessarily equate to relaxation either. "It's clear the word vacation among employers and employees doesn't mean what it did in the past," said Rusty Rueff, Glassdoor career and workplace expert, in a press release. "Before technology allowed us to be connected 24/7, we were more likely to have actually 'vacated' our work for a couple of weeks a year, but now, it appears one full day away is a luxury."

    Some workers told Glassdoor that that they didn't take time off because they are afraid of getting behind. Others said that they were afraid of not meeting organizational goals.

    At Essi Systems, as stress and resiliency  experts, we find the results of these studies confirm what we've seen frequently in our work with organizations. . Without vacation there's no break from the day-to-day stressors of work, no downtime for the body and mind to rejuvenate. People's ability to stay adaptable, engaged, and energetic is severely diminished, leading directly to burnout. And when stress levels rise, the bottom line suffers to the tune of $300 billion dollars every year.  With employees still reporting stress as their #1 issue on workplace surveys, it seems everyone would benefit from unplugging and tapping into a little R&R.

  • Esther Orioli 9:29 am on April 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    High turnover, low engagement plague businesses with low EQ managers 

    Managers with higher EQ benefit the bottom line of organizations.

    A growing body of research suggests that workplaces are in dire need of managers with high emotional intelligence (EQ). While it's a common practice for companies to choose managers based on their tenure or their technical abilities, with no focus on skills like emotional intelligence, a 2013 study from University College London (UCL) found that manager EQ is an important indicator of employee engagement and performance. The researchers found that managers with lower EQ scores were more likely to have higher levels of staff absenteeism and turnover.

    And the same holds true for employee engagement, a critical component to business results according to Gallup Inc.'s 2013 State of the Global Workplace survey. The survey, which included 1.4 million employees, found that employee engagement affected customer ratings, profitability, productivity, turnover, safety incidents, absenteeism and theft — adding up to an estimated $300 billion in lost revenue every year. Furthermore, the survey cited that nationwide, only 30 percent of U.S. employees are engaged. In addition, according to the survey businesses pick the wrong candidate for a management position 80 percent of the time. With low EQ managers in charge, employee engagement drops.

    Clearly organizations need to prioritize building the EQ skills of their managers and, as UCL psychology professor Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic pointed out in his article for the magazine Chief Learning Officer, while EQ is an inherent trait, it can also be improved.

    "There is no single solution to the problem of bad bosses," Chamorro-Premuzic wrote. "However, by shifting an organization's hiring and promotion practices to focus on identifying candidates and incumbents with higher emotional intelligence, providing coaching for low-EQ managers who are willing to […], leaders can enable organizations to reduce the number of bad managers, increase staff morale, and become more effective, innovative and profitable."

    The good news for companies is that EQ is a skill that can be measured and developed.

    Essi Systems' EQ Map gives organizations a business-proven assessment that helps leaders pinpoint problem areas, develop EQ competencies and target improvements to increase the engagement and performance of their teams.

  • Esther Orioli 8:41 am on April 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Workplace stress becoming a growing problem in New Zealand 

    New Zealanders are experiencing  high levels of workplace stress.

    Stress, and the symptoms of it, is still the main problem reported by workers around the globe. Studies show that the problem is getting worse, and most companies still don't know how to address it. Workspace solution provider, Regus, recently conducted a global study of over 11,000 corporations across 95 countries and found that many employers have experienced a significant rise in worker stress levels.

    According to the survey, one place where this issue is particularly prevalent is New Zealand, where 60 percent of respondents from that country said they were experiencing more stress-related illnesses at work. Common conditions included headaches and panic attacks. One third also said that they were having trouble sleeping because they were worried about job security.

    Employment lawyer Jennifer Mills told the New Zealand news publication Stuff that the survey's findings reflected what she had heard from some clients. She said that in many companies the lines between work and personal life often become blurred, but this doesn't mean that employers should just allow such situations to continue. 

    "When employee stress is as prevalent as is indicated by the study, it is easy to see how many employers would put employee stress in the 'too hard basket' and assert that a certain amount of stress [...] is simply part and parcel of a modern day working relationship," Mills told the source. 

    Rather than ignoring stress while still paying the bottom-line price for it, with increased healthcare costs and decreased performance, organizations need to directly target it through assessment and behavior change efforts. There are solutions. Companies just have to be willing, and motivated, to embrace them.

  • Esther Orioli 6:43 am on April 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    ‘Work-more’ economy leads to burnout and flight of top performers 

    Understaffed workplaces are a major cause of employee stress.

    The Great Recession was a contradictory period for many businesses. While some companies were forced to lay off many of their employees, others saw record profits. These "lean-and-mean" workforces toiled to keep their companies afloat. Although the economy has improved, some businesses are choosing to keep their staffs smaller, but such actions may be detrimental to employees and the organization itself.

    In 2012, Workforce Magazine coined the term "work-more economy" to describe the phenomenon of businesses expecting employees to do more with less. This often involves workers wearing multiple hats, staying in the office for longer hours and taking on leadership roles that they may not be suited for. Not surprisingly, this situation has put employees under a significant amount of stress. John Bremen, a managing director at Towers Watson, said the squeeze put on employees has led to a U.S. workforce that is "maxed out."

    According to a 2013 study conducted by Towers Watson, employees rank inadequate staffing as their number one cause of stress. The analysis also found that employers and employees don't seem to be on the same page about this issue.

    "Only inadequate staffing is ranked in the top three causes of stress from both employer and employee points of view," the report states. "Based on 10 drivers of workforce stress, employees ranked lack of work/life balance fifth, while employers ranked it first. Furthermore, employees ranked low pay or low pay increases as their second-biggest source of stress,  while employers ranked it ninth."

    Studies like these point to the urgent need for organizations to address stress, and the issues behind it, as a critical component for staying profitable and retaining top talent.

  • Esther Orioli 6:18 am on March 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Emotional Intelligence is a key trait for managers 

    The key to choosing effective and engaging managers lies in the arena of emotional intelligence.

    What qualifies someone to take on a management position? Their years of experience with a company? Their personality? A new Gallup analysis has found that many companies choose the wrong candidate when they name a manager. In fact, the study determined that businesses only pick the right person for a position about 20 percent of the time. 

    Good managers are key to a company's success. They need to inspire their team members to be productive and be able to identify issues regarding stress or wellness before they get out of hand. But as noted by the Gallup study, bad managers are the norm in most organizations, and can result in billions of dollars being lost each year. 

    Writing a guest column in the Harvard Business Review, Gallup researchers Randall Beck and James Harter said organizations need to prioritize finding and hiring effective managers. 

    "Companies should systematically demand that every team within their workforce have a great manager," Beck and Harter wrote. "After all, the root of performance variability lies within human nature itself. Teams are composed of individuals with diverging needs related to morale, motivation, and clarity—all of which lead to varying degrees of performance. Nothing less than great managers can maximize them."

    According to Gallup's research, the most effective managers possess all of the following characteristics:

    • They are assertive enough to drive outcomes and overcome resistance
    • They base their decisions on productivity, not politics
    • They build relationships based on trust and full transparency 
    • They can motivate every employee on their team with a compelling vision
    • They create a culture of clear accountability.

    Gallup found that about one in 10 people possess all of the necessary traits to be a good manager. Most large companies have one manager for every 10 employees. It's likely that plenty of good managers are already in an organization, but they're currently in the wrong position. 

    The key to choosing effective and engaging managers lies in the arena of emotional intelligence (EQ). Individuals with high EQ have the resilience to perform under pressure, the competencies to build trusting relationships, the courage to make decisions and the vision to create future success.

    EQ is a skill that can be measured and improved. Many organizations have used Essi Systems' EQ Map to assess the emotional intelligence of their leaders. EQ Map is a scientifically sound, business-proven assessment that directly measures hard-to-gauge factors, like resiliency and emotional intelligence, so companies can pinpoint hotspots and target improvements to increase the performance and engagement of their leaders. When it comes to choosing the right person to manage others, knowing and developing their EQ strengths and vulnerabilities is critical to successful, sustainable outcomes.

  • Esther Orioli 5:03 am on March 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Workplace stress can hurt heart health 

    Healthy heart habits are important.

    Employee stress can hurt productivity, cause arguments and damage health. One particularly alarming side effect is increased risk of heart attack: according to research from the Harvard Medical School, it can severely impact female cardiovascular risk and decrease lifespan.

    The study, which was conducted over the course of the last decade, looked at survey and medical data for over 17,000 enrolled women, all in their 50s or early 60s. It found that those who were strained at work by having to perform either rigorously or quickly were 88 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 43 percent more likely to need some form of heart surgery. Excess duties and constant deadlines are consistently correlated with the presence of stress, which can also be the catalyst for other unhealthy activities like drinking and poor diet. 

    This particular study was both interesting and worthwhile because it focused its efforts entirely on women in the workplace. While most previous research has been male-driven, women face just as much stress in their jobs as men, and understanding how it affects their particular health concerns is an important part of providing the best possible care. 

    Because stress is a life energy force in the body, and part of our everyday living, rather than trying to eliminate it the focus should be on how to manage stressors and cultivate resiliency. When it comes to the workplace, giving people the tools they need to assess their stress and build resiliency is not just good business, it could also wind up saving their lives. 

  • Esther Orioli 5:03 am on March 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Health and Safety workers could be overlooking stress 

    Is your company risking negative effects from stress?

    When it comes to occupational hazards, physical ones are often obvious. If somebody comes into the office or onto the worksite with their arm in a sling, it's a clear indicator they've been under duress and experienced an injury.

    Mental and emotional difficulties, from the effects of stress, are more insidious. Because they don't have the same obvious symptoms, it's much easier for them to go casually unnoticed. According to a survey by MySafetySign, that exact issue is a problem in the health and safety occupations. 

    The company, which describes its mission as creating signage that is effective as possible in order to save lives, surveyed nearly 500 individuals responsible for their organizational safety practices. What they found was that not only was stress considered to be a problem within those companies, it was one that was going unaddressed: 24 percent cited stress as the main hazard that went unnoticed, a greater percentage than any other risk.

    What's even more telling is that the next two risks cited as overlooked, overwork and the perils of working alone, also have strong psychosocial connections. In fact, they might be thought of as contributors to employee stress rather than separate issues entirely, especially considering that they likely feed into the same workplace difficulties. Eight percent of respondents also cited bullying as an under-addressed issue, perhaps another potential sign that negative stress is hurting these organizations and their productivity. 

    Nellie Brown, Director of Cornell University's Workplace Health and Safety Program, commented on the study. 

    "Stress is an emotional strain which can exist short term and long term. Demands on specific quality goals, production output, and incentive programs can often lead to under-reporting of stress. Workers should address the emotional strain earlier rather than later. Waiting can often be more detrimental and lead to more severe problems for both the employee and the company," says Brown. 

    The prevalence of stress-related accidents, injuries and impaired job performance in the workplace issue suggests that most organizations would benefit from implementing stress and resiliency programs for their employees. 

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