Ripples Are Great for Chips, but Not for Employees



Many enjoy the salty, crunchy taste of a rippled chip. Ripple chips are just a little more dynamic than regular chips. While many relish this “ripple effect” in the world of potato chips, the ripple effect caused by workplace stress is much less desirable.

With the publication of numerous research studies on the negative effects of workplace stress on employee health, productivity, and motivation, there is now even more reason to reduce it and its knock-on effects. A current HRM online piece expands on the concept of workplace stress and how it spills over into an employee’s home life.

Click here to read the article.

The HRM online piece is derived from a study done by the University of Central Florida, which showed that, “employees who are mistreated at work are likely to engage in similar behaviors at home”.

This study goes on to state some simple ways to counteract this ripple effect. For example, it suggests that employees should engage in moderate daily exercise and develop a better sleep pattern.

Click here to read a brief summary of the research.

10,000 daily steps and 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night may reduce the risk of negative emotional reactions at home, but do these measures really get to the heart of the problem? Perhaps an organization should also look at the root causes of workplace stress in an effort to eliminate the ripple effect altogether, rather than applying the Band-Aid solutions of additional exercise and sleep. HR professionals must lead the charge in understanding the full range of effects of workplace stress, and in creating lasting solutions by decreasing stressors at their source.


Discussion questions:

  1. Research and identify the most common ways organizations attempt to reduce workplace stressors. Create a list of five of the most helpful interventions.
  2. Using this list, create a five-minute presentation to convince your VP of HR that your organization should implement a workplace stress reduction program.






Hurry Sickness

You may be burning yourself out. How do you know if you are burning yourself out? Reflect on these activities, how many do you do on a regular basis?

Stressed woman in a office setting.
  1. Checking emails while talking to someone in person
  2. Checking emails while talking to someone on the phone
  3. Frustration at checkout lineups
  4. Other activities while brushing your teeth
  5. Eating standing up, driving or on the move
  6. Push the elevator button more than once
  7. Walked into someone while texting
  8. On your smartphone while on the toilet
  9. Forgot where you parked your car (which happened to me today)
  10. Or the dreaded, “I forgot to pick up my child from……..”

How many of the above activities resonate with your daily behaviour at work or at home? Well, if you are experiencing many of above activities on a regular basis, you, my friend have got it: “Hurry Sickness.”

Hurry Sickness is fast becoming an epidemic. I believe it started with the invention of the fax machine and has spread exponentially with smartphones, social media and working couples with financial pressures.

Click here to read a fortune 500 article on the topic.

According to Richard Jolly, Adjunct Professor of Organizational Behaviour at London Business School (LBS) 95% of all people suffer from “Hurry Sickness.”

But here’s the rub: when everyone is infected, society accepts it as the norm and the behaviours reinforce themselves and infect the remaining members of society. Richard Jolly recommends three things to stop the spread and negative effects of Hurry Sickness:

  1. Stop
  2. Think
  3. Sleep

First of all stop and slow down. We are very proud of being busy. We have to stop being busy and start being more effective. Next, we need to start planning time for just thinking instead of just reacting to the most obvious problem that has caught our attention. Lastly, according to Professor Jolley, we all need more sleep in order for us to think and process information more effectively.

Perhaps it is time to fight the Hurry Sickness that has infected our daily home and work lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Your VP of HR has asked you to research and review some wellness program initiatives. Which wellness programs would you recommend to reduce the concept of Hurry Sickness?
  2. Research and review the benefits of having use of a mobile device/smartphone policy in all companies that expect employees to communicate with mobile devices.

Smoky Rewards?

Lego star wars No Smoking Day.
Bubbers BB /

Gone are the days when smoking was an accepted practice in the workplace. In today’s society we see a few solitary figures who take their breaks and smoke outside their workplace during the work day. Employees who smoke are either huddled together in designated smoking areas or forced to stand on the other side of the workplace boundaries in order to have that much needed cigarette. With these visual displays as proof there is no doubt that employees who smoke have a costly impact on workplace productivity.

Everybody knows that smoking is an addiction loaded with severe health-related risks. These risks include the development of heart disease and cancer. Most employers in Canada offer health care benefits to employees to assist them in covering medical costs for these types of catastrophic illnesses.

Should employees who smoke be penalized for increasing group health care costs as a result of developing smoking-related diseases?

Should employees who smoke be penalized for having a negative impact on a productivity-based bottom line?

Both of these questions are loaded with complex and potentially negative consequences for the employer and employees alike.

A company in the United States has implemented a smoking cessation program that rewards employees who stop smoking and penalizes those who enter into the program and fail to quit.

Click here to read the article.

While the intent of this type of reward/punishment-based smoking cessation program may be to encourage a change in employee lifestyle, it is clear that the goal of the program is to reduce productivity losses and health care costs.

These types of programs raise questions about the role of the employer in any employee’s personal lifestyle decisions. Does the employer really want to be monitoring and stepping into an employee’s personal behaviours that extend beyond the boundaries of the workplace?

The answers to all of these questions remain unclear.

These and similar questions will, no doubt, continue to be asked as our social and health-related demographics continue to change into the future.

Discussion Questions:

  1. To what degree do you think the employer should be involved in an employee’s decision to continue or stop smoking?
  2. Who benefits from a reward-based smoking cessation program? Why?
  3. Would you change a health-related behaviour (stop smoking, go on a diet, start exercising) if your employer offered you a financial reward for making that change? Why or why not?
  4. Would you change a health-related behaviour (stop smoking, go on a diet, start exercising) if your employer imposed a financial penalty on you if you did not make that change? Why or why not?

Workplace Wellness versus Resiliency

Happy employees

The Steps to Workplace Resiliency

Many organizations are embracing and implementing many workplace wellness initiatives such as:

  • Stress management
  • Work family conflict reduction policies
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Personal leave systems

Research is slowly illustrating that workplace wellness initiatives can be beneficial and create a loyal engaged workforce. It seems worthwhile that employers should begin to consider implementing some workplace wellness programs.

Here is another thought instead of stress management. Why not try a resiliency program in the workplace. Rich Fernandez in his Harvard Business Review (HRB) article talks about the five ways to boost resiliency at work.

This article recites current research that states stress and burnout are reaching epidemic levels in workplaces all over the world. Here are some enlightening statistics:

  • Employee depression, stress and anxiety accounted for 82.6% of all emotional health cases in Employee Assistance Programs in 2014, up from 55.2% since 2012
  • Approximately 75% of the workforce experienced moderate to high stress levels — and more specifically, 6% of employees reported feeling highly or extremely stressed at work.

There are many ways to combat any workplace problem; one way is through better organizational design and workplace stress reducing policies. There is another way as Rich Fernandez illustrates, it is to help each employee build greater resiliency. Here is his five tips based on organizational research to improve individual resiliency in the workplace:

  1. Practice mindfulness
  2. Compartmentalize Information
  3. Take detachment breaks
  4. Pause, step back and reflect
  5. Cultivate compassion

Click here to get greater details about the 5 steps to resiliency in the workplace.

Having an integrated approach to managing stress in the workplace with a combination of programs such as family friendly policies, EAP’s and resiliency training will go a long way to improve overall employee wellness.

Discussion Questions:

  1. After reading this article which of the five steps to resiliency would be easiest for you to incorporate into your own workplace behaviour? Which one do you feel would be the most difficult to embrace?
  2. Which resiliency technique do you feel would benefit you the most to reduce your own stress levels?
  3. Research organizations that have resiliency programs in the workplace. What does the research recommend employers to do to improve workplace resiliency?