Posts Tagged ‘work-life balance’

What makes social workers happy and what keeps them in the field?

April 6th, 2011

Social workers experience higher than average levels of attrition, stress and burnout than other helping professions such as nursing and teaching. Whereas 6 per cent of American nurses and 8 per cent of teachers left their occupations in any given year from 1992 to 2001, the figure was 15 per cent among social workers. Researchers at the University of Calgary suspect similar findings in Canada.

Common issues faced by social workers include scope of practice, perceived freedom and flexibility, work-life balance, support mechanisms in their workplaces, the physical workspace itself, as well as their relationships with clients and colleagues, including supervisors.

“Social workers, by their very nature, care about people,” says John Graham, a U of C social work professor. “People in human services . . . suffer from high caseloads (and) need the support to do their jobs.”

Given this concern, Graham, along with PhD Candidates Andrea Newberry and Micheal Shier teamed up to investigate what made social workers happy and what kept them in the field. This positive and affirmative approach is in high contrast to the traditional problem-based approach such as studying sources of stress and burnout.

Surveys were sent to 2500 social workers in Alberta. Of the 700 returned, the researchers completed in-depth interviews and job shadowing with the 13 “happiest” social workers.

The happiest social workers reported higher levels of fulfilment in areas such as flexible work schedules, better work-life balance and a stronger sense of engagement.  Having a high degree of freedom built into their jobs gave them the flexibility to manage the demands of their jobs with their personal lives including the opportunity for “self-care.”  This behind-the-scene support made a big difference and enabled them to do their jobs well.

“We’re much better at helping others when we’ve learned to find satisfaction and happiness in what we do, and to develop organizational cultures that reinforce these principles,” says Graham.

Their findings have implications for a variety of career fields. Our experience and research tells us that when employees get to the heart of what matters about their work, when they feel like they are making a difference, and they feel like they are part of a community, employee spirit at work –that sense that we are fully engaged and fulfilled by our work – increases. When employers create the conditions to foster spirit at work, the effects can only multiply.

We have demonstrated that not only can you increase spirit at work, as it increases so too does personal well-being, job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Client service and productivity goes up. And absenteeism and turnover goes down.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our monthly newsletter where we will explore spirit at work and its contributing factors in more detail. Read the book Rethinking Your Work and learn how to create spirit at work.

Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and inspirational speaker, she helps renew employee wellness and increase performance and retention by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.

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Posted in Attracting and Keeping Employees, Creating organizational conditions, Employee Engagement and Spirit at Work, Employee Wellbeing: Refilling the Cup, Getting to Spirit at Work | Comments (0)

How do you deal with competing priorities in the workplace?

November 25th, 2010

How do you manage competing values? Competing priorities in the workplace? Or do you?

Most of us find it easy to name our values and priorities. But then what? Do you plan your work around them? Make conscious decisions with them in mind? Or do you simply react to the demands that come your way?

Sometimes competing values are called “shadow values” because they are more difficult to identify, yet they are powerful enough to influence our behaviour. Consider for example how our behaviour might be influenced if we are afraid to lose our job, or we want to be liked, or fear humiliation if we speak up.

Competing values or priorities in the workplace often result in conflict between your personal or professional values and your work. Alternatively, your values may be in conflict with those of your colleagues or your agency policy or goals.

Here are some examples of competing values in the workplace:

o A nurse or doctor is pro-life, but works in a health care setting that provides abortions.
o A lawyer knowingly defends a person who took the life of another.
o A social worker who values keeping children safe is directed by the courts to return a child to drug using and physically abusing parents.
o A hospital employee turns away a sick patient because he or she cannot pay.
o An employee in a manufacturing company knowingly uses materials known to cause cancer, but because they are less expensive.
o A druggist sells cigarettes because of the income it generates.
o A gas company turns off the gas to a family home because they are three months in arrears.
o A carpenter cuts corners in order to come in under budget.
o An employee works in a company whose goal is to make money, not serve its customers.
o An employee closes a deal by making promises he knows he cannot keep.

What are some examples of competing values and priorities in your workplace? How do they impact you, your relationships with others, and your work? How do they impact your spirit at work? How can you resolve them?

Want to learn more? Sign up for our monthly newsletter where we will explore this topic in more detail. Read the book Rethinking Your Work and learn how to create spirit at work.

Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and professional speaker, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.

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Posted in Employee Engagement and Spirit at Work, Getting to Spirit at Work | Comments (0)

How is your work impacting your health?

March 26th, 2010

Healthy employees are absent less often, have higher morale, are more productive, and have lower healthcare costs. The result: happier more engaged employees, a better bottom line for the business and a higher level of customer satisfaction. 

Recent newspaper headlines paint an unhealthy picture for both employees and their employers. Take a look:

Health costs linked to overwork and stress. Stress and illness caused by work overload is adding an extra $6 billion a year to Canadian health-care costs.  The biggest pressure is role overload—the overwhelming feeling that there’s never enough time to get things done.  About 60 % of working Canadians say they can’t balance their jobs and family lives, and this conflict is increasing physician visits by 25 % a year, in-patient hospital stays by 17 %, and use of emergency rooms by 23%.

Employers fail to respond to work-related stress concerns. Employers identify work-related stress as the biggest threat to their employees’ well-being, with more than 78% reporting it as their “top health risk concerns.”

Job strain can contribute to heart attacks. On-the-job stress can increase your blood pressure, adding to your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. 

Downsizing bad for health. Downsizing may boost company profits, but people who survive major job cuts are twice as likely to take sick leave, have a five-fold increase in backaches and muscle problems, and are five times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease within the next four years than those who lost none.    

Workaholism evenly distributed across socio-economic spectrum. Almost one-third of Canadians call themselves workaholics. Workaholics are more likely to report fair or poor health, trouble sleeping, and less satisfaction in life in general. 

35-50 per cent of disability insurance claims are stress-related. The link between overall health and workplace stress is clear. This trend has pushed more alternative work arrangements into business culture, such as remote work, contract workers and job sharing. 

At any one time between 8 and 10 per cent of the workforce is off work on stress leave. Between 30-40 per cent of short-term disability leaves are related to stress and mental health. 

Pessimism associated with heart health. People who constantly blame themselves for things that go wrong and believe that nothing good will come their way are more likely to develop heart disease than people with a positive attitude.  Optimistic men are half as likely to develop heart disease as pessimistic men. 

Electronic dependence divorces us from family and society. Family breakdown and deteriorating civility have been blamed on fragmented and stressed lifestyles. As we increase our dependence on technology, there is a crisis of “meaning and accountability” that threatens to paralyze society.   

Employees struggling with work-life balance. We’re going faster and faster and there are no boundaries; even if your work is intoxicating in the best sense, it takes over as the meaning in one’s life, and that leads to… feelings of guilt that you’re not getting to your family or to other things.

  • 47% reported they participated in “family time” (sharing a meal, doing things with your kids around the house, or going out) only once a week; 27 % said they “rarely” engaged in these activities.
  • American parents spend an average of 5.5 minutes a day (38.5 min. per week) in “meaningful conversation” with their kids. 

Do you see yourself in any of these messages? I suspect that you do. We are going faster and faster; in many cases, working harder; and our cup is getting emptier. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to feel fired up about our work when we are running on empty. Even those of us who love our work will feel depleted if we don’t take the time for replenishment.

Some of you might be asking, “What about the company’s or the organization’s responsibility? And you are absolutely right. Just like with the creation of spirit at work, employee health and wellbeing is a shared responsibility – shared between the employer and the employee. But what are you going to do if your company is not upholding their part of the deal? In the survey where more than 78% of employers identified work-related stress as their “top health risk concerns,” only 32.3 per cent of organizations surveyed offered stress management programs to employees. So yes, do what you can to make your employer accountable. At the same time, make self-care a priority. After all, you and your loved ones have the most to gain. So what can you do?

Want to learn more? Sign up for our monthly newsletter where we will explore this topic in more detail. Read the book Rethinking Your Work and learn how to create spirit at work.

Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and professional speaker, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.

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Posted in Employee Wellbeing: Refilling the Cup | Comments (0)

The Upside of the Recession, but . . .

October 15th, 2009

We have all experienced the negative impact of the recession, but what about the positive? A recent survey shows that the recession has made significant numbers of Canadians re-evaluate what’s important to them. And, less than 10% say making more money and career success are their top priorities.

Canadians are saying that the recession had caused them to rethink what is important in their lives. They are making time for themselves and creating their own personal vision of meaning and fulfillment. In fact, 77% of Canadians said that they were more focused on their personal lives than their careers. So they are doing charity work, embarking on a second career, pursing a holiday, spending more time with family, or going on adventure travel trips in order to bring more meaning and fulfillment to their lives.

The upside is that employees are re-evaluating their priorities. They are choosing to focus on that which matters. The study also indicates that they are taking time to refill their cups – an important factor in creating and maintaining spirit at work.

The downside is that respondents weren’t looking at work as an avenue for meaning and fulfillment. Yet that is where we spend most of our waking hours. And if work isn’t fulfilling, it is depleting.

Employers are in a key position to help employees rethink work by making the link between work and meaning and fulfillment. One way is to create the conditions for employee engagement and spirit at work. We have found that spirit at work can be increased and when it does, employee satisfaction goes up, commitment to their work and organization increases, retention increases and productivity improves. Simply by rethinking work! Learn more about the strategies in Rethinking Your Work: Getting to the Heart of What Matters.

 

Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” An inspirational speaker, consultant and writer, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. She is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now.

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Posted in Emerging from the Recession, Purpose and Meaning In Work, SAW and Organizational Outcomes | Comments (6)