Posts Tagged ‘health’

The power of control and reducing stress at work

For many, work means stress and as we all know, too much stress can lead to ill health. But research showing that people in positions of power are not very stressed, may hold clues for how workplaces can help reduce stress for all employees.

The difficult economic climate means many of us are being asked to “do more with less”, adding to the costs associated with the stress this creates. A critical challenge facing organisations then, is how to help employees effectively manage their stress, while maintaining optimal levels of performance and engagement.

One key strategy is enhancing psychological resources, such as control, social support, performance feedback, and access to information, which help employees meet their work demands. This issue is highlighted in a study published in the peer-reviewed journal PNAS that focuses specifically on the stress experienced by leaders.

Organisational leaders have demanding roles and face intense scrutiny of their performance. So it’s reasonable to expect them to experience the highest rates of work-related stress. But the authors of the PNAS paper demonstrate that leaders actually report lower levels of stress in comparison to other workers.

And they found this to be the case even after taking into account the sex, age, education, income, and mood of the study participants. Previous research has similarly established this counter-intuitive finding. So, why do organisational leaders report less work-related stress and ill-health?

The power of control

The authors of the study attributed lower levels of leadership stress to the greater capacity of leaders to exercise control over their work. They then conducted another study demonstrating that leaders who report a higher level of authority and have larger numbers of subordinates and direct reports, perceive a higher level of control over their work relationships. This sense of heightened control results in lower levels of stress.

These results are in line with research demonstrating that work-related demands are not uniformly stressful. And that facing more demands doesn’t necessarily equate to more stress. One of the key determining features of whether someone perceives a work demand as stressful or challenging is that person’s access to work-related and psychological resources, such as control, social support, feedback, and self-efficacy.

Indeed, research has consistently demonstrated that the highest levels of work-related stress are experienced by people who don’t have sufficient levels of control at work. In contrast, jobs that provide a positive environment and optimal health outcomes are not those with low demands, but demanding roles with sufficient access to control.

So while leaders undoubtedly face intense work pressure, greater responsibility, and a high-level of scrutiny over their work performance, they simultaneously possess a greater capacity to exercise control over their work environment. And control acts as a buffer against the otherwise adverse effects of high-level demands on work-related stress.

Intervention strategies aiming to increase control over how and when to undertake certain tasks and increase participation in decision-making are likely to reduce stress among workers. But sadly, increasing control and authority is neither possible nor desirable in many workplaces.

Protective forces

There are several other resources that are also beneficial for buffering against the adverse impact of job demands and for promoting positive outcomes, such as employee engagement, learning, and development.

Our research has demonstrated that support from supervisors and colleagues reduces burnout and psychological strain, while career-related support provided by mentors increases employee engagement over time.

People are also happier at work when they feel their organisation cares for and is concerned about its staff. They are more positive when good work by employees is adequately recognised, and when there are positive relationships between managers and staff.

Most significantly, the extent to which workers understand their organisation’s strategic priorities and their awareness of how their job helps the workplace achieve strategic objectives is linked with optimal employee outcomes, regardless of whether that person is a leader.

Leadership positions are naturally imbued with access to greater resources such as authority, control, support, and access to information. And leaders have greater capacity to influence the strategic direction of the workplace and shape their own personal roles to more effectively meet needs and manage demands.

Access to such resources for employees at all levels within an organisation is beneficial for managing work-related stress. And intervention strategies that focus on enhancing such access is likely to reduce the long-term economic and personal costs of work-related stress

Amanda Biggs is Post-doctoral Researcher at Griffith University

Originally published online at The Conversation

 

The Precariat – The new dangerous class

by Guy Standing

For the first time in history, the mainstream left has no progressive agenda. It has forgotten a basic principle. Every progressive political movement has been built on the anger, needs and aspirations of the emerging major class. Today that class is the precariat.

So far, the precariat in Europe has been mostly engaged in EuroMayDay parades and loosely organised protests. But this is changing rapidly, as events in Spain and Greece are showing, following on the precariat-led uprisings in the middle-east. Remember that welfare states were built only when the working class mobilised through collective action to demand the relevant policies and institutions. The precariat is busy defining its demands.

The precariat has emerged from the liberalisation that underpinned globalisation. Politicians should beware. It is a new dangerous class, not yet what Karl Marx would have described as a class-for-itself, but a class-in-the-making, internally divided into angry and bitter factions.

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Gender and Climate Change: Durban Explores the Intersection

by Rebecca Lefton

Most people do not think of climate change as a gender issue. But experts at the COP 17 climate conference in Durban, South Africa are trying to raise awareness of the disproportionate impact that a changing climate has on women. Women are responsible for collecting water that is becoming increasingly scarce, and they are needing to travel farther distances to reach clean water supplies. Women are primarily responsible for putting food on the table, but food prices are rising and as climate change worsens agricultural productivity. And women are often the most vulnerable in war and regional conflicts, which will be exacerbated by resource scarcity.

A discussion held  in Durban focused on these impacts. The panel featured the Honorable Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In addressing climate resilience, Robinson stressed the importance of focusing on health and burden impacts of climate change. One of the keys is access to reproductive health for women.

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Solving Climate Change Will Help Temper Rising Health Care Costs

by Lauren Simenauer

Delegates from 194 parties are meeting in Durban, South Africa, for the annual U.N. Conference of Parties, or COP, climate change conference. Among topics being addressed is the reduction of carbon emissions worldwide, clean energy funding in lower-income nations, and the future of the Kyoto Protocol. One lesser-discussed issue that diplomats will address is the growing body of science about the impacts of climate change on global health.

The National Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, identified six natural disaster events thought to be exacerbated by climate change. Those events include ozone air pollution, heat waves, the spread of infectious disease, river flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires. Tragically, extreme weather ravaged Durban itself just days before international delegates arrived. Torrential rains caused severe flooding that destroyed 700 homes and resulted in the deaths of 10 people. But beyond the immediate effects, all these disasters have wide-reaching consequences for national health, and a study published in Health Affairs magazine estimated that health costs incurred from the tragedies exceeded $14 billion from 2000 to 2009.

In the national debate on health care, it is imperative that the international community and our lawmakers at home not ignore the value of preventing the damage that climate change will cause to both the environment and human health.

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What I Learned As a Playboy Bunny in the ’70s

My nascent anger at the artifice I saw all around me caused me to unknowingly join in it even more than I could have seen.  By Lili Bee

At seventeen, most girls were filling out college applications. I was nervously chewing my fingernails at an audition to become a bunny at the New York Playboy Club.
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