Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hate Your Job? It Will Affect Your Health, In Your 40's

We've all had this job.  Nothing you do is ever right, the boss berates you if you're five minutes late (your kid's bus never came), and in meetings, he calls on everyone but you.

I've been there.  Even broke out in a rash on vacation, thinking of having to go back.

But now a new study says it can be worse than that.  Lousy jobs hurt your health by the time you're in your 40's.

Job satisfaction in your late 20s and 30s has a link to overall health in your early 40s, according to a new nationwide study. And while job satisfaction has some impact on physical health, its effect was particularly strong for mental health, researchers have found.

Not surprisingly, those less than happy with their work early in their careers said they were more depressed and worried and had more trouble sleeping. And the direction of your job satisfaction – whether it is getting better or worse in your early career – has an influence on your later health, the study showed.

I had some pretty awful bosses in my early career and I developed cancer, turning 50.   Can that be blamed on those superiors?  Probably not. 

“We found that there is a cumulative effect of job satisfaction on health that appears as early as your 40s,” says Jonathan Dirlam, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in sociology at The Ohio State University.

Dirlam conducted the study with Hui Zheng, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State. Zheng says the results show the importance that early jobs have on people’s lives.  “You don’t have to be near the end of your career to see the health impact of job satisfaction, particularly on your mental health,” Zheng says.

Well, duh.

But studies have also shown that mental health affects our physical health.

Participants in the study with low job satisfaction were also more likely to have been diagnosed with emotional problems and scored lower on a test of overall mental health.

Those whose job satisfaction started out higher but declined through their early career were more likely than those with consistently high satisfaction to have frequent trouble sleeping and excessive worry, and had lower scores for overall mental health. But they didn’t see an impact on depression scores or their probability of being diagnosed with emotional problems.

Those whose scores went up through the early career years did not see any comparative health problems.
The physical health of those who were unhappy with their jobs wasn’t impacted as much as mental health. Those who were in the low satisfaction group and those who were trending downwards reported poorer overall health and more problems like back pain and frequent colds compared to the high satisfaction group.

But they weren’t different in physical functioning and in doctor-diagnosed health problems such as diabetes and cancer.

Here's the good news.  People whose job satisfaction started low but got better over the course of their early career didn’t have the health problems associated with consistently low or declining satisfaction.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Figures. What Started Out for Women, Men Now Love, Too

Pretty funny.  All this time we thought flextime was great because its aim was to help us balance careers and home life.  But like just about everything else in the work world, flextime works better for men than for women, a new study has found.

In fact, it may even have an impact on the gender pay gap, as well, reports newswise.com.

Researchers found a considerable 'gender gap' in the income gained through schedule control (having autonomy over working hours), the web site notes. "Both men and women gain additional income when using schedule control mediated via overtime hours," it says. "However, women, even full-time working women, do not reap the direct benefit men do in terms of income gains. In fact, the research suggests schedule control may potentially increase the gender pay gap."

The researchers found that this gender discrepancy exists even when they took into account the gender segregation of the labor market, i.e., sectors and occupations, as well as other characteristics such as an individual's ambition or work devotion.

Originally thought of as a scheme worked up to justify working less hard, it's become an accepted, if not expected, way to work for both men and women.  In fact, 8 out of 10 men (77%) do it, and love it, according to cnn.com.

Another survey of 1,000 men, 65% of whom were married or had a partner and who had an average age of 39, also found that most men prefer a mix of working from home as well as in the office. Of the men surveyed, 25% favored working in the office full time but occasionally from home, followed by 23% who preferred working from home one to two days per week.
Also, 47% said they have a formal flex arrangement at work, according to the report.
So, who's really benefitting?  I guess we all are.  I know I love it, especially when I have assignments that let me work remotely, which allows me to take time off in the afternoon to get my son from school, or meet a friend for lunch, then work after dinner till bedtime.  I love making my own hours.

Friday, August 19, 2016

How Many Words Do You Know? Researchers Say Over 40,000

I've always had a big vocabulary.  In fact, in one of my (only) stellar academic moments, I tested at an 11th grade level in 7th grade.

Too bad that and a dollar won't even get me a cup of coffee!

But a surprising new study says most adults know 42,000 words.  

Now, I've met some people who I doubt know even half that many (we won't talk about political candidates), but the study has found that by the age of 20, a native English speaking American knows 42,000 dictionary words, according to newswise.com.

"Our research got a huge push when a television station in the Netherlands asked us to organize a nation-wide study on vocabulary knowledge," states Professor Marc Brysbaert of Ghent University in Belgium and leader of this study at the web site. "The test we developed was featured on TV and, in the first weekend, over 300 thousand Dutch speakers had done it - it really went viral."

Realizing how interested people are in finding out their vocabulary size, the team then made similar tests in English and Spanish. The English test has now been taken by almost one million people. It takes up to four minutes to complete and has been shared widely on Facebook and Twitter, giving the team access to an unprecedented amount of data.

"At the Centre of Reading Research we are investigating what determines the ease with which words are recognized;" explains Professor Brysbaert. The test includes a list of 62,000 words that he and his team have compiled.

Researchers performed tests to see how well each word they used was known in a language.  

"In Dutch, we have seen that this explains a lot about word processing times," says the professor about one of the languages studied. "People respond much faster to words known by all people than to words known by 95% of the population, even if the words used with the same frequency. We are convinced that word prevalence will become an important variable in word recognition research."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

'Walk the Walk' on Ethics and Be Rewarded, Stand-Out Companies Say

Big duh.

But did you know that employers who promote ethics should reward those who display them?

We've all been there.  A co-worker jiggles some numbers to make the budget come out right.  Another steals paper clips and staples from the supply room (okay, so that was me).  A boss tattles negative details from an employee's personnel files to others in the same department (me, too).

But according to newswise.com, companies that "walk the walk" they advocate may help reduce turnover and even improve performance.

We've all also probably known stand-out execs who truly showed integrity, taking the fall for a department's mistake or being up-front about her own company concerns and worries.

Building a business reputation from the inside out — with employees giving a company high marks as an ethical place to work — is increasingly being hailed as a way to get a leg up on the competition, right alongside customer service and quality products.

Public relations, marketing and human resources departments in some prominent companies are championing “emotional buy-ins” with workers to trim turnover and job dissatisfaction. Some are pushing their companies to tie such core values as honesty and respect into employee awards and job evaluations, recognizing workers who display those traits, according to a Baylor University study published in the Research Journal of The Institute for Public Relations.

“While many companies focus on making employees more customer service-minded, promoting core values is a way to engage employees and increase their commitment and loyalty to the organization and at the same time encourage ethical decision making,” the web site quotes researcher Marlene Neill, Ph.D., assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media in Baylor University’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Neill conducted interviews with 32 executives in PR, human resources and marketing, drawing from 26 companies in 11 states. Here's what some of the executives said:

• “Whenever you think about internal branding, you need to think about it over the life cycle of the employee — from the time they are hired and going through employee orientation until the day they walk out the door.” — From the managing director of a PR agency
• “So our values are supposed to be integrity, courage, curiosity . . . If we’re struggling in an area, it makes me wonder, ‘Are we not communicating well? Are we not being honest? Or are we not being perceived as being honest?” — From an HR manager whose company surveys employees about corporate values
• “Instead of (an orientation) being 80 percent ‘Let’s get you signed up for your benefits, get your emails and get yourself through the class and out the door and off to work,’ it’s more of a really intense three-day sort of boot camp that is 80 percent oriented toward mission, the members (customers) we serve, the culture we have . . . so you come out of there just fired up.” — From a vice president of corporate communications

Organizations spend about $54 billion annually on orientation for new employees. Part of employer branding is promoting ethics as well as benefits and training, Neill said. So are routine communications — email, newsletters and face-to-face encounters — for companies who want to inspire integrity, humility, team support and innovation.

If employees come to believe that an employer does not “walk the walk” touted at orientations and in communications, "they may decide that the company violated a “psychological contract,” Neill says. That may lead to turnover, job dissatisfaction, distrust and reduced performance -- despite good salaries, benefits and chances to advance.

Perhaps the most powerful way to avoid those problems is by linking ethics to reward systems.
“When someone receives an award or gets a nomination, it has to be related to one of the values. And then we have values painted all over the office on the wall, so those are the two big reinforcements,” one human resources manager told Neill.  “You’re also rated on the values in your annual performance review.”

Other ways to inspire employees and foster ethics are codes of conduct, employee training, ethics audits and hotlines, newsletters, handbooks, testimonials and an ombudsperson, Neill says.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Light. . .It May Hurt You

Now something new to worry about.

Did you know the fluorescent lights you most normally work under can steal your strength?

A new research in animals shows that excessive exposure to “light pollution” may be worse for health than previously known, taking a toll on muscle and bone strength, according to The New York Times.

Researchers at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands tracked the health of rats exposed to six months of continuous light compared to a control group of rats living under normal light-dark conditions — 12 hours of light, followed by 12 hours of dark. 

During the study, the rats exposed to continuous light had less muscle strength and developed signs of early-stage osteoporosis. They also got fatter and had higher blood glucose levels. Several markers of immune system health also worsened, according to the report published in the medical journal Current Biology.

While earlier research has suggested excessive light exposure could affect cognition, the new research was surprising in that it showed a pronounced effect on muscles and bones, The Times reports. While it’s not clear why constant light exposure took a toll on the motor functions of the animals, it is known that light and dark cues influence a body’s circadian rhythms, which regulate many of the body’s physiological processes.

The good news is the effects of artificial light exposure appear to be reversible. When the study rats returned to their natural light-dark cycle, their health issues returned to normal after two weeks.

But people -- especially really sick people in hospitals -- are kept under bright light constantly, while our teens are bathed in the endless flickering light of computers and video games.   Studies have shown the blue wavelength light from screens is more disruptive to the body’s circadian system than the red wavelength light that comes from traditional artificial lights.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Our Large Brains Evolved From Sizing Each Other Up

Now here's one for you.

Did you know our brains evolved to be so large as a result of sizing each other up?

According to a new study, humans have evolved with a disproportionately large brain because we've learned to size each other up in large cooperative, social groups.

Newswise.com reports that the challenge of judging a person's relative standing and deciding whether or not to compete with him has promoted the rapid expansion of the brain over the last 2 million years.

The study found that evolution favors those who prefer to help others out who are at least as successful as they are.

That;s kind of interesting when you think about our dog-eat-dog world today.

"Our results suggest that the evolution of cooperation, which is key to a prosperous society, is intrinsically linked to the idea of social comparison -- constantly sizing each other up and making decisions as to whether we want to help them or not," write the authors.  "We've shown that over time, evolution favors strategies to help those who are at least as successful as themselves."

Research done by the authors showed that cooperation and reward may have been instrumental in driving brain growth.  I guess dinosaurs didn't help each other?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Employers: Uncivil Employees Will Cost You; $14K Per

I guess we can't totally blame Trump.  But incivility in the workplace is becoming an epidemic, according to a new study.

As reported at newswise.com, condescending comments, put-downs, and sarcasm have become commonplace, and here, well, okay, I won't blame Trump.

OK, so I'm making fun, but it turns out this is a serious concern because experiencing such rude behavior, well, makes us rude, too.  And then it just spreads. The study found that it reduces our own self-control and makes us respond in kind.  And now what kind of a workplace do you have?

"People who are recipients of rudeness at work feel mentally fatigued, as a result, because uncivil behaviors are somewhat ambiguous and require employees to figure out whether there was any abusive intent," say the authors.   "This mental fatigue, in turn, leads people to act uncivil toward other workers.  In other words, they pay the incivility forward."

While curt remarks and other forms of incivility do not involve such openly hostile behaviors as bullying and threats, they are a frequent occurrence in the workplace and have a significant effect on employees, the study found.  And here's the biggest reason companies may want to worry about it: incivility has an annual impact of $14,000 per employee in productivity and work time.

The study also found that incivility "spirals," as you might expect, spreading like a, well, an epidemic.

I've encountered incivility (and bullying) in the workplace when I was younger and less able to handle it.  I had a boss who made fun of my writing -- and often turned it over to (in my opinion) less-talented employees to "fix" it.  I don't know if that counts as incivility but it sure hurt.

"Being the victim of incivility leaves employees depleted because they must expend energy to figure out why they were targeted," say the authors, "and how to respond." 

I guess we'll never be able to completely rid the world of rudeness (and certainly not if an ego-obsessed, grudge holder,put-downer becomes president).  And while we're talking about incivility and how this election season may have changed the character of America from one of tolerance and acceptance to one which chants "Build the wall!" at football games where Hispanics play and terrifies elementary school children that they're going to be deported, it may also destroy our world, as well.

So think twice before you pass on the nasty rumor about your cubicle mate or shove your seat back on the person behind you who accidentally bangs into your chair every time she goes into her briefcase.  Don't spread any more incivility in the atmosphere.