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This blog post is my attempt to think through some concepts in an informal way. The thoughts I am writing do not represent a final, carefully reasoned argument but a beginning point meant to elicit some dialogue that will yield a deeper discussion of the psychological dimensions of organizational functioning.

I have been thinking about some of the processes involved in psychological functioning that support effective work. It is easy to assume that “psychologically healthy” (the designation used for the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program) equals the absence of diagnosable mental disorders. It makes sense to pay attention to this because the diagnosis of depression is the most expensive medical cost to business, by a substantial margin. Treatment costs, missed work days and loss of productivity when someone who has a diagnosis of depression is unable to fully engage in his or her job duties is very pricey. But I think that the psychological actions that promote high performance involve much more than this. From my perspective, effective psychological factors within the workforce involve healthy emotional functioning, cognitive clarity, effective motivation and ethical action. (Do you have any other additions to this list?) Let me explore what each of these concepts means to me.

Healthy Emotional Functioning: This is a more complicated dimension than it might seem. Healthy emotional functioning includes the full range of human emotion, including pleasant emotions like happiness, joy and enthusiasm, as well as uncomfortable emotions like sadness, anxiety and anger.

Two things characterize healthy emotional functioning. First, healthy emotions arise as an appropriate response to the context. Happiness is an appropriate emotional response to succeeding in something, but not to a loss of significant revenue. Anger might arise if the organization is being threatened because an employee has failed to do his or her job. But when emotions are present which don’t match the context or the reality of the situation, there is something unhealthy going on. For example, if a workplace is plagued by anxiety even though the business has a long history of being very profitable, there is likely to be something wrong that needs to be addressed.

I recommend that more organizations consider having a qualified business psychologist as part of the board of directors or a regular consultant to assist in evaluating the emotional tone of the workforce and to promote actions that will be beneficial to both the organization and to its employees.

Second, healthy emotions are transient. Healthy emotions are flexible. An emotionally healthy worker may be angry about the failure of a work process, leading to a revision of the process or holding another employee accountable for his or her actions, but the anger dissipates as the problem is resolved. In an article published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, titled "Emodiversity and the Emotional Ecosystem," Jordi Quidbach and his colleagues noted that, in their study of 37,000 subjects, those who had an experience of more varied emotions were both physically and emotionally healthier.

Healthy emotions provide a competitive advantage for an organization. Essentially, emotions function as a feedback system for human beings. Anger arises when there is a perception of threat. Anxiety functions to alert the individual to be cautious and check for accuracy. Enthusiasm promotes energy for a task. This is a dimension that humans bring to the workplace that machines do not provide. Different personalities bring differing emotional tones to the workplace. It can be messy. And the other dimensions of psychological health I mentioned above are needed to provide balance and increase its value within the workplace. But healthy, variable and flexible emotions are a dynamic source of energy for the workplace.

Cognitive Clarity: The workplace has evolved to place the quality of cognitive clarity at the forefront of marketplace success in the 21st Century. There is a need for complex technological expertise, clear thinking and good decision making. The amount of data that is available today has the paradoxical effect of threatening clear thinking. In the face of information overload, some become paralyzed by analysis, while others cherry pick information to match their preconceived beliefs. In organizations that are psychologically healthy, there is an awareness of the threats to clear thinking and the cognitive discipline for making effective decisions.

Threats to clear thinking arise in the face of intense emotion. Even when that emotion is a healthy and adaptive response that is appropriate to context, it will alter cognition. For example, happiness has the effect of broadening thinking (see Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage) This is important in creativity but can require some extra effort if the organization needs a narrow and clear focus to complete a task. Anger can result in the creation of a “hostile intent” story that identifies someone as an enemy who is purposefully attempting to hurt me (See Janis Cannon-Bowers and Eduardo Salas’ book, Making Decisions Under Stress). This story may or may not be accurate, but is a part of the thought patterns that arise when anyone is angry.

The brain is more like a muscle that we once thought. It is important to continually exercise decision-making abilities so that these abilities are available during times of high stress.
A way to do this is to engage in regular after-action debriefs that answer two questions: (1) What went well and why did it go well? (2) What didn’t go well and what adjustments should we make for the next time it happens?

Awareness of the impact of emotion on cognition is essential to provide stable responses within an organization. It is also true that thoughts can quiet or even change emotions. Taking time to ascertain whether the “hostile intent” story that arises, associated with feeling angry, can provide a correction to the emotional response that quiets the anger if the facts reveal that there is no enemy or attempt to harm. Healthy cognitions promote a clearer picture of reality.

A second dimension of the importance of effective cognition is found in the process of decision-making. Behavioral economics alerts organizations to common mistakes that humans make when analyzing data and making choices. Daniel Kahneman identifies two systems for decision making in his book Thinking Fast and Slow. These systems differ greatly, one being more intuitive and fast, and the other being more thoughtful and slow, and through this difference provide flexibility in the way we make choices. When we better understand these systems we can make decisions much more effectively because we are more likely to use the right process for the right problem we are trying to solve. This cognitive clarity promotes organizational success.

Effective Motivation: Motivating human beings is one of the most essential tasks of an organization. It can also be one of the most mysterious endeavors. If motivation were the simple, straightforward task as it is often conceptualized, it would be a matter of setting priorities for what is most important in the organization and giving the highest monetary reward for that, and tapering the reward down to the least important priority. If you needed someone to work harder, you simply give him or her more money. But things are not that simple.

Many things can affect motivation. Some of those are internal factors like a person’s values, preferences, or even physiological factors like hunger, fatigue, etc. Motivation is also influenced by external factors, like money and recognition from others, among many other things. And these factors are changeable. A value may be a strong dimension of motivation in one context and have less influence in another.

Intrinsic motivation is connected to being able to connect to a greater purpose. Tools like “strengths-finders” and “appreciative inquiry” can be helpful if they are consistently applied as part of the effort to motivate the workforce.

A psychologically healthy workplace is a dynamic environment. In an organization in which the entire workforce is engaged with one another, managers and employees, there is an ability to balance the need for just and fair compensation, for finding opportunities for workers to use their talents and make a contribution, and for working to solve the inevitable problems that arise that are de-motivating.

Because of its complexity, the effort to support the best that each person has to bring to the workplace is an ongoing endeavor. Fortunately, this is an area where making an honest effort to do things right has a major positive impact. It is impossible to make the perfect choices at all times for all individuals within an organization (and even more difficult if the scope is broadened to include customers). But making progress on creating an environment where each contribution is valued is important. In fact, feeling valued at work is one of the hallmarks of companies that have been identified as psychologically healthy workplaces.

Ethical Action: It may be a surprise to consider ethics to be a part of the psychologically healthy workplace, but I believe it is an important element, because it highlights the way these effective workplaces treat employees and customers. One of the problems that organizations face is that it is valuable to have aggressive behavior in order to be successful. But that aggression can spin out of control and cause damage within the organization or between the organization and potential customers. The resulting damage often has more than momentary impacts and can reduce the effectiveness of the organization for a long time.

Many professional groups, like the American Psychological Association, maintain a code of ethics as a way of reminding professionals to employ their skills in a way that promotes the best outcomes for all involved.
Would it be beneficial for organizations to adopt their own code of ethics as part of the practice of doing business in a way that promotes the good of all involved?

Alternatively, it is common that some members of a workforce will expend minimal effort to stay employed. This can also have a significant negative impact on an organization. It is a breach of ethical responsibility to others in the organization to harm others by not putting in the effort expected within the contract for employment.

Ethics are codes of behavior that attempt to put reasonable controls in place to identify what actions are acceptable within the organization and which behaviors are unacceptable.

“Ethics” is primarily a way of recognizing that there is an obligation to others that guides behavior, beyond the pursuit of personal gain. When a team thinks and acts ethically, it is more likely that everyone will benefit because there is an advantage when humans work together to accomplish tasks that are beyond the reach of any individual effort. For that cooperation to be achieved, it is likely that there will be times when some individuals must sacrifice immediate gain for the benefit of all. Formalizing the decision-making about this results in a code of ethics.

This dimension of the workplace is rarely discussed. Sometimes I have heard well meaning and intelligent people articulate - what I think is a naive belief – in which the competing forces of the marketplace will somehow automatically result in an acceptable cooperative environment. While it may be that, through trial and error, the pursuit of personal gain in an unfettered marketplace will eventually be tempered to include obligations to others, the failure to act with responsibility toward others can have serious and lasting impacts on co-workers and customers that may result in a loss of trust. Ethical systems provide guides to behavior so that we can learn from the mistakes others have made and create more successful organizations based on that knowledge, avoiding the long term damage that comes from self-interested behavior that damaged others when it occurred and damaged future relationships. Throughout human history, there have been some who reflect on and set expectations for ethical action to promote thinking that fosters the long-term responsibilities of action that foster a better society.

Getting all of these aspects of an organization pursuing psychological excellence for all employees to work together is challenging. It can be a time consuming endeavor and it must be ongoing if it is to be successful. But in the effort to craft the most successful and sustainable organization, effective psychological functioning is an essential component of success.

In a psychologically high performing workplace, these elements I have discussed contribute to increased employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and recognition; the components used to measure an organization for a Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award.

I hope these ideas will give the reader a chance to pause and wonder what might be possible. I am certain that there are other thoughts and ideas that might be useful critiques or additions to mine, so I look forward to reading your reactions. I do not think I have the last word on this, and I am interested in your thoughts too. Please add your comments!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/karola / CC BY-ND 2.0

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The 2014 Workplace Flexibility Survey of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) presents significant data about the use of work-flex programs and its benefits for the organization. These include: improvements in recruitment and retention, employees’ health, job satisfaction (Families & Work Institute, 2008), work engagement and reduction in turnover and levels of psychological strain (Timms, et al., 2015).

Nevertheless, only 27 percent of the participant organizations reported offering at least one kind of flexible work arrangement (FWA), and of those who have them, only half offered some information to their employees during the recruitment (30 percent) or onboarding process (19 percent). This suggests that organizations may not have been taking full advantage of this benefit. Maybe this explains why so few of them (1 to 25 percent) use it.

Shockley and Allen (2012) found that employees were more motivated to use FWAs for work-related motives than for life management motives. Why don't some employees use this benefit? Stigma may be a powerful reason. Brescoll, Glass and Sedlovskaya (2013) found that managers were most likely to grant these requests to high status men seeking flexible schedules to advance their careers; requests from female employees were unlikely to be granted, irrespective of their work status or the reason for their request.

Vancello, et al. (2013) reported that even though men and women valued work flexibility equally, women had greater intentions to use it. Nevertheless, they seemed reluctant because of the perceived impact on their careers, as they thought their careers might be negatively affected in terms of salary, performance evaluations and promotion opportunities if they used the FWA (Crowley & Kolenikov, 2014). Men identified some consequences too -- they thought that they would be perceived as less masculine and receive lower ratings on masculine traits and higher on feminine traits. Cech and Blair-Loy (2014) referred to this as a flexibility stigma, or the devaluation of workers who seek or are presumed to need FWAs. Employees who report this stigma have lower intentions to continue, poorer work-life balance and lower job satisfaction.

The number of employees working under FWAs has increased and this tendency should continue, as employees need time to take care of their families. There is evidence of the benefits of FWAs for employees and the organization, but they are not using it to its fullest potential. Nevertheless, it seems to be an inconsistency in the way this benefit is communicated, which suggests the need for adequate policies and procedures to address FWAs. This might include, among others: adequate, timely and consistent communication of this alternative through the organizational channels; criteria to determine in which positions and under which circumstances it might be possible to have this kind of arrangement; what infrastructure the employee and the organization need to have in place to grant a request to work from home; how the communication will be maintained though virtual channels or in person, and how the performance and outcomes will be evaluated.

References

Brescoll, V. L., Glass, J., & Sedlovskaya, A. (2013). Ask and Ye Shall Receive? The Dynamics of Employer-Provided Flexible Work Options and the Need for Public Policy. Journal Of Social Issues, 69(2), 367-388. doi:10.1111/josi.12019

Cech, E. A., & Blair-Loy, M. (2014). Consequences of Flexibility Stigma Among Academic Scientists and Engineers. Work & Occupations, 41(1), 86-110. doi:10.1177/0730888413515497

Crowley, J. E., & Kolenikov, S. (2014). Flexible Work Options and Mothers' Perceptions of Career Harm. Sociological Quarterly, 55(1), 168-195. doi:10.1111/tsq.12050

Shockley, K. M., & Allen, T. D. (2012). Motives for flexible work arrangement use. Community, Work & Family, 15(2), 217-231. doi:10.1080/13668803.2011.609661

Timms, C., Brough, P., O'Driscoll, M., Kalliath, T., Siu, O. L., Sit, C., & Lo, D. (2015). Flexible work arrangements, work engagement, turnover intentions and psychological health. Asia Pacific Journal Of Human Resources, 53(1), 83-103. doi:10.1111/1744-7941.12030

Vandello, J. A., Hettinger, V. E., Bosson, J. K., & Siddiqi, J. (2013). When Equal Isn't Really Equal: The Masculine Dilemma of Seeking Work Flexibility. Journal Of Social Issues, 69(2), 303-321. doi:10.1111/josi.12016

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How can a more trusting, open and honest work environment make you more productive and boost your well-being? In business, a little psychology can have a big impact!

We're featured in the Employee Benefits supplement in USA Today's weekend issue. Pick up a copy on the newsstand today, or check out the digital version here -- Wake-Up Call: Psychological Health Matters.

In honor of National Employee Appreciation Day, we joined industry influencers, organizations and celebrity advocates for a campaign to promote the creation of more positive and productive work environments, in turn cultivating employee well-being and organizational success.

The Employee Benefits campaign was distributed through USA Today on March 6th, 2015 and is published online at futureofbusinessandtech.com.

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Betsy Myers, leadership expert and Founding Director of the Center for Women & Business at Bentley University, will deliver the keynote address at APA's 2015 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards, which will be presented on Saturday, March 14th in Washington, DC.

With deep experience in the corporate, political and higher education arena, Myers served as a senior adviser to Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign. She joined the campaign in January 2007 as the Chief Operating Officer and established the campaign with a business operational model and customer service mentality.

Prior to this appointment, Myers was the Executive Director of the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. She came to CPL in 2003, with a track record of strategically building and realigning organizations. Myers focused the Center's teaching and research around personal leadership and the fully integrated person.

A senior official in the Clinton Administration, Myers was the President's senior adviser on women's issues. As Deputy Assistant to the President, she launched and was the first Director of the White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. She figured prominently in shaping the Administration's legislative agenda on issues such as domestic violence, reproductive choice, breast cancer and women in business.

Myers also served as the Associate Deputy Administrator for Entrepreneurial Development in the U.S. Small Business Administration. She implemented the SBA’s national requirements under President Clinton’s Welfare to Work Initiative and was responsible for the agency’s technical assistance, management and distance learning programs. In a previous post, Myers was the Director of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership at the SBA. She served as an advocate for the 7.8 million women entrepreneurs in the United States.

A Public Service Fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School, she graduated with a MPA in 2000 and then served as the School’s Director of Alumni Programs and External Relations before directing the Center for Public Leadership. Her book, Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You, was released in September 2011.

Each February, we host our I Love My Job campaign to highlight the positive aspects of work.

We feature submissions on our social media pages and recognize the person who submits our favorite entry each week with some special treats to share with his or her co-workers.

Here is our favorite submission from last week...

Bill Gentry, a research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership, says...

About 60 percent of people who are leading for the first time never get any training, never get any development, never get any support in organizations. My job, and what I love doing, is finding out using research: What are the challenges these first-time managers are having? What are the skill gaps that they have? How can we help these people who are managing for the first time be the best that they can be?

What do you love about your job? Making a difference, working with fantastic colleagues, feeling proud of the organization you work for, having great benefits, something else? Let us know. Tell us in writing or send us a video. Help us spread the love and you might even be the next person featured!

Flexible work arrangements (FWAs) are believed to be an important organizational offering to assist employees in better managing work/life/family demands. The 2014 Workplace Flexibility Survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) identified the prevalence and nature of flexible work arrangements using a sample of 525 HR professionals randomly selected from SHRM's membership.

Findings indicated that the majority (52 to 75 percent) of organizations reported that FWA options had a positive impact on employee retention, recruitment and turnover. Improvement in these organizational objectives can translate into an improved bottom line for an organization. In terms of benefits to employees, the majority of organizations (52 to 84 percent) indicated FWA options had a positive impact on the quality of employees’ personal/family lives, morale, job satisfaction, engagement, job autonomy and health and wellness.

With promising outcomes for both the organization and employees, FWAs seem to offer real value. However, the extent of the value FWAs provide is still being determined. The vast majority (92 percent) of responding organizations did not use any method to measure its return on investment (ROI) or the effect on organizational and employee performance (83 percent). Research findings indicated that many organizations had a strong interest in doing so in the future. Many organizations (55 to 60 percent) indicated that an industry standard on types and methods of data collection and analyses, and benchmarks to evaluate degree of success would be “useful/very useful” in helping them to implement a strategy to measure the impact of FWAs.

A curious finding is the level of involvement of top management, HR and line managers/supervisors in the strategy design and implementation of FWAs within an organization. In this survey, 52 to 54 percent of organizations indicated top management and those in an HR function/role (including CHRO) were involved in the design of FWAs “to a large extent.” Fewer organizations (13 percent) indicated the same high level of involvement for line managers and supervisors. In terms of implementation of FWA strategy, findings indicate HR personnel took a more prominent role. Fifty-two percent of organizations said those in an HR function/role were “to a large extent” involved in implementation whereas only 31 to 36 percent of organizations indicated this level of involvement for top management and line managers/supervisors.

This has important implications as the majority of organizations (68 to 83 percent) indicated 8 out of 16 factors were “very important” in contributing to the success of FWAs. These factors included support and buy-in from top management, commitment from employees and a supportive organizational culture. Research increasingly suggests that multi-level leadership and support is a key component of a successful wellness strategy.

Future surveys could benefit from exploring factors which facilitate or impede top management and line managers/supervisors’ level of involvement in the design and implementation of FWAs. Any advances in clarifying the ROI and the effects of FWAs on organizational and employee performance through a standardized approach to data collection and analyses would be extremely valuable.

Resources: Berry, L., Mirabito, A. M., & Baun, W. B. (2010). What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs, Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2010/12/whats-the-hard-return-on-employee-wellness-programs.

The beginning of autumn may bring cooler weather, fall festivals and decorative gourds, but it also marks the next round of state-level Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award winners. Large and small, for-profit and not-for-profit, these employers understand the link between employee well-being and organizational performance and are taking steps to involve employees in meaningful ways, promote workforce health and wellness, provide flexibility and opportunities for growth and advancement, and recognize employees for their hard work and contributions.

I was honored to be invited to participate in the Hawaiʻi Psychological Association's recent 2014 awards event in Honolulu. Hawaiʻi has long been a valuable part of our award program and HPA's winners demonstrate the importance of workplace practices that are customized to meet employee needs and take cultural values into consideration. Over the years, we've seen outstanding examples of how organizations can help support and promote a strong sense of family and community and this year was no exception.

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Led by Dr. Jeffrey Stern, HPA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Committee, pictured here, put on an outstanding event that showcased the winning organizations, demonstrated the value of psychology in the workplace and provided a great learning experience for psychologists and non-psychologists alike.

It's always one of the highlights of my year to participate in local award events, meet the winners and see the program in action at the grassroots level, where it really makes a difference for individuals, organizations and communities. Mahalo to Dr. Stern and his team for including me this year.

The 2014 State-Level Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award winners from Hawaiʻi are:

  • 4th Signal Center, Regional Cyber Center Pacific
  • American Saving Bank
  • Atlas Insurance Agency
  • Kokua Kalihi Valley
  • Staffing Solutions of Hawaii
  • United Healthcare Community Plan Hawaii

Stay tuned to our Good Company Newsletter in early 2015 for more information about the winning companies from Hawaiʻi.

In other parts of the country, the Kentucky Psychological Association awarded its 2014 State-Level Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award to Passport Health. You can read more about Passport's efforts here.

The Maine Psychological Association also recently presented its 2014 State-Level Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards to the following organizations:

  • Kennebec Technologies
  • Coffee By DesignAmistad
  • Alpha One
  • Scarborough Department of Public Safety

You can learn more about Maine's awards and watch a video clip of Dr. David Prescott talk about the importance of creating a psychologically healthy workplace here.

Congratulations to the recent state-level award winners. You can see a list of all the 2014 local winners (reported to date) here and read more about those local winners who have gone on to receive top recognition from the American Psychological Association here.

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It seems like every week that goes by produces more and more weirdness in the world of work-life balance. Here’s what I’ve learned relatively recently:

  1. Too many U.S. workers fail to use up all of their vacation time, so we must all be workaholics.
  2. Since workers don’t know when to call it quits on a workday, we must use an automated pulley system to physically raise work desks into the ceiling.
  3. And even if we force people to go home, apparently they are struggling with “having it all” at home, too.

So, we all work too hard and need our employers to force us to quit working at the end of the day. But even if they do, we can’t manage to balance our non-work demands either, so what’s the point?

Something is missing from the conversation, something very, very important. There’s an insight that seems to go unnoticed, unmentioned or simply ignored. All too often, the blame for poor work-life balance is placed squarely on the shoulders of the employer. And while I think there are some employers that foster unrealistic expectations about the number of hours employees are expected to work, it certainly isn’t all of them. What’s missing from the conversation is the importance of self-management, which, if the Google definition is to be believed, involves “the taking of responsibility for one’s own behavior and well-being.”

And that is the missing element in a lot of the conversation regarding work-life balance. There seems to be a refusal to acknowledge the responsibility that each of us has to manage ourselves.

Take for example, the poll conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2013 regarding communication technology. Of those surveyed, 53 percent said they checked work messages at least once a day during days off, and 52 percent said they checked email during non-work hours on workdays. However, 71 percent reported that they had control over whether or not they did work outside of normal work hours.

That tells me is people are often choosing to do work outside the office. They are choosing to add demands that are not required of them.

So, how much of the stress in our lives, the stress we experience while trying to create an effective work-life interface, is actually brought about by our own inability to effectively engage in self-management? How much time do we waste watching television, piddling around on Facebook and other mindless diversions? How much time do we lose because we try to engage in multiple tasks at the same time (like watching T.V. while we’re trying to work)? How well do we proactively manage our schedules, so that we don’t overcommit? And how often do we set priorities and stay true to them by telling our kids, our friends or even our employer the simple word “no” from time to time?

The fact is, there are only so many hours in a given day or week. There is only so much effort and energy to go around, and people are only so good at managing their limited resources. Yet, that issue is so seldom discussed in the articles and news items you find on the Internet. Instead, what you see most often is an emphasis on blaming the organization. Yet, forcing people to use their vacation time or lifting their desks into the ceiling to prohibit work beyond a certain time does not address the underlying problems that produce the stress people experience.

The problem with forcing people to use vacation time or implementing a mandatory end time for work is that those types of policies simply force people to suspend the allocation of time and energy on work demands during arbitrary periods of time. They do nothing to:

  1. Reduce the number of demands (if I can’t work on something at home tonight, it’s just one more thing I have to do tomorrow),
  2. Give employees the opportunity to work when they are most likely to be engaged (such as for those who prefer to work in the evenings), or
  3. Provide people with the needed competencies to better manage their time.

And as long as we continue to take a paternalistic approach to work-life balance, which assumes that all workers are the same and removes accountability to self-management, we will continue to hear story after story of people who are having a difficult time “having it all.”

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/agaumont / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Guest post by Stephanie Andel, Sodexo Research Fellow

I recently had the honor of serving as a student volunteer at the 2014 Work & Well-Being conference in Chicago on September 11th and 12th. In case you have never heard of it, this conference is presented by the APA Center for Organizational Excellence with the mission to unite psychology and business practices in order to ultimately create health promotion and wellness efforts that are impactful, successful and sustaining.

Among other things, one unique and inspiring aspect of this particular conference that I noticed was the attendance and participation of both scientists and practitioners in a variety of different areas (including counseling psychology, clinical psychology, consulting psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, nursing and more!). There was something incredibly refreshing about this integration of empirical evidence and practical implementation. Through witnessing this collaborative effort, I was exposed to just how much of an impact we can make on changing organizations for the better if we continue to close the scientist-practitioner gap that is often so evident in psychology.

The conference was packed with informative and novel information related to psychologically healthy workplace practices that are imperative for organizations to acknowledge when designing initiatives aimed at enhancing employee well-being. For instance, in his opening address, Dr. David Ballard explained how in the past, organizations generally saw safety prevention and health promotion as two separate issues. However, recent research suggests that combining these programs yields a synergistic effect that has beneficial outcomes for both the employer and employee.

This impressive and informative opening then set the stage for the rest of the conference, which was chock-full of ways to make these comprehensive health programs both feasible and practical. For instance, speakers discussed various empirically-based healthy practices that could be integrated to improve employees’ workplace experience, including the promotion of coping strategies stemming from the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) model and the importance of sleep. Further, we discussed ethical issues that are relevant to organizational consulting and learned various techniques to improve innovation and creativity—both of which will surely come in handy when attempting to design and implement programs that promote employee health and wellness.

In addition to all of the aforementioned topics, we also had the opportunity to hear from Thomas J. Walter, who is the CEO of the Chicago-area company Tasty Catering. Tasty Catering has won various local, regional and national awards, and was also the recipient of APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award. Such recognition is due to the attention and focus the company gives to ensuring that employees have an optimal, healthy and fulfilling workplace experience. It was truly an honor to be exposed to all of the wonderful and innovative ways in which Tasty Catering has developed such a wholesome and collaborative workplace culture.

Throughout his presentation, Mr. Walter discussed how employees are encouraged to speak up, voice their ideas, treat others with respect and work as a team. It is apparent that every single employee’s opinion counts and is heard. Ultimately, it was refreshing to see not only how valuable the company sees each employee, but also how much the employees truly felt a desire to give back to the company as a result of being treated with so much respect. Tasty Catering’s approach to enhancing its employees’ workplace experience is unprecedented, and it was great to see a company truly embrace and champion our mission for companies to promote both psychological and physical employee health.

Overall, I left the Work and Well-Being Conference with a vast amount of knowledge, development, networking experience and energized passion for the field. I very much look forward to future Work and Well-Being Conferences and I am especially excited to see the beneficial impact of such collaboration in organizations all over the world. Thank you to all of the organizers and attendees for such a rewarding experience.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/e_monk / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Social media is a way of life and work. It connects us to each other and to people and resources that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. But the distinction between personal and professional lives on social media is often blurred, making the enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws complex.

Should an employer have the right to request an employee’s Facebook password? Currently, 12 states ban the practice. The issues of social media in the workplace span across HR, legal and management, and involve concerns about discrimination, recruitment, screening and background checks, hiring, harassment, social media policies and discovery for legal proceedings.

“Equal employment opportunity law is increasingly touched by the advance of social media,” said Jacqueline A. Berrien, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair at an EEOC meeting this past March. The meeting focused on the legal issues surrounding social media in the workplace and included a panel of attorneys discussing how social media complicates the enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws.

According to recent research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), only 30 percent of the organizations surveyed that use social media or online searches as part of their recruiting and selection process have used information that came from online search engines and/or social networking websites to disqualify job applicants.

It’s important to remember that regardless of where employers obtain information about a person’s race, sex, disability or other protected status, hiring decisions cannot be based on that information, even if it did come from social media.

It’s difficult in ways that aren’t always apparent to separate personal and public lives for people who use social media for work, as their profiles are linked through various platforms. This is especially true of milliennials and employees who work in the world of online media and communications.

Of course employees and job applicants should use social media responsibly because even posts that you think are private are out of your control once they are online. Of note is that the EEOC does not plan to issue any regulations or guidance on the use of social media in the workplace, rather, the purpose of their meeting was to open a discussion about the importance of social media and its impact on employment law.

Renee Jackson, an attorney with Nixon Peabody in San Francisco, shared sage advice for employers to use social media as part of a recruitment plan that also includes traditional media and referrals. Jackson further advised employers “not to ask applicants or employees for their private user names or passwords and insert language that encompasses social media into the employer’s code of conduct and harassment policies.”

Social media changes at a pace faster than most people who don’t work in the field can keep up with. It is important to ensure employees, especially supervisors and managers, understand that their friendships with subordinates on social media may encumber them with additional responsibilities under the law.

Access to the EEOC meeting transcript, video and Twitter feed is available online.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonahowie / CC BY 2.0

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