Tag Archives: Employee

Have more sex and leave stress at the office to improve your work life

A new paper from the Oregon State University found that an active and healthy sex life can boost employees’ job satisfaction and productivity, evidencing the need for a good work-life balance, the authors report.

Image credits Michal Jarmoluk.

Getting busy between the sheets could be just the thing to make you enjoy your job more, says Keith Leavitt, associate professor in OSU’s College of Business. He and his team looked at the relationship between the work and sex habits of married employees and found that those who got some love at home unknowingly received a boost in workplace the next day — when they were more likely to immerse themselves in the tasks at hand and drew more enjoyment in their work.

“We make jokes about people having a ‘spring in their step,’ but it turns out this is actually a real thing and we should pay attention to it,” said Leavitt, an expert in organizational behavior and management and first author of the paper.

“Maintaining a healthy relationship that includes a healthy sex life will help employees stay happy and engaged in their work, which benefits the employees and the organizations they work for.”

Starting off on the right foot

Intercourse triggers the release of neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with the brain’s reward pathway, as well as neuropeptide ocytocine, which promotes social bonding and feelings of attachment. It’s a winner combo, which makes sex a natural and pretty fail-proof way of improving your mood. And best of all, the effects of these chemicals can extend well into the next day, the team explains.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers monitored with 159 married employees over a period of two weeks, asking them to complete two short surveys every day. They found that people who had sex reported more positive moods overall the next day — and an improved emotional state in the morning correlated strongly to more self-reported work engagement and job satisfaction throughout the workday.

The effect typically lasted for at least 24 hours, was equally powerful in both men and women, and was significant even after the team corrected for general satisfaction with the relationship and sleep quality — both very powerful ingredients of overall mood.

Image credits Sasin Tipchai.

Leavitt and his team also showed that bringing your work stress to home from work has a negative effect on your romantic endeavors. Employees that failed to disconnect work from their personal life were more likely to sacrifice sex, causing their engagement in work to decline over time. In a society where virtually everyone has a smartphone and after-hours responses to work emails are often expected, these findings underscore the importance of leaving work at the office, Leavitt said.

With this in mind, it may be time to rethink how our work and personal lives fit together, Leavitt says.

“This is a reminder that sex has social, emotional and physiological benefits, and it’s important to make it a priority,” he added. “Making a more intentional effort to maintain a healthy sex life should be considered an issue of human sustainability, and as a result, a potential career advantage.”

“Technology offers a temptation to stay plugged in, but it’s probably better to unplug if you can. And employers should encourage their employees to completely disengage from work after hours.”

Still, I’d give it some time before putting it down on my CV. Let the findings penetrate the job market a bit more, as it were.

“Just make time for it,” he concludes.

Well, it wouldn’t be right to argue with science, would it? Guess we just have to. For productivity’s sake.

The full paper “From the Bedroom to the Office: Workplace Spillover Effects of Sexual Activity at Home” has been published in the Journal of Management.

 

 

Sweden tests the six hours work day, with impressive results

A group of elderly-care nurses working at the Swedish Svartedalens elderly home participated in the first controlled trial of shorter work hours the country held for a decade now. In February, they switched from an eight-hours to a six-hour working day for the same wage, in an effort to improve productivity and quality of life.

Just as reducing the work day from 12-11 hours to 8 allowed the workers much needed rest and personal time once, Sweden experiments with reducing the day to 6 hours work, to improve productivity and quality of life.
Image via wikipedia

“I used to be exhausted all the time, I would come home from work and pass out on the sofa,” says Lise-Lotte Pettersson, 41, an assistant nurse at Svartedalens care home in Gothenburg. “But not now. I am much more alert: I have much more energy for my work, and also for family life.”

Despite the fact that an extra 14 members of staff were hired to cope with the shorter hours and new shift patterns, the Svartedalens experiment’s results are so promising that others, all over Sweden, are joining in. At Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University hospital, orthopaedic surgery has moved to a six-hour work day, as have the staff of two hospital departments in Umeå. Even small businesses tried the model and report that a shorter day increases productivity and reduce staff turnover. Ann-Charlotte Dahlbom Larsson, head of elderly care at the home, says staff wellbeing is better and the standard of care is even higher.

“Since the 1990s we have had more work and fewer people – we can’t do it any more,” she says. “There is a lot of illness and depression among staff in the care sector because of exhaustion – the lack of balance between work and life is not good for anyone.”

Pettersson, one of 82 nurses at Svartedalens, agrees. She looks after the elderly of the home there, some of whom have dementia, and her work demands constant vigilance and creativity. This can get very tiring, very fast, and the six-hour workday allows her to maintain a higher standard of care throughout her shift.

“You cannot allow elderly people to become stressed, otherwise it turns into a bad day for everyone,” she says.

After a century in which working hours were gradually reduced, holidays increased and retirement reached earlier, there has been an increase in hours worked for the first time in history, says Roland Paulsen, a researcher in business administration at the University of Lund. People are working harder and longer, he says – but this is not necessarily for the best.

“For a long time politicians have been competing to say we must create more jobs with longer hours – work has become an end in itself,” he says. “But productivity has doubled since the 1970s, so technically we even have the potential for a four-hour working day. It is a question of how these productivity gains are distributed. It did not used to be utopian to cut working hours – we have done this before.”

At Toyota service centres in Gothenburg, working hours have been shorter for more than a decade. Employees moved to a six-hour day 13 years ago and have never looked back. Customers were unhappy with long waiting times, while staff were stressed and making mistakes, according to Martin Banck, the managing director, whose idea it was to cut the time worked by his mechanics. From a 7am to 4pm working day the service centre switched to two six-hour shifts with full pay, one starting at 6am and the other at noon, with fewer and shorter breaks. There are 36 mechanics on the scheme.

“Staff feel better, there is low turnover and it is easier to recruit new people,” Banck says.

They have a shorter travel time to work, there is more efficient use of the machines and lower capital costs – everyone is happy.”

“Profits have risen by 25%,” he adds.

Martin Geborg, 27, a mechanic, started at Toyota eight years ago and has stayed there because of the six-hour day.

“My friends are envious,” he says.

He enjoys the fact that there is no traffic on the roads when he is heading to and from work. Sandra Andersson, 25, has been with the company since 2008.

“It is wonderful to finish at 12,” she says. “Before I started a family I could go to the beach after work – now I can spend the afternoon with my baby.”

For Maria Bråth, owner of internet startup Brath, the six-hour working day the company introduced when it was formed three years ago gives it a competitive advantage because it attracts better staff and keeps them.

“They are the most valuable thing we have,” she says.

An offer of more pay elsewhere would not make up for the shorter hours they have at Brath. The company, which has 22 staff in offices in Stockholm and Örnsköldsvik, produces as much, if not more, than its competitors do in eight-hour days, she says.

“It has a lot to do with the fact that we are very creative – we couldn’t keep it up for eight hours.”

For Linus Feldt, owner of Stockholm app developer Filimundus, the six-hour working day schedule his business began a year ago is about motivation and focus, rather than staff simply cramming in the same amount of work they used to do in eight hours.

“Today I believe that time is more valuable than money,” Feldt says. “And it is a strong motivational factor to be able to go home two hours earlier. You still want to do a good job and be productive during six hours, so I think you focus more and are more efficient.”

Throughout the 1990s the country toyed with several experiments of the six-hour day for a full wage. In Kiruna, a mining town in the far north, home care for the elderly moved to a six-hour day in 1989 so to better correlate the working lives of female carers with those of their husbands in the mines. Stockholm city council conducted a major trial of a six-hour day in care centres for children, older people and those with disabilities from 1996 to 1998.

But when power passed from left to right in Kiruna in 2005, the reform was reversed and staff went back to eight hours. Similarly, with a change of administration in Stockholm the trial came to an end.

“It was a political decision to end it, they said it was too expensive,” says Prof Birgitta Olsson of Lund University, who was involved in research to evaluate the Stockholm experiment. “But it was a good investment in improved wellbeing for the community. More people were in jobs, they were in better health and enjoyed better working conditions.”

Measuring the cost of such schemes is complicated, Olsson says – it is hard to distinguish whether savings on sick leave, for example, are down to shorter working hours or other factors. Moreover, with more people in work, unemployment benefit payments are cut, but the savings accrue to the state, not the municipality that bears the cost of hiring more staff.

Svartedalens is attempting to avoid shortcomings by keeping the changes tightly focused and monitored. Only assistant nurses are involved, and the city’s human resources management system is generating high-quality data, according to Bengt Lorentzon, a consultant on the scheme. Another care home is being used as a “control”, so Svartedalens can be compared with a workplace that has stuck to an eight-hour day.

“It is very important to get evidence,” Lorentzon says. “All the previous experiments were focused on the nurses’ health and sick leave, not the quality of service.” It is too early to put figures on the results, but nurses at Svartedalens have more energy, are less stressed and have more time for the residents, who themselves are more comfortable and relaxed, Lorentzon says.

Despite the positive signs, the experiment is likely to end next year – the centre-left coalition on Gothenburg council has lost its majority, and the Conservatives and Liberals are firmly opposed to reduced working hours. The trial is costing about 8m Swedish krona (£630,000) a year, according to the Liberal party.

“It’s like living in a world where it is raining money from the sky,” according to one Conservative councillor.

Daniel Bernmar, leader of the Left party group on Gothenburg city council, which pushed for the trial at Svartedalens, admits a six-hour day costs more money, but insists it is a matter of quality of life for public sector workers and for residents in elderly care.

“Not everything is about making things cheaper and more efficient, but about making them better,” he says. “Under the Conservative-led coalition government in Sweden from 2005 to 2014 we spoke only about working more, and more efficiently – but now we want to discuss how to survive a long working life so we don’t destroy our bodies by the time we are 60.”

Science-backed tips on making the most out of your breaks at work

Most people agree that taking some time off to unwind and recharge is a healthy and necessary ingredient in a efficient workday. So we tend to take one or more breaks, often putting a hold on work at mid-day for a snack and chat. But are there any guides to make the most out downtime?

Two researchers at Baylor University looked into how breaks during the workday improve employee health and efficiency, and found that yes – there are a few constants that seem to make a break great. Their findings offer some surprising suggestions on when, where and how to plan the best moments of relaxation, while also debunking some common break-time myths.

Image via fastcompany

Emily Hunter, Ph.D., and Cindy Wu, Ph.D., associate professors of management in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, surveyed 95 employees aged 22 to 67, over a five-day workweek, asking them to note on each brake they took during the study. These were defined as  “any period of time, formal or informal, during the workday in which work-relevant tasks are not required or expected, including but not limited to a break for lunch, coffee, personal email or socializing with coworkers, not including bathroom breaks.”

By the end of the week, Hunter and Wu analyzed a total of 959 break surveys, for an average of 2 per person per day. Their findings were quite unexpected.

“We took some of our layperson hypotheses about what we believed were helpful in a break and tested those empirically in the best way possible,” Hunter said. “This is a strong study design with strong analyses to test those hypotheses. What we found was that a better workday break was not composed of many of the things we believed. “

The results, they say, will benefit both managers and employees, as better breaks directly translate into higher levels of productivity and quality of life for those doing the work — everyone wins!

Key findings of the study include:

1. The best time for time off is in the mid-morning

The research shows that rather than the more typical timetable of powering through hard tasks in the morning and unwinding with a lunch-hour or mid-afternoon break, taking some time to recharge earlier leads to higher levels of energy, concentration and motivation throughout the day.

“We found that when more hours had elapsed since the beginning of the work shift, fewer resources and more symptoms of poor health were reported after a break,” the study says. “Therefore, breaks later in the day seem to be less effective.”

2. Engage in activities that make you feel good, even if they are work-related.

“Doing things that are non-work-related makes for the best breaks” is a commonly held belief among workers today, Hunter explained. But the study found no evidence to prove that such activities were more beneficial than just doing what you like.  Simply put, preferred break activities are things you choose to do and things you like to do, including work-related tasks.

“Finding something on your break that you prefer to do – something that’s not given to you or assigned to you – are the kinds of activities that are going to make your breaks much more restful, provide better recovery and help you come back to work stronger,” Hunter said.

3. Better breaks mean better health and increased job satisfaction.

The employee surveys showed that recovery of resources – energy, concentration and motivation – following a “better break” (earlier in the day, doing things they preferred) led workers to experience less somatic symptoms, including headache, eyestrain and lower back pain after the break.

These employees also reported increased job satisfaction and organizational citizenship behavior as well as a decrease in emotional exhaustion (burnout), the study shows.

4. Longer breaks are good, but frequent short breaks are the best.

While the study was unable to determine a exact length of time for the best workday break, the research found that more short breaks were associated with higher resources, suggesting that employees should be encouraged to take more frequent short breaks to facilitate recovery.

“Unlike your cellphone, which popular wisdom tells us should be depleted to zero percent before you charge it fully to 100 percent, people instead need to charge more frequently throughout the day,” Hunter said.