Stress at Work: Individuals or Structures?

Source: A C L Davies, Industrial Law Journal, Advance Access, April 23, 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Stress is a significant practical problem in modern workplaces. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), more than half of all working days lost to ill health each year are attributed to stress, depression or anxiety. This article offers an overview of the occupational psychology literature on workplace stress, focusing on the job demands–resources or JD-R model, developed by Demerouti et al., and highlighting two important points: first, that stress at work is not just about excessive job ‘demands’ but also about inadequate ‘resources’ to cope with those demands; second, that stress-related ill-health is not just a matter of vulnerability on the part of the individual worker, but is also about the way in which the workplace is organized. The article then draws on these insights to offer a critique of the way in which health and safety law and tort law approach workplace stress, arguing that both bodies of law are overly focused on treating stress as a matter of individual vulnerability. It concludes by drawing out some broader implications of the occupational psychology literature for areas of employment law less obviously related to workplace stress, and for casual or platform working.

Does Going Back Into the Office Freak You Out?

Source: Amy Silver, Harvard Business Review, April 23, 2021
(subscription required)

With companies considering redesigning physical office spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments, chances are, depending on your job, your sector, and your leadership team, at some point you’ll need to go in to work. And this might be making you anxious. As we try to socialize and adjust to yet another “new normal” by engaging with people at work like we did in a pre-pandemic world, the exact focus of our worries and fears will vary. To manage your fears, there’s a few things you can do.

  • Understand what impact fear can have on your work. When our fear system is activated, we go into fight-or-flight mode. This means we can become distracted, our thoughts become more muddled, and decision making becomes more biased as our brain tries to make short cuts and we are more likely to make bad decisions.
  • Learn how to manage your fear. Be compassionate to yourself and know that it’s okay to feel this way. Then recognize your triggers and reactions. Does being in a crowded elevator scare you? Or running into coworkers when you go to fetch your coffee?
  • Separate your “fear” voice from what you want to do. Fear’s job is to keep us safe, and it does that by pushing us to choose short-term, protective behaviors (like running away, or avoidance) in a given situation rather than behaviors that will serve us in the longer term (facing something more rationally).

How Men Can Be More Inclusive Leaders

Source: David G. Smith, W. Brad Johnson, and Lisen Stromberg, Harvard Business Review, May 12, 2021
(subscription required)

Despite the Covid-19 “Shecession,” which has driven millions of women out of the workforce, women are the majority of the college-educated talent pool. Because of this, male leaders — and men more broadly — must pursue gender inclusion and equity through deliberate allyship with women. There are four inclusive leadership strategies male leaders should follow. First, get comfortable being uncomfortable. Have the humility to know that there’s much you don’t know about others’ experiences. Second, make inclusive leadership personal and visible. Your messaging should come from the heart, and it must be personal and authentic. Third, design transparency into your workplace by being clear about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’re progressing. Finally, design accountability into your workplace. Ensure your governance policies align with your inclusion goals, and extend diversity and representation requirements to your suppliers and customers.

4 Lessons for Building Diverse Teams

Source: Naomi Wheeless, Harvard Business Review, May 17, 2021
(subscription required)

Companies often hire the exact same type of employee over and over. The thinking is that if employee X is doing a great job and everyone gets along with them, then the smart thing to do must be to hire more people exactly like them. This mentality leads to hiring managers seeking out candidates that identically mirror their existing workforce. They’ll look for the same educational background and skillsets, source from the same narrow list of companies, and look for similar personality traits during interviews. Before you know it, you end up with an entire staff that looks, thinks, and — to a degree — acts almost exactly the same. Not only does this tend to result in a reduction in diversity of thought (among other aspects of diversity), but it can prevent the company from realizing its true potential. Fresh new perspectives are necessary to bring forth bold new ideas, challenge long-standing internal thinking, and provide a more complete internal representation of the customer base.

Research: What Do People Need to Perform at a High Level?

Source: Zorana Ivcevic, Robin Stern, and Andrew Faas, Harvard Business Review, May 17, 2021
(subscription required)

The researchers identified common factors helping (or hurting) employee effectiveness. Among them were personal factors including mindsets and skills that the individual brings to the job and over which they have some control. Others are managed at an organizational level: managing rules about how work is done and showing emotional intelligence. Turning to nurses during the Covid-19 pandemic, the researchers found that these factors became even more important during crisis. They found that when the background uncertainty and anxiety are high, if the organization does not provide clear expectations and the supervisors do not acknowledge staff feelings and help them manage them, workers will not be able to work to their full potential.

Of practical importance to organizational leaders, our research provides insight about how managers can boost employees’ potential – even in times of crisis.

Out of Work, Taking on Care: Young Women Face Mounting Challenges in the “She-Cession”

Source: Shengwei Sun, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, IWPR #C498, Briefing Paper, April 2021

From the abstract:
Longstanding inequities in access to quality jobs and affordable care, along with uneven caregiving responsibilities, create unique challenges for young women of color during this prolonged pandemic recession. Young women (aged 16 to 24) were more likely to lose their job than young men and workers of other age groups in the initial months of the pandemic recession, largely due to their concentration in industries and occupations that have been hit the hardest by the economic downturn.

Slashing Unemployment Benefits Weeks on Jobless Rates Hurts Workers of Color

Source: Alexa Tapia, Nzingha Hooker, National Employment Law Project, Policy & Data Brief, May 14, 2021

A year ago, NELP published a policy brief examining the decisions made by state policymakers over the past decade to limit rather than expand unemployment program resources to jobseekers. That brief highlighted lessons learned at the national level after many state unemployment insurance (UI) programs constricted during the economic recovery and expansion following the Great Recession.

The result? Many state unemployment systems were under-resourced and unprepared to support workers during a period of mass unemployment in 2020.

The problems we named in 2020 have snowballed into an avalanche of challenges requiring national attention. In this brief, we will explore the conditions that brought us to this point, look at examples from states that are moving in the wrong direction, and offer recommendations to positively transform the system.

This brief also discusses state policy choices after the last recession that resulted in declines in UI benefit recipiency that were particularly devastating in Black, Asian, Indigenous, and Latinx communities.

There is an urgent need for states to apply these lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and muster the political will to adopt UI policies and practices that actually better support unemployed people who need it the most.

Effect of Gender Roles and Workplace Violence on the Professional Quality of Life and Wellbeing at Work Among Child Protection Workers

Source: Renaud Dufour, Robert-Paul Juster, Steve Geoffrion, Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Volume 65, Issue 3, April 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Exposure to workplace violence puts child protection workers at risk for adverse occupational outcomes. While previous studies have identified protective and risk factors, individual differences in gender roles have yet to be explored. Moving beyond sex, the present study aims to examine the ways in which gender roles influence exposure to workplace violence, professional quality of life, and wellbeing at work among child protection workers. A randomized sample stratified by sex of 301 Canadian child protection workers (male: 15.6%, female: 84.4%) completed validated questionnaires of gender roles, professional quality of life, and wellbeing at work. We assessed mean differences using analyses of covariances controlling for clinical experience and type of work. We then assessed the moderating effect of gender roles on other variables through hierarchical multiple linear regressions. Androgyny (high masculinity and high femininity) was associated with higher scores on positive indicators of professional quality of life and wellbeing at work. However, gender roles showed no significant moderating effect on the relationship between exposure to violence, professional quality of life, and wellbeing at work. Results suggest that androgyny could be related to potential psychosocial benefits for child protection workers.

The Quality Measures Domain in Nursing Home Compare: Is High Performance Meaningful or Misleading?

Source: R Tamara Konetzka, Heather Davila, Daniel J Brauner, John F Cursio, Hari Sharma, Rachel M Werner, Young Shin Park, Tetyana P Shippee, The Gerontologist, Accepted Manuscript, April 27, 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background and Objectives
The reported percent of nursing home residents suffering adverse outcomes decreased dramatically since Nursing Home Compare began reporting them, but the validity of scores is questionable for nursing homes that score well on measures using facility-reported data but poorly on inspections. Our objective is to assess whether nursing homes with these “discordant” scores are meaningfully better than nursing homes that score poorly across domains.

Research Design and Methods
We used a convergent mixed-methods design, starting with quantitative analyses of 2012-2016 national data. We conducted in-depth interviews and observations in 12 nursing homes in 2017-2018, focusing on how facilities achieved their Nursing Home Compare ratings. Additional quantitative analyses were conducted in parallel to study performance trajectories over time. Quantitative and qualitative results were interpreted together.

Discordant facilities engage in more quality improvement strategies than poor performers, but do not seem to invest in quality improvement in resource-intensive, broad-based ways that would spill over into other domains of quality and change their trajectory of improvement. Instead, they focus on lower-resource improvements related to data quality, staff training, leadership, and communication. In contrast, poor-performing facilities seemed to lack the leadership and continuity of staff required for even these low-resource interventions.

Discussion and Implications
High performance on the quality measures using facility-reported data is mostly meaningful rather than misleading to consumers who care about those outcomes, although discordant facilities still have quality deficits. The quality measures domain should continue to have a role in Nursing Home Compare.

Mobility, Inequality, and Beliefs About Distribution and Redistribution

Source: George Wilson, Vincent Roscigno, Carsten Sauer, Nick Petersen, Social Forces, Advance Access, May 10, 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Classic theory has long been interested in mobility, but with limited attention to the implications of intergenerational movement for inequality-specific beliefs. In this article, we introduce a dynamic conception and modeling of the impact of intergenerational occupational mobility on inequality orientations generally and distributive and redistributive beliefs in particular. The diagonal models we employ using 2008–2010 General Social Survey samples—modeling that considers intergenerational occupational origin and destination, and that is replicated on a larger sample across three waves of the GSS—reveal strong conservatizing effects of mobility overall. Those who occupationally fall relative to their parents, although somewhat more progressive by virtue of the downward mobility experience, tend to cling more so to the conservative beliefs characteristic of their higher status origins. Those experiencing mobility gains, in contrast, usually adopt the more conservative orientations of those who they are now surrounded by and in ways that legitimize individual efforts. These patterns are notably pronounced compared to other aspects of one’s job, political affiliation, and status-related attributes; are somewhat stronger among men than women; and differ significantly for Blacks. We elaborate and conclude by highlighting the need for a mobility-centered corrective to sociological understandings of inequality beliefs and how workplace-related experiences in particular shape ideological leanings.