November 2014 Archives
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.
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.
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:
- Too many U.S. workers fail to use up all of their vacation time, so we must all be workaholics.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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),
- 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
- 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.”
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.