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  • 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. 

     
  • Esther Orioli 8:08 am on March 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Research highlights link between emotional intelligence and performance 

    When you're in the zone, productivity is easy.

    The ability of some musicians and athletes to get into a high-performance "zone" has been a subject of debate for some years now. However, a new study out of the University of London is helping to shed some light on that process. 

    Researchers found that there is a correlation between those musicians who are able to get into the "zone" and those who exhibit high degrees of emotional intelligence. Through analyzing emotional responses, they were able to note the presence of a state known as "flow," associated with health, well-being, fulfillment and high performance. 

    These findings are important, of course, because that state is extremely desirable. Performers work very diligently to cultivate this sort of ability, and teachers have long sought the ability to communicate how to achieve it. 

    This correlation isn't just limited to musicians and athletes, either. Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya, who led the study, surmised that that the results found had effects that ranged beyond those particular arenas.

    "What is really interesting here is what this can tell us about 'flow' in general. If the ability to experience flow depends on both individual differences amongst pianists and genres of music, how can we apply this in other contexts such as sports or even in the workplace?" Bhattacharya muses. 

    These studies show what experts in emotional intelligence have been touting for years. When it comes to doing well and achieving "flow," emotional intelligence or EQ is the true stuff of success. The good news? EQ is a skill that can be learned and improved! Organizations looking for competitive advantage and bottom line results need to assess and develop the EQ competencies of their people to increase team cohesion, relationship building, creativity and innovation. 

     
  • Esther Orioli 8:07 am on March 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Stress management should be a top concern for financial industry 

    Resiliency is especially important in the financial world.

    Virtually every job features some sort of stress, but few more than those in the financial sector. The decisions made in these positions not only can affect the person making them and the company they work for, they can impact the economic direction of the country as a whole.

    Despite the ubiquity of stress in trading, a study detailed in Scientific American highlighted a particular way in which those in the role don't handle it well. In particular, stress releases a hormone called cortisol, which in turn made traders less willing to take risks. 

    "When we're stressed higher levels of cortisol are secreted into the blood stream. The body responds with a number of stress-related changes including increased heart rate and arousal, heightened memory and lower pain sensitivity. But it can also impair cognitive function, increase blood pressure and affect how we approach risk," explains author Andre Spicer.

    For most sectors, this is a problem. In the financial world, being unable to take risks is a disaster. A trader who freezes up because of stress will ultimately be less productive, which in turn hurts the organization's profits.

    The increased stress associated with financial sector jobs highlights a strong need for resiliency to manage stressors and stay adaptable and energetic even under pressure.

    Essi Systems offers business-proven, research-based solutions designed to help companies target employee stress and build workplace resiliency. Our 21 Day Club technology platform, trainings, webinars and leadership programs provide individual and organizational assessment and continuous self-improvement tools so every employee can measure and manage  their individual stressors and build energy, health and performance. Whether it's financial services, healthcare, or manufacturing companies, taking a proactive approach to employee stress is just good business.

     
  • Esther Orioli 12:20 pm on March 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Proper sleep habits are an integral part of resiliency 

    People often brag about how little sleep they get. "My time is so valuable," the logic goes, "that I must spend every possible hour alert so that I might maximize it." It isn't uncommon to hear busy executives boasting of getting fewer than five hours of rest nightly, the implicit assumption being that getting any more would be an impossible imposition into an overburdened schedule. 

    According to research, this pride is misguided. 

    Mathematical models based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that anywhere between 15 and 33 percent of fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver. A 2008 poll quoted in the NY Times found that 29 percent of workers have either fallen asleep or come close at work. Harvard's Women Health watch reports that irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate and moodiness are also symptoms of fatigue.

    These sorts of issues will definitely impact the bottom line for your business. The Times article details the myriad ways in which tiredness among employees can curtail your profitability. 

    "One study has shown that 'cyberloafing'—wasting time on the web—increases on the day after the start of daylight saving time, when people are short an hour of sleep. Other research shows how cognitive performance deteriorates when sleep is inadequate: We have less capacity to remember, to learn or to be creative, and we become less optimistic and less sociable," writes author Sendhil Mullainathan.

    These studies shows that when it comes to sleep disorders, Stress can be both a cause and a direct result of a lack of proper sleep. Employee health and wellness programs would do well to address these critical issues as part of their self care, stress and resiliency programming before organizations find themselves paying for it in increased healthcare costs and decreased performance and engagement.

     
  • Esther Orioli 12:15 pm on March 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Lab rats and nerve cells: Or, why not all stress is bad for you 

    Are you employees subject to a lot of stress? Research suggests this might not be such bad news. 

    Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley worked with post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby to study the influence of stress on rats. What they found was that in some cases the presence of stress can actually be a good thing when it comes to increasing mental acuity and adapting to new scenarios. 

    Kaufer's research suggests a neurological basis for these improvements. In their lab subjects, brief but stressful events actually caused new nerve cells to develop from stems cells. When matured, they improved alertness and mental performance. In short, the vigilance created by this sort of stress caused a greater feeling of alertness and improved performance. 

    On the other hand, chronic and unmanaged stress has the opposite effect. It has been connected with increased levels of stress hormones known as glucocorticoids. These, in turn, prevent the hippocampus from forming new neurons. The result? Decreased memory, which along with the risk of depression, heart disease and obesity can severely curtail an employee's ability to be productive. 

    "I think the ultimate message is an optimistic one," says Kaufer. "Stress can be something that makes you better, but it is a question of how much, how long and how you interpret or perceive it."

    This research highlights the potential benefits of positive stress, also known as eustress, and that it's not stress itself that is harmful but rather the quantity, duration and how you manage it. True for lab rats. True for human beings. With the right tools to assess their stressors and build resiliency people can harness the power of stress as a life energy force in the body, use it as a powerful motivator and fend off the harmful effects that lead to poor health and performance.

     
  • Esther Orioli 12:11 pm on March 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Resiliency is a critical part of any office environment 

    Resilience is an important part of teamwork.

    A resume can tell you a lot about an applicant, but it can't give you the whole story. 

    It can tell you what skills a candidate has—the intellectual capital they bring to the role. It can even give you a good idea of the connections they might have with other people and jobs, which serves as useful social capital. However, any single document is going to do a poor job of communicating psychological capital, a crucial component to any productive and well-balanced workplace. 

    Psychological capital is the sum of the resources that comprise your character. Research suggests that those who have more of it are able to perform better, work more cooperatively with others and ultimately add more to a company's bottom line.

    While it's relatively easy to figure out whether an employee is going to know how to operate a particular computer system, it's difficult to ascertain how they're going to react in a high-stress situation. Will they exhibit resilience, the ability to handle and be motivated by high-pressure situations? Or, will they crumble and fall into bad habits? The answer could very well determine the financial success of your company.

    In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Jamie Gruman outlined the ways in which stress can either be a motivator or a detractor. Gruman, who is an associate professor of organizational behavior at the University of Guelph, recently spoke at a health and wellness conference in Toronto. 

    "Some stressors are motivating because you can handle them, while others are debilitating because you can't. It becomes a matter of understanding the nature of the stressors, and the techniques that are available for dealing with them," she explained. 

    When it comes to assessing the psychological capital of your people, Essi Systems can help. Essi's scientifically sound, business-proven, assessments,  Resiliency Map and EQ Map, directly measure hard-to-gauge factors, like stress, resiliency and emotional intelligence, so companies can pinpoint hotspots and target improvements to decrease behavioral healthcare costs and increase work performance and engagement. Knowing and developing the resiliency strengths of your workforce keeps your people and the bottom line healthy.

     
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