January 29, 2015
Far from making employees healthier, a corporate focus on their wellness may actually be making them unhappier and more prone to illnesses. That is the conclusion of a new book published by two researchers at Cass Business School and Stockholm University. In the book, The Wellness Syndrome, the authors Andre Spicer and Carl Cederström claim that the fixation with monitoring wellbeing and initiating wellness programmes may be having the obverse effect to that intended. The book argues that an obsession with wellness obliges some people to pretend to be happy at work, even when they are not and that the pressure to fit with a corporate notion of what constitutes a ‘well’ person makes them depressed and anxious that they will be labelled by their employer and colleagues if they don’t fit an ideal.
January 28, 2015
Nearly half (46%) of employers believe their company is a great place to work compared with less than a third (31%) of staff, and UK staff have alarmingly low energy levels, a new survey has revealed. The data from MetLife’s UK Employee Benefits Trends Survey shows how highly employers rate recruitment and retention. Forty percent of UK companies say they will be affected by talent shortages over the next year and their key benefits challenges are retaining (41%) and hiring talent (37%). However, the greatest recruitment and retention challenge is the gap between employer and employee views. Although 32 percent of employees say they are loyal to their employer – just 22 percent believe their employer is loyal to them. In contrast 39 percent of employers’ believe their employees are loyal and 40 percent believe they are loyal to employees.
January 26, 2015
Giving employees more control over their work schedules may help curb sleep deficiency, according to health researchers in the US. A team led by Orfeu M. Buxton, associate professor of bio-behavioural health at Penn State University set out to explore the question of whether family-friendly work practices and other forms of flexible working had any impact on the quantity and quality of sleep. They results are published this month in the journal Sleep Health. Of the nearly 500 employees from an IT company surveyed over a period of a year, the researchers found that employees who were able to enjoy more control over their working day also enjoyed an average of eight minutes more sleep per night than those with rigid working hours. The research also found that participants’ perceptions of their sleep quality also improved.
January 26, 2015
Anybody who thinks that regular gym visits mitigate the ill effects of prolonged sitting at work is likely to be dead wrong. That is the key finding of a new study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine. The meta-analysis of 47 studies set out to explore the possible correlation between physical activity and the conditions most commonly associated with sedentary lifestyles including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The results of the analysis showed that the crucial factor was not the level of physical activity away from the workplace but rather the length of time spent sitting while at work. The Canadian academics behind the study are calling for more research to establish just how much sedentary work is too much as a way of reducing the risks which they identify as a 15 to 20 percent higher risk of heart disease and cancer and up to a 90 percent increased risk of developing diabetes.
January 23, 2015
Last week the HSE marked its 40th anniversary with a series of warnings about the continuing importance of maintaining health and safety. While the number of people killed at work has fallen dramatically since the HSE was launched, it’s important employers don’t get complacent. A lack of education among the workforce about the adequate measures to take when considering health and safety can still make a huge difference. Good communication is vital, so provide in depth, yet cohesive and easy to follow Health and Safety guides, including useful information like fire blanket locations, fire exits, what to do in an emergency and emergency phone numbers which are handed out to all employees. Regular talks about the importance of health and safety should be conducted every few months to reiterate health and safety messages.
January 19, 2015
One of the particular and often unspoken issues that shadows in any debate about flexible working is what we mean by the term. We’ve been talking about new ways of working for a good quarter of a century now and what is generally understood about the practice has evolved considerably. The very idea was conceived at the birth of the new online era so is inextricably tied up with the Internet and new technology. That is why it first became a significant business issue in the mid 1990s as we felt the pre-shocks of the coming seismic disruption of the Internet. Laptops became commercially viable for the first time in the early 1990s and the UK’s first text message was sent in 1992. Authors such as Charles Handy were popularising the notion that our entire relationship with work was about to change.
January 16, 2015
Employers’ concerns regarding the ageing workforce are usually based on the belief older workers will tend to struggle more with health problems. However, new data from AXA PPP healthcare reveals it’s the middle band of workers (30-49) that take more sick days than any other age group; averaging 2.3 sick days in the past six months; with a quarter of these workers taking three or four days off sick. Twelve per cent of this middle age group have taken the equivalent of a working week off sick (5 or 6 days) in the past six months, double the number of 18-29 year olds (6%) and just 5 per cent of those 50-69. This ‘squeezed generation,’ faced with the pressures of balancing work and home, takes least positive steps to help ensure good health; has a fairly negative outlook regarding their jobs and is more stressed than other age group.
January 14, 2015
The majority (91 percent) of staff polled on bullying at work say their employers do not deal adequately with the problem and over three quarters (78 percent) are reluctant to complain for fear of their job. According to charity Family Lives, the anxiety associated with workplace bullying greatly affects emotional health and wellbeing. Of the 1,500 workers it polled, 73 percent said the bullying was verbal, including threats, whereas 60 percent felt the bullying was social, including being excluded, ignored and isolated. Two thirds (66 percent) of respondents witnessed bullying at work with 43 percent stating they were bullied by their line manager, 38 percent bullied by a colleague and 20 percent bullied by SMT or CEO.
January 9, 2015
Almost two thirds of UK staff are not able to take their legally required minimum break. In a Bupa study of 2,000 full-time workers – 64 per cent claimed they are not always able to take their legally required 20-minute break when working six hours or more. Less than a third (29%) of employees are taking a full hour for lunch every day and worryingly, over a quarter (28%) of workers never take a breather of any kind during their working day. The main reason UK workers are not taking a break is the weight of their workload. The research shows that two in five (43%) employees believe they have too much work to pause for a few minutes. Managers are also setting a bad example as a quarter (24%) of employees see their boss not taking lunch and feel pressure to do the same.
January 8, 2015
The use of tech outside of office hours can have a detrimental effects on workers’ wellbeing according to a paper presented this week at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology conference in Glasgow. A meta-analysis by Svenja Schlachter and colleagues from the University of Surrey sought to determine the effects of being constantly “switched on” for work and found a blurring of boundaries between work and private life. The research showed that employees use a number of devices outside of office hours in the hope that staying “switched on” will increase flexibility and efficiency and because they believe there is a strong expectation to be available 24/7. This often has a negative effect on their work-life balance and increases stress.
January 8, 2015
The back to work blues following the festive holidays are a challenge for businesses and their employees. However, new research from office furniture maker Steelcase claims that prioritising employees’ wellbeing at work is one way to help employers and staff overcome their annual seasonal hurdle. The study of the link between workers’ wellbeing and the business’s bottom line claims that employees who are in a positive frame of mind are not only healthier, but more productive at work and better able to deal with workplace challenges. Steelcase has also produced a list of measures that the firm claims can help to create a working environment that looks after the wellbeing of employees and helps them to become more productive.
January 5, 2015
We may be finding out a lot more about the way smartphones shape our behaviour, but a new study from Swiss researchers at the University of Zürich and Fribourg claims that any changes may go a little deeper than the obsessive need to peer at them. It suggests that while repeated and regular use of smartphones improves how quickly and dextrously we use screens and keystrokes, the cortex of our brains is also adapting to cope with the new demands we place on it. Touchscreen usage appears to actually change the way our fingers, thumbs and brains work, according to the report published in the journal Current Biology. The study appears to show that the increased use of touchscreens in the recent past has resulted in an instinctive increase in brain activity when our fingertips are touched.