Posted by Erik Even on Apr 27, 2009 in Employment
According to a study in the latest American Journal of Epidemiology (I read it each month, after I finish The Fortean Times and Entertainment Weekly), reducing on-the-job stress may help lower the risk of depression.
Canadian researchers found a correlation between levels of work stress and incidence of major depression. The study is based on data from a Canadian National Population Health Survey of 4,866 people.
In any given month, 4.4% of US workers suffer major depression. Such depression can severely affect productivity and employability.
It’s just common sense that work stress can cause illness, which in turn creates more stress.
Some advice for employees:
- Learn to firewall your work life from your home life. In other words, try not to take your work stress home with you.
- Set aside a few minutes during the work day to just relax and breathe — maybe at your desk, maybe in an empty conference room or out in your car. Don’t think you have the time? You’ll be far more productive — it’s worth the time.
- Talk to HR about your stress issues. They might be able to help you out, depending on why you are so stressed out.
- Exercise, maybe before work, maybe at lunch, or after work. Go jogging or join a gym. This will help immensely.
Some advice for employers:
Some managers think the best way to motivate people is to put the fear of God or the dole queue into them. The theory is that a good employee will benefit from stress, working harder and faster. Someone too “weak” to handle the stress must not be good at their job.
You are wrong.
Your employees are overworked and unhappy — and they get sick. A lot. They either miss work entirely, or work from home, or come to work and make everyone else sick. Whatever happens, you are losing productivity, not gaining it.
Also, ability to handle stress does not correlate to talent. By driving away employees who can’t take the abuse, you may be losing the people who are best at their jobs, and hanging on to those who aren’t.
Some workplace environments cannot help but cause stress. But if you’re not the boss of an emergency room or air traffic control tower, or the teacher of an eighth grade classroom, perhaps you can tone down the stress a bit. Healthy, happy, relaxed employees do better work, and more work, than a cube farm full of stress cases.
And maybe your health benefits costs will go down.
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 18, 2009 in Employment
Read part one.
If you see layoffs coming, negotiate with your company. If things are going badly at your company, you probably think the worst thing you could do is go bother your employer. But this is not the case. If layoffs are on the horizon, your employer may be happy to negotiate with you, to compensate you for leaving voluntarily. Most employers would be happy to see an employee leave voluntarily, rather than being laid off — and they’ll offer money and severance packages. Worst case scenario — your employer makes no offer, and you get laid off with everyone else. Best case scenario — your employer wants to keep you, and your worries disappear. In fact, maybe they’ll even offer you something to encourage you to stay!
Refinance loans, and cut expenses. Lost your job and can’t pay your bills? Call your creditors. Let them know your situation. Some will work with you, and even the ones that won’t will look more kindly on people who bother to call. And, heaven forfend, if you ever end up in court, judges and arbitrators will look more kindly on you as well. If you pay rent, then be sure to pay that before anything else. And cut your extraneous expenses — eating out, movies, cell phone data charges. But don’t cancel your World of Warcraft account- that’s sacred, and you can get a lot of leveling done while you’re unemployed.
Get health insurance. If you’re like most people, you’ll lose your health insurance the second you’re laid off or fired. Sure, COBRA offers continuation of your existing insurance, but even the people who run COBRA admit it’s waaaaaay too expensive. Lots of companies offer personal health insurance plans. They’re expensive too, but often not as expensive as COBRA. And don’t take the chance of going uninsured — disaster can strike anyone at any time. Angry that all this costs so much? Then support national health care.
Don’t dip into your 401(k) or other retirement accounts. Just don’t.
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 16, 2009 in Careers
, Job Search
It’s just an unavoidable fact — the stress of a prolonged job search can cause physical illness, that makes it even harder to find new work.
If you have ever been unemployed for more than a few weeks, you know what I’m talking about — cold and flu, depression, headaches, chronic tiredness. All these symptoms are triggered by the stress and worry of your job search, and the economic problems that come with being unemployed.
But there are ways to fight back.
Take care of your physical health. Concentrate on eating right and exercising. Take a walk every day — this will help with both stress and keeping your immune system strong. If you already exercise regularly, then keep it up! And eat right — this is not the time to be vegging on your couch eating Doritos all day. Stick to three healthy meals, and you’re likely to improve your health and save money in a difficult financial time.
Take care of your mental health. Stress reactions that worked so well for our evolutionary forbears on the Serengeti — panic, anxiety, fear — don’t help us so much with modern problems. It’s one thing to be concerned about your career and financial prospects, and quite another to paralyze yourself with negative emotions. Don’t pretend you can deal with this on your own. Talk to friends, family members, clergy or professional advisers about your fears. If it’s really bad, see a psychiatrist — you don’t have to be crazy to seek medical help. If your emotions are getting in the way of your job search, then please see a doctor. If you have no insurance or benefits, then look online for free help in your area.
Don’t exaggerate your problems. Yes, this is a very difficult time to be looking for work, and it’s not helpful to pretend that it isn’t. But if you convince yourself this is the end of the world, it may become a self-fulfillng prophecy. Commit yourself to your job search — work on it every day. Open yourself up to the prospect of relocating, or changing careers, or taking on work outside your field that you may see as beneath you, even if just temporarily. America will get through this economic downturn. Your family will get through it. You will get through it.
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 9, 2009 in Employment
US News & World Report published today a story called “Why Your Job Could Be Making You Old.” The story cites the claim that stress contributes to health problems and rapid aging.
Physicians have long observed that people with stressful careers and lifestyles tend to develop health problems–especially when their jobs carry extreme consequences for mistakes. According to a theory advanced by Michael Roizen, chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and co-founder of RealAge.com, many American presidents have aged approximately two years for each calendar year in office.
The author, Emily Brandon, then discusses ways to to cut back on stress, and advises exercise and healthy living to to build up an immunity to stressors. She only briefly touches on employment stressors, so here are a few more valuable tips for avoiding stress at work.
Build a Firewall Between Your Work and Home Lives
Allowing your work problems to follow you home can have a devastating impact on your home life, your family and relationships. It’s not the easiest thing in the world just set aside your work issues, especially if your job requires a huge time investment, or if your career is central to who you are as a person. But it is possible.
Likewise, stress at home can adversely affect your work. They key here is to remain mindful of your emotions. If you’re stressed at work, ask yourself if what you’re really upset about isn’t an issue from your personal life.
Maintain Good Communications with Your Superiors and Co-Workers
Work stress often comes from being in a position of ignorance. Does my boss like my work? Will there be layoffs? Will I ever get that promotion? Yet workers often don’t try to find their own answers to these questions, out of fear — fear of their boss, or fear that they will get an answer they don’t like.
Instead of wallowing in stress, just talk to your boss and your co-workers about your issues. Be professional, of course, and don’t ask inappropriate questions or spread gossip. But if you’re worried about how your boss perceives you, then ask. You may be worrying about nothing. But if you do get negative feedback, that’s good too — you need to know these things if you want to keep your job. Don’t wait for a performance review to find out how you’re doing.
If you’re late for work a lot, or miss too many work days, then you’re creating your own stress. It’s not as hard as it seems to change your life and health habits so that personal issues don’t get in the way of your career.
However, there are issues — serious illness, family problems, etc. — that will affect your work, and you can’t do anything about. Or at least, solving the issues will take time. This is a common source of work stress, but it’s easily fixed. Talk to your HR manager. Your firm may have policies directly related to your situation, and might be willing to help you out with paid time off or extra money.
Even if your company won’t help you out, at least they’ll know your work is being affected by serious issues, and that you’re not merely irresponsible.
Got some advice of your own? Comment below!