Linking Health and Safety at work

Organisations are recognising the relationship between safe workers and healthy workers.

Workplace health and safety is critical in every business but even with strict safety policies, procedures, safe systems and employee training in place, accidents and workplace illnesses still happen! Health and wellbeing initiatives can bridge the gap where safety programs end to make a difference in safety and overall
company culture.

Organisations that invest in wellbeing initiatives can expect to see a decrease in work-related accidents and
injuries. In fact, benefits are broader than purely financial gains from reducing absenteeism, accidents, injuries, and work-related health problems. Workplace wellbeing programs that address lifestyle risk factors and health risks of workers lead to more engaged employees, reduced turnover, reduced claims and higher productivity.

Health & Safety Management Timeline

Being ahead of the curve from a health and safety perspective is not just about robust health and safety culture. It’s about creating an environment that places employee wellbeing as a top priority.

The traditional approach to managing safety starts with the introduction of policy, roles and responsibilities,
and training. This is followed by risk assessments, implementation of control procedures and safe systems
of work.

Despite these efforts, accidents still occur. Over recent years a behavioural safety approach has proven to be
successful at reducing workplace accidents, yet rates still exceed acceptable levels. The next logical step is to address employee lifestyles from both a business and employee perspective.

What happens at home affects the workplace – and vice versa. Stress, anxiety, sleep loss, obesity, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, lack of concentration and memory changes can affect critical behaviours regarding safety in the workplace.

How Does Reduced Wellbeing Impact Safety?

When employees aren’t feeling their best physically and mentally, it can have a huge impact on their ability to perform at their best. The following conditions are likely to be strong contributors to major causes of accidents:
*Reduced cognitive function
*Increased fatigue
*Poor concentration and distraction
*Falling asleep at work
*Reduced memory and recall
*Reduced flexibility and mobility
*Increase in mental health conditions
*Changes in attitude and behaviour

How Healthy Employees Lead to a Safer Workforce?
All of these factors can contribute to workplace accidents as well as simple slips,
trips and falls, back and neck problems, and manufacturing and vehicular accidents
in the workplace.

Serious claims and workplace incidents remain costly to organisations in terms of lost productivity, compensation, and insurance premiums.
There are:
6 serious claims per million hours worked
$10,800 AUD$ median payout claim
5.2 WEEKS median lost time
45% of incidents are a result of physical and mental health issues

What steps is your workplace doing to try to prevent and hopefully reduce these numbers? It not only affects your workplace, but your employees lifestyle and the lifestyle of their families. It is not just about ticking boxes, but being proactive to cater the program(s) to match your goals, values and culture.

Which Lifestyle Factors Affect Workplace Safety?

Sleep
Sleep quality is the most crucial lifestyle factor affecting safety in the workplace. The constant need for employees to be ‘on’ is having a big impact on their ability to switch off at the end of the day. Occasional sleep loss can be recovered but when employees move into the sleep deficit category, there can be a dramatic impact on work performance. Poor sleep quality can affect mood, impair concentration, decrease memory function,
increase fatigue and reduce reaction time. These negative impacts are all key ingredients in health and safety accidents, so bringing awareness to the importance of sleep is crucial in reducing employee safety risks.

Stress
The way employees manage stress in their personal and professional lives has a big impact on their focus, as well as how easy it is for them to sleep. While it’s hard to eliminate stress from the equation altogether, it’s possible to help employees manage and cope with it.

Physical Activity
Employees who don’t regularly exercise, or are predominantly sedentary during their work day, can suffer from musculoskeletal problems, work-related upper body disorders, obesity and stress.

Obesity
Employees that are obese or overweight have a higher risk of slips and trips, are more likely to suffer from musculoskeletal problems, and manual handling problems, as well as being more prone to sleep apnoea, fatigue and the onset of chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes.

How Can You Mitigate the Impact of These Lifestyle Factors?
There are several ways that employers can limit the impact that lifestyle factors can have on safety
in the workplace:

1 Recognise the impact that an employee’s lifestyle can have, not only on themselves, but their co-workers.
2 Integrate a robust employee health and wellbeing strategy into your business and educate employees about the link between their own health and safety in the workplace.
3 As part of your risk assessment program, look for areas that might have higher health risks and introduce
initiatives to counter risk. For example, focus on sedentary roles in administration or transport, or work roles that have high levels of stress.
4 Incorporate health-related metrics in your health and safety reporting.
5 When reviewing current safety procedures or introducing new ones, consider any wellbeing aspects to the procedure. For example, introducing stand-and-stretch breaks into meetings longer than thirty minutes.
6 Ensure your employee wellbeing committee is collaborating with your workplace safety committee.

It’s important for HR leaders and employers to not only encourage and educate their employees on specific health and safety procedures, but also provide a workplace that fosters a culture of health and wellbeing.

Simple steps for an active office

As much as I’d like to see everyone up and active on a regular basis, I do also realise that there are many situations which arise and we need to make these a priority.

Unfortunately this often means that we are stuck to our desk and high intense activity will not occur.

If this situation does occur, we can still create and “active office”.

With some small modifications to the physical set up of your space, you can still fit in some activity. After all, some activity is better than none. Especially on the long days when you are glued to your desk.

If you are an office worker sitting at a desk all day, why not try some of these simple tips to increase your movement at work:

Never eat at your desk, always move to another area during your lunch break. Try going for a 10 minute walk to a park or mall to eat.

Keep printers and faxes out of reach so that you need to get up to collect your documents.

Keep your phone out of reach so that your body has the chance to move about when you get up to answer it.

Rather than communicating via phone or email, get up and speak to someone face to face.

Occasionally pull your chair out from your desk and stretch your back muscles – simply flop over your knees and touch your toes to maximise the stretch. Every 40-50 minutes is a good guide.

If your desk chair has arms, use your arms to lift your body off the chair and hold. This movement exercises both your stomach and arm muscles.

Be aware of good posture: sit up straight with your shoulders back and stomach muscles pulled in.

Rotate your shoulders and neck periodically to release tension.

Every time you come back to your chair, try and hold your stomach muscles in for as long as possible.

Encourage yourself to use the stairs whenever possible.

If possible, park your car further from the office so that you have to walk an extra ten minutes each way. Think of this as an opportunity to increase your level of incidental activity, instead of an inconvenience.

This will not make you into an Olympian, but it can certainly prevent certain conditions setting in and this will help keep you active, become less stiff and get your body moving. You will be surprised how much you can move to when these steps are implemented.

Why do we still have lifestyle diseases?

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes now account for 90 per cent of deaths each year in the UK.

These so-called ‘lifestyle’ conditions are a well known problem in the west. Much less understood is that they now account for the majority (53 per cent) of deaths and disabilities in the developing world – taking 31 million lives a year.

NCDs are not driven by infections and viruses but by behaviours such as poor diet, smoking, moving too little, alcohol and drugs.

Although often referred to as lifestyle issues – implying personal choice – the rapid spread of NCDs around the world suggests they are a more universal problem, correlating strongly with economic development and urbanisation.

Globally, 70 per cent of deaths – some 40 million – are now attributed to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), with lower and middle income countries becoming increasingly impacted as there economies grow.

NCDs are killing more people earlier in developing counties than in the developed world – over 80 per cent of the 15 million NCD deaths that take place between age 30-69 are in low and middle income countries

This is having a more severe impact on people’s lives and national economies, and it’s during these years that people are meant to be at their most productive, earning a living – bringing money home to their families and contributing to economic growth.

In all regions of the world with the notable exception of Africa, more people are dying today from NCDs than from any other cause.

Although more people in Africa continue to die from infectious and viral conditions such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, deaths from chronic conditions are rising rapidly, up by 42 per cent since 2000 across the continent.

The World Health Organisation predicts NCDs will be the biggest killers in Africa by 2030.

The risk factors for chronic diseases include smoking, physical inactivity, high levels of alcohol consumption and obesity.

Although tobacco remains the leading cause of chronic conditions, smoking rates on the whole are falling – except in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.

Obesity rates have however, rocketed worldwide in the last four decades.

Johanna Ralston, chief executive of the World Obesity Federation, says that obesity is both a key risk factor for NCDs as well as a disease in itself.

“Obesity leads to cardiovascular problems and diabetes and even many cancers. It’s both an entry point for what progresses into other diseases and is a disease state itself,” she said. “Today obesity is recognised as a driver for NCDs in the way tobacco was around fifteen years ago”.

While rates of obesity have risen in every country of the world since 1975, the obesity epidemic has hit hardest in the Middle East and the Pacific nations where high levels of imported foods have contributed to expanding waistlines.

The Gulf’s rapid economic growth, leading to a change in diet, and hot climate, which discourages people from exercising outside, have also helped fuel the region’s obesity epidemic, says Ms Ralston.

Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and Qatar are seeing levels of obesity comparable to the USA, with diabetes and other weight-related conditions becoming a major public health concern.

More surprising perhaps, obesity is also rising in countries that only a few decades ago were experiencing food shortages. In Ghana, for example, obesity has soared by over 600 per cent since 1975 and now affects one in 11 adults.

There is now a clear understanding of the relationship between NCDs and poverty in many places.

NCDs are a cause and consequence of poverty, and it’s often the poorest that are most vulnerable to NCDs and in many countries you are seeing NCDs impacting on lower socio-economic proportions of populations.”

Big tobacco, big food, big alcohol

While the causes of chronic diseases in low and middle income countries are complex, experts and campaigners are increasingly pointing the finger at big business and the so-called “commercial determinants of health”.

“It’s very clear that big tobacco, big food and big alcohol are seeing many lower and middle income countries as their emerging target markets,” said Ms Dain. She said that many tobacco companies in particular increasingly see Africa –which currently has a low level of female smokers – as a potential opportunity.

The spotlight has recently also fallen on the fast food and sugary drinks industries.

Last year a study on global obesity by Imperial College London and the WHO found a 10-fold increase of the condition among children which the study’s authors attributed to the impact of food marketing and food policies.

While fast food chains still continue to see growth in many traditional markets such as the US and the UK, the most spectacular growth is taking place in emerging economies.

Fast food spending grew more in the United Arab Emirates from 2010-2015 than in any other country. The country has also seen a rapid rise in non-communicable conditions.

Most foods we eat here have a high calorie content and high carbohydrate content. That’s the food that’s affordable and tastes good Dr. Abdul Razzak AlMadani, Dubai’s Al Borj Medical Centre
Abdul Razzak AlMadani, a consultant in medicine and endocrinology at Al Borj Medical Centre in Dubai and President of the Emirates Diabetes Society puts the rise down to among other things changing lifestyles and eating habits in the past few decades.

“It’s fast food, but not only fast food,” said Dr AlMadani. “Most foods we eat here have a high calorie content and high carbohydrate content. That’s the food that’s affordable and tastes good.”

Dr AlMadani believes that raising awareness of the risks of diabetes and hypertension among the population – particularly among parents who he says pass on unhealthy eating habits to their children – is one key way to bring down the incidence of these conditions.

Junk food taxes are working

Alongside awareness, a number of countries have also started to fight back against the marketing and consumption of unhealthy foods with tax on harmful foods and drinks.

This replicates the strategy developed countries have taken in tackling tobacco and alcohol consumption.

For Rebecca Perl, director of partnerships and initiatives at US-based non-governmental organisation, Vital Strategies, taxes can go a long way to reducing consumption of unhealthy food and drinks.

“Taxes are a win-win,” said Ms Perl. “They help people reduce use of unhealthy products but also bring money to governments to put health policies in place.”

Mexico, where more than 70 per cent of the population is overweight or obese, is already reaping benefits from such a levy. In 2014, the country introduced a tax of 1 peso (4 pence) per litre of sugary drink.

Although it is too early to say what impact this will have, early results are promising.

A study of the tax by researchers in Mexico and the United States found that sugary drinks purchases fell by an average of 7.6 per cent in the two years after the tax was introduced.

The UK is also set to introduce a sugary drinks tax in April.

So, Lifestyle diseases appear to be growing and present themselves in many ways. Whether it is a type of cancer, diabetes, cardiovasular disease or a combination of any of these, when are we as individuals going to start taking responsibility for our choices.

Also, if are in the position in a company which provides meals, lunches or snacks to your employees, when are you going to take responsibility for the health and wellness of your employees. If you are, well done to you.

Yes, in the end it is up to the individual to choose whether to consume the food or not, but at least if the better choices are provided it is more likely to occur.

Also, what measures are you taking to look after the activity and mental health of your employees?

As this blog is about NCD’s, as people are spending longer time at work, measures need to be made to look after your staff so you can reduce the chances of them gaining an NCD.

It will benefit you in the long run.

Choose your wellness program with for a reason.

Being in the health and wellness game for a few years now you see all sorts of programs in place and I wander often if they are really that effective and gaining the benefit of running that chosen program or product.

When looking at your health and wellness program, there should be a reason behind it: Mental, physical, social, educational, spiritual or a combination of one or more of those factors.

Maximum participation would also be ideal. There will be naysayers and wall flowers, but with enough thought and reasoning behind your choice of program, you will see everyone participating and enjoying the benefits. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees what their interests are. After all, it is also about them.

In recent years, the standing desk has become a trendy workplace accessory — one that seems to breed inexplicably overnight.

One day Phil from the IT help desk has one … and then suddenly, the entire office is hopping from foot to foot while chatting on the phone to a client.
But do they really improve our health, or make us more productive? Some studies indicate they do have benefits, but others are more sceptical.

In Australian workplaces, wellness initiatives are becoming a commonplace phenomenon.
And while standing desks, office yoga classes and gym memberships are all nice things to have on offer at work, the jury is still out on whether they actually make us healthier, or better at our jobs.

A growing body of research actually suggests that without a targeted and well thought out approach, workplace wellness initiatives often fail to yield results.
But conversely, ignoring employee health costs money too.

The cost of absenteeism in Australia is estimated at $7 billion each year, while presenteeism — defined as not fully functioning at work because of a medical condition — was recently estimated to cost the economy more than $34 billion a year.

Studies have shown that properly designed wellness programs can deliver significant benefits, with an average rate of return of between 2:1 and 5:1 for every dollar spent.
Encouragingly, a 2014 report by Buck Consultants found that about 47 per cent of companies in Australia offered some kind of health promotion service to employees — but only about half of those had measured, specific outcomes.

Occupational physician Niki Ellis said the Australian approach to workplace wellness programs was somewhat “immature”.

Prolonged periods of stress can make going to work seem like a nightmare. So whose responsibility is workplace stress?

“There is scope for improvement here in the way investment in this area is being made,” Professor Ellis said.

Professor Ellis said while usually well-intentioned, often wellness programs both here and abroad were not very strategic.

She used an example from Harvard Professor Gloria Sorenson, a leading authority on workplace wellness programs, to illustrate her point.

“It’s my favourite story about why wellness bits and pieces, just introduced into a workplace without integrating them carefully into an overall strategy for health, is probably not going to work,” she said.

“She was running quit smoking programs in the workplace and she started to deliver those in foundries.

“And she could see the irony of her very earnestly encouraging workers to quit smoking, when all around them were these toxic fumes and heat.”

The health benefits the workers might have received from quitting smoking were negated by the very environment they were working in.

“You can’t really expect workers to be anything other than a bit sceptical when you’re doing that in a hazardous working environment,” she said.

In the United States, where health insurance for staff is often paid for by employers, the push to identify workplace wellness initiatives that deliver results is more established than in Australia.

A 2015 report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the best corporate wellness programs addressed both the individual risk factors affecting employees’ health, and the organisational factors that helped or hindered employees’ efforts to reduce those risks.

It found the strongest programs created a culture of health, intertwining individual health promotion efforts with the overall company goals and objectives.
The best programs were also created in consultation with staff.
Honest Tea, an organic drink company based in Bethesda, Maryland, was used as a case study in the report.

The company’s headquarters were deliberately placed next to biking and walking trails to encourage physical activity, and staff were given access to a wellness coach who gave advice on diet, weight management, and quitting smoking.
Initially the company also offered yoga and meditation classes at work, but participation was low.

By polling their staff, who were primarily quite young, the company found out that their employees wanted more intense activities. As a result, Honest Tea now offers boot camp workouts and rock climbing events, and participation exceeds 50 per cent.
For Honest Tea — a company founded on principles of health — these investments, among others, help maintain a corporate culture and keep employees healthy.

By all means I want to see all workplaces “fit for work” and have an ongoing health and wellness strategy in place. But I also want you all to reap the benefits from the program(s) as well.

IQ or EQ in the workplace. Which is best?

As business professionals, we pride ourselves on our technical skills, industry expertise, and innovation. These hard skills are what make our resumes stand out, but ultimately they’re only one part of the equation. According to Harvard Business Review, emotional intelligence (EQ) is “the key attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers,” and is the leading differentiator between employees whose IQ and technical skills are approximately the same. In fact, in a 2015 study, TalentSmart found that EQ is the strongest predictor of work performance, accounting for 58% of success in all fields.

In a business world increasingly dependent on negotiation, compromise, and collaboration, the importance of Emotional Intelligence cannot be understated. EQ can make or break client relationships, our work environment, and our ability to successfully communicate with our colleagues. Consider these 5 ways to grow your interpersonal skills.

1. Seek Self-Awareness: Being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses is crucial to developing higher EQ. Do you tend to lose patience when team meetings get off track? Do your customer service skills need work? Take note of areas for improvement, and seek ways to improve your work relationships by practicing patience, empathy, and understanding. In doing so, you develop key soft skills that will boost your performance and increase the quality of your work life.

2. Eliminate Emotional Interference: Studies reveal that our brains process an emotional reaction before we can logically react to a provocation, and it takes up to 20 minutes to recover from an emotional stimulus. Before letting visceral reaction take over cerebral reason, acknowledge any stress or anxiety you’re feeling and resolve it before moving forward. Calm yourself with a short walk, meditation, or a cup of tea, and then revisit the situation without negative emotions influencing your actions.

3. Evaluate Objectively: Whether we’re dealing with a difficult client, or still smarting after an offhanded comment from a coworker, depersonalising the situation is key for maintaining healthy relationships. We tend to assume that people act or speak in relation to us personally; when in reality they do and say things because of themselves, not us. Don’t take everything personally, and strive to accept other’s actions as a reflection of them instead of you.

4. Proactive, Not Reactive: When issues arise, decide your next move based upon what will resolve the problem most effectively. Taking a reactionary approach by retaliating, going straight to your manager, or giving up on a client will only create more challenges down the line. Instead, seek solutions that address your counterpart’s concerns and prevent future conflict. Deciding to act proactively instead of reactively demonstrates the EQ skills of self-management, emotional intuition, and empathy.

5. Act with Empathy: One of the greatest indicators of Emotional Intelligence is empathy, or our ability to understand another’s feelings and perspective. Be sensitive to emotional signals such as tone of voice, body language, and eye contact to understand why your counterpart is feeling a certain way. Then, evaluate your course of action in relation to their viewpoint, so that you’re providing the best service for their situation.

Whatever workplace situations arise, handling them with Emotional Intelligence fosters healthy relationships and long-term professional success. Remember these five insights to boost performance, grow your soft skills, and create a positive work environment.

Where did we come from(corporate wellness)?

Wellness for workplaces has been around for quite some time now. But did you know that its history stretches back more than a century?

These early initiatives (think executive stretching and employee housing) aren’t necessarily what we think of when we think of wellness.

Corporate wellness began with an occupational health-focused program for executives — which paved the way for the programs we see today.

THE EARLY DAYS

The roots of corporate wellness predate the first World War.Ford and other manufacturers invested in these early programs because they thought they’d see increased production out of healthier employees. These initiatives were the exception, not the rule — and they were crude by today’s standards. But they started a revolution. Companies saw the benefits of a vital workforce, and they began tapping into the programs long before the establishment of health insurance.
By World War II, major companies had introduced corporate health and
wellness benefits.

1879 Pullman Company establishes an athletic association in its employee-only housing
1880-1900 National Cash Register institutes twice-daily exercise breaks and builds an
employee gym
1926 Ford introduces the 40-hour work week
1930s Hershey Foods builds a recreation complex for its employees

1950s — 1970s
Post-World War II, companies started paying for employee healthcare coverage and offering employee assistance programs and other benefits.

In conjunction with the Surgeon General’s report of the dangers of cigarette smoking,
leaders began to understand that their employees’ behavioural decisions affected the
state of their health.

Even so, leaders were mostly concerned with illness prevention — only one small aspect of a person’s well-being. Their primary concern was to prevent absences and injuries in the workplace, rather than promoting healthy behaviours in their employees.

1950s-1960s Companies like Texas Instruments,Rockwell and Xerox all launch employee
fitness centres
1965 The U.S. Congress passes the Cigarette Labelling and Advertising Act
1970 The U.S. Dept. of Labor establishes Occupational Health and Safety Administration to prevent workplace accidents and injuries
LATE
1970s
The first smoking cessation programs launch

1980s — EARLY 2000s

In the late 20th century, programs like smoking cessation, stress management and
nutrition became commonplace. Focused on treating high-cost employees, companies created employee wellness programs that only targeted those with the highest risk for health issues. Leaders (especially in the ’90s) felt this was the most efficient use of their resources since these employees cost more to insure. But low participation rates and high failure rates made these programs unsuccessful.

By the early 2000s, research from Dee Edington overhauled this high-risk-only approach. Edington found that people naturally flow from high-risk to medium and to low-risk, and from low-risk to medium to high risk. So the best programs encourage healthy behaviours from everyone, in addition to helping the high-risk population reduce risks. This realisation shed light on a key component of wellness: the importance of the well-being
of all employees

EARLY 1980s Johnson & Johnson is the first company to release reports that tie the effectiveness of wellness programs to the productivity and profitability of the company
1982 The world’s first wireless wearable heart rate monitor becomes commercially
available
1984 Boeing is one of the first large companies to ban smoking in the workplace
1992 USDA publishes the Food Guide Pyramid
2001 Dee Edington introduces “Changing the Natural Flow” concept, revolutionising the
wellness industry

MID-2000s TO PRESENT

Some companies never got out of the healthcare-costs-only trap of wellness. As healthcare expenses continued to spiral upward, they depended on wellness providers to help them keep these costs in check. But punitive measures against unhealthy employees — such as increasing premium costs — became less and less effective as diminishing returns on these programs set in. This model drove employees away from the
program, which ultimately led to its failure.

Companies that spent so much time on the employees who were most expensive to insure missed the point. They ignored all the other employees who needed encouragement and a number of other factors that play a role in the well-being of their people — including
stress level, job satisfaction, fitness, nutrition and sleep.

2002 WebMD Health Services forms
2003 Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are established
2005-2007 Insurers add wellness components that primarily focus on disease management
2010 The Affordable Care Act passes
2011 NIOSH launches the Total Worker Health (TWH) Program
2012 A record number of employers controversially ban tobacco use, even at home, while obesity rates (and the costs associated with it) continue to rise
2013 Launch of healthcare exchanges

The Internet, along with social media sites,such as Facebook and Twitter, brought forth
and shared new ways of thinking and new fields of research. Around the same time, Daniel Pink wrote on motivation, BJ Fogg spoke on Tiny Habits, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman researched positive psychology and Dr. Laura Hamill applied behavioural science to the workplace.

These thought leaders blazed the trail for the masses to adopt these philosophies and
behaviours for a more holistic, mindful lifestyle.

2009-2011
Fitness trackers from Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike bring everyday exercise monitoring mainstream
2011-PRESENT Studies show that the risk factors of sleep, stress and depression can be as high as traditional health-only markers (like high BMI and metabolic syndrome)
2014 Corporate wellness industry is worth more than $40 billion. 79% of U.S. companies offer a wellness program

Corporate wellness is about your people. Within the last decade, employers have started
taking a holistic approach that embraces the whole employee — not just their health risks. And there’s a lot of evidence that shows the value of creating an authentic program that focuses on, engages and challenges the whole employee.
More important, leaders now know they can’t tackle one area of health and well-being and hope for success in all areas. They have to take a whole employee approach
that respects an individual’s physical, mental, social and even financial health.

Resources:
1. Khoury, A. (2014, January 29). The Evolution of Worksite Health. Corporate Wellness Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/worksite wellness/the-evolution-of
2. Vesely, R. (2012, July 18). Shaping Up: Workplace Wellness in the ‘80s and Today. Workforce. Retrieved from http://www.workforce.com/articles/shaping-up-workplace-wellness-in-the-80s-and-today
3. National Cancer Institute. (1991). Evolution of Smoking Control Strategies. Monograph 1: Strategies to Control Tobacco Use in the United States (pp. 35-61). Retrieved from http://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/brp/tcrb/monographs/1/m1_2.pdf
4. McLellan, C. (2014, June 2). The History of Wearable Technology: A timeline. ZDNet. Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/article/the-history-ofwearable-technology-a-timeline
5. Global Wellness Institute, Global Spa & Wellness Economy Monitor, September 2014. Retrieved from http://www.globalwellnesssummit.com/
images/stories/gsws2014/pdf/GWI_Global_Spa_and_Wellness_Economy_Monitor_Full_Report_Final.pdf
6. O’Donnell, M. P. (2001). Health promotion in the workplace.
7. National Business Group on Health,. (2015). Companies are Spending More on Corporate Wellness Programs but Employees are Leaving Millions on the Table. Retrieved from https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/pressroom/pressRelease.cfm?ID=252
8. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2015). Total worker health. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/twh/totalhealth.html
9. National Conference of State Legislatures. State actions on health savings accounts (HSAs) and consumer-directed health plans, 2004-2015. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/hsas-health-savings-accounts.aspx

Who controls the temperature?

One of the first world problems at work I often hear is the that it is too cold or too hot inside the office due to the air conditioning being set either too high or too low.

This of course depends on whether you are male or female. I am talking in stereotypes, but it is not too far from the truth.

Forget negotiations over who takes out the bin, new research suggests that the ideal home temperature is the vexed question most likely to split households down gender lines.

A study found that one third of couples dispute this issue and that four in 10 women covertly turn up the heating behind their partner’s back.

The research, which was sponsored by Corgi Homeplan, a company that installs and maintains boilers and thermostats, probably falls short of the rigours of peer-reviewed science. However, there is strong evidence to back up the idea that women are more sensitive to the cold. A 2015 study by Dutch scientists, for instance, found that women are comfortable at a temperature 2.5C warmer than men, typically between 24-25C.

Men and women have roughly the same core body temperature, at over 37C; in fact, some studies have found the female core body temperature is slightly higher. However, our perception of temperature depends more on skin temperature, which, for women, tends to be lower. One study reported that the average temperature of women’s hands exposed to cold was nearly 3C degrees lower than that observed in men.

The female hormone oestrogen contributes to this because it slightly thickens the blood, reducing the flow to capillaries that supply the body’s extremities. This means that, in women, blood flow to the tips of fingers and toes tends to shut off more readily when it is cold. Research has shown that women tend to feel colder around ovulation, when estrogen levels are high.

The body’s metabolism also plays a role, as this dictates how quickly heat energy is produced and on average, women have a lower metabolic rate than men. In simple terms, higher muscle mass tends to translate to higher resting metabolism, which is linked to burning more calories and higher blood flow, both of which help keep the extremities warm.

Recent research also shows there is a degree of subjectivity in how cold we feel, after demonstrating a phenomenon called “cold contagion”. For couples, perhaps this offers some hope that their temperature preferences will eventually fall into some sort of alignment.

So in conclusion, your comfort and dress at work might really depend on who(male or female) is in charge of the air conditioning.

Regular exercise does improve brain function.

There are plenty of good reasons to be physically active. Big ones include reducing the odds of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Maybe you want to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, prevent depression, or just look better. Here’s another one, which especially applies to those of us (including me) experiencing the brain fog that comes with age: exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.

In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.

The finding comes at a critical time. Researchers say one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. They estimate that by the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide.

Exercise and the brain

Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.

Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.

Put it to the test

So what should you do? Start exercising! We don’t know exactly which exercise is best. Almost all of the research has looked at walking, including the latest study. “It’s likely that other forms of aerobic exercise that get your heart pumping might yield similar benefits,” says Dr. McGinnis.

How much exercise is required to improve memory? These study participants walked briskly for one hour, twice a week. That’s 120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. Standard recommendations advise half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week. If that seems daunting, start with a few minutes a day, and increase the amount you exercise by five or 10 minutes every week until you reach your goal.

If you don’t want to walk, consider other moderate-intensity exercises, such as swimming, stair climbing, tennis, squash, or dancing. Don’t forget that household activities can count as well, such as intense floor mopping, raking leaves, or anything that gets your heart pumping so much that you break out in a light sweat.

Don’t have the discipline to do it on your own let Corporate Health Results provide a program or two to keep your brain active and strong.

After all, they say that exercise is medicine, and that can go on the top of anyone’s list of reasons to work out.

Are we really that different with our corporate culture?

Australia, Great Britain and the U.S.A may all speak the same language, but that doesn’t mean the culture and customs of each nation are also the same. Work culture is one thing in particular which can vary quite a bit from country to country and there are some surprising differences between these particular three.

Whether you’re headed on a business trip to Sydney, transferring to London, spending a year or two working in New York or interacting with clients and co-workers from other parts of the world, it’s a pretty good idea to read up on what to expect so you don’t commit a faux pas.

Here are some differences between American, Australian and British work cultures so you can take the business world by storm, no matter where you are!

Meetings

U.S.A
When attending a meeting in the U.S., you should expect it to be run more in the vein of a brainstorming session. American business people tend to be very straight-forward with their opinions and aren’t afraid to contribute to the discussion. For this reason, outsiders often feel that American business meetings are more about the talk than the action.

Australia
While Australian business culture is known to be more laid back than in the U.K. or the U.S., that doesn’t mean our approach to meetings is lax. Punctuality is a must for business meetings in Australia and people generally like to keep these events short and to the point. However, you must always take some time for small talk at the beginning of a meeting as diving straight to the point is considered aggressive and rude.

Great Britain
British business meetings are run in an almost completely opposite manner to American ones. As opposed to American or Australian work culture, in the U.K. people tend to be more reserved in meetings and not as quick to offer an opinion or speak up. Sometimes this can make outsiders feel like their thoughts are not wanted, but knowing when to speak up and when to keep your thoughts to yourself can be something of an asset!

Chit-Chat

U.S.A
In the U.S.A, chit-chat is the norm whether you’re at work or shopping at your local grocery store. Americans aren’t shy about chatting up complete strangers and making small talk about everything from the weather to last night’s football game. This can lead to a warm work environment where it’s easy to get to know your co-workers.

Australia
In Australia, profanity is the norm and is a natural part of the local vocabulary. It’s not uncommon to hear swear words used in the work place and not taboo to drop the occasional profanity. However, as always be aware of who you’re talking to. While using a profanity(on the odd occasion)might be okay with co-workers that you know well, you don’t want to risk offending a more conservative client.

Great Britain
British tend to be more reserved when it comes to chit-chat and outsiders might think they come off as cold and standoffish as a result. What it really comes down to though, is difference in humour. While Americans or Australians might be prone to make loud and brash jokes when engaging in chit-chat, British are very proud of their dry wit and intellectual humour. At first it may be hard to tell when they’re telling a joke, but once you get a grasp of the good old British humour you’ll be laughing along with the best of them!

Dressing Sense

U.S.A
In the United States alone business dress can vary depending on which side of the country you live on. The West Coast is known for a more casual approach to business attire while the East Coast tends to be more formal. But even in areas where formal business attire is part of work culture, high-end brand clothing isn’t always noticed or appreciated.

Australia
Most Australians tend to be conservative with their dress code, meaning they lean towards simple dark suits and white shirts. One of the more unique aspects of Australian culture is that people don’t tend to travel to the office in full-on suit and shoes. Most will wear flip-flops while walking to work then change into their work shoes once they arrive.

Great Britain
Similar to Australia, the British tend to prefer conservative, classic clothes and aim for darker colours like black, dark blue, and grey. In British work culture it’s considered perfectly okay to invest in high-end clothing and to wear designer items – in fact, it’s often encouraged as it shows status and affluence. This is one nation where ‘dress for success’ is taken very literally!

Is personality testing for potential staff still valid?

It’s not a new phenomenon. Psychological tests have been used in employee selection processes since World War I.

Determining how to reduce turnover, increase productivity and more accurately predict employee performance has been and remains a goal of nearly every organisation.

Due to its importance, predicting the future success of an applicant is a difficult, high-stakes game. Therefore, it’s only natural that companies turn to psychological assessment tests in the hopes of improving the accuracy and validity of their recruitment processes.

That begs the question: do personality exams prevent bias in recruiting and ultimately assist companies in choosing the most viable candidates? The answer is not a simple yes or no.

Understanding weaknesses

It’s not an exact science. Tests are not always right. While there are benefits to incorporating behavioural and personality-based assessments in the executive recruitment process, they are far from fool-proof. In many instances, variables such as the ones below will present hurdles for the hiring manager.

Such tests may be able to detect global personality traits of individuals, their strengths and weaknesses, but will not be a good predictor of who will do well in a certain work environment. For example, extroverts and introverts may become equally good salespeople, using different strengths and skills to succeed. For example, an introvert may be a very good listener and use this talent to better understand his/her client.

Another problem is that individuals can “fake” the answers, providing the answers they think the employer is looking for (e.g., if an “extrovert” is considered a better for for a sales position, then the candidate will answer accordingly, irrespective of their “true” personality).

Where the tests prove helpful

Despite not being perfect, studies have shown certain types of tests to provide valuable insight into an applicant’s ability to problem solve, reason and ultimately succeed in a position.

Even though they disagree as to the extent of accuracy, most experts do agree that cognitive ability tests (in which an applicant’s capacity to mentally process, comprehend and manipulate information is measured) tend to be the most accurate success predictor when compared to other types of pre-employment tests.

However, in order to benefit from a pre-employment assessment to the fullest extent, there must be an understanding that exams do not always accurately factor in certain variables important to success:

Current competitive advantage of the company’s product/service
Positivity and optimism around the office (i.e., cultural attitude)
Autonomy given
Resources provided for the applicant to be successful.
Management dedication and style

Moreover, companies must supplement the test with a structured interview process. This means all candidates are asked the same questions making it easier for interviewers to score candidate responses and draw comparisons across applicants.

Additionally, it must be predetermined what weight is going to be given to the results of the test. In twelve years of recruiting, we have numerous times seen great performers score lower on screening exams than those who have not worked out in a given role.

Therefore, unless an applicant score comes out dismal, tests are best utilized as a supplemental measure rather than an ultimate decision maker.

In the end

While not perfect, pre-screening tests can hold merit. Though, they must be used correctly.

Above all, benefiting from implementation requires an understanding of where the results fit in to the overall assessment of a candidate as test inaccuracies can weed out high performers on the job if given too much weight. However, despite some imperfections, hiring managers do benefit by combining a relevant test as a supplemental assessment variable.