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More Money, More Problems — Scott Schieman

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Scott Schieman, a Canada Research Chair and Professor in the sociology department at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the social psychology of inequality, with a special emphasis on work and stress in the work-family interface. He is currently leading a national study of over 6,000 Canadian workers to understand the factors that contribute to stress across a broad sample of the working population.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us about your research, Scott—give us the headline on what it is that you’ve been working on with respect to stress and status.

Scott Schieman: scott scheimanIt all started back in 2004 when I became really interested in emotional inequality in the population.

SF: Let’s define that phrase first. Emotional inequality—what is that?

SS: From a sociology and mental health perspective, emotional inequality refers to the ways that the classic features of distress, such as anxiety, depression, and anger, are distributed in the population. Rather than being randomly distributed out there, we’ve observed that it is socially patterned, and that it is very often linked to the way we organize our lives and our social roles within work, family, elements of the community, and so forth. Emotional inequality means that not everybody experiences stress in the same way; it is an exploration of the patterns associated with those feelings. In some ways, it’s a social epidemiology for everyday stress.

SF: And how stress is associated with social roles?

SS: Looking at the key social roles is really the crux of my research—those are the roles that put demands on us and that give us the resources to deal with those demands.

SF: For example, what are those critical roles?

SS: A classic one is overwork, including long hours, excessive pressure, twelve hours of work and eight hours to do it. On the flip side of that, family-related responsibilities, such as caring for young children and caring for elder parents, can be big drivers as well. The competing pressures and demands in those roles, and how people cope with them, is what I’m most interested in.

SF: You were talking about how you got interested in this topic. Tell us more about that story.

SS: I was particularly interested in this idea of the stress of higher status. I made a discovery where I found one particular stressor seemed to occur more as you moved up in certain indicators of status (education, job security, income, etc.), and that stressor was work-family conflict. Sociologists and public health specialists often talk about how stressors tend to hurt people who are clustered in the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. For some drivers, that’s definitely true—noxious work, economic hardship, etc. But what I started observing was that as people crept up the socioeconomic ladder, certain stressors in particular—job pressure and work-family conflict—were amplified.

SF: So you found those were increased in those with high status?

SS: Not necessarily just those with high status. I’m not just talking about how people at the top have it—people who we might call the 1%. We actually find that even when you move from no job authority to some job authority, there’s a tick up in particular stressors. Now that’s not to say people would or should give up those higher positions. It’s the same thing with income. If you look at income differences, where you really see a blip up in stress is right around the $50,000 to $70,000 mark of personal annual income. They’re not necessarily just coping with their stress—you could argue they have more stress, but they also have more resources to deal with it.

SF: They have more stress and more work-to-family conflict…

SS: Right, and there’s an assumption that that’s okay because they can deal with it more money.

SF: That if you have the resources to handle it, then it’s okay?

SS: Correct. But that’s not what we’re seeing in the data. What we are seeing seems to be more money, more problems—at least to some degree.

SF: In terms of how the stressors play out, what are you seeing in the outcomes for people’s lives and how it affects them on a daily basis?

SS: First, you see a lot of problems with sleep, which we’re currently exploring—people cutting back on sleep, people not getting as much sleep as they’d like to, the quality of sleep being harmed. The stress of higher status also plays out in things like life satisfaction, where instead of saying, “I’m very satisfied with life,” it just brings it down a notch to “I’m somewhat satisfied.”

In other words, it seems that, were it not for the stressors, they’d actually feel more satisfied and happier. They’d have fewer symptoms of anxiety. They’d describe the quality of their time with their kids as richer. It’s almost as if you could imagine a slight dampening on how people feel.

SF: So the higher the status, the worse the life circumstances in terms of feelings of stress and strain?

SS: Not the worse necessarily, but if you could imagine that all other things were equal, there seems to be a dampening in quality of life. People aren’t worse off, but they’re not as healthy or happy as they could be. That’s what I mean by emotional inequality. Often the discussion can focus on the rich and the poor. In my research, I look at what happens in the middle or middle-upper range. It’s like the classic “middle squeeze” tracing the lines as to how that plays out for health and well-being. The takeaway point is that these things detract from what could be a better quality of life through the middle and middle-upper social classes.

SF: “These things” being more hours, more interpersonal conflict…?

SS: Sure, and being overworked, having more responsibilities… Being held responsible for things out of your control certainly ticks up. These seem to be smaller things where people wouldn’t trade in those higher status positions to eliminate them, but they become an associated cost.

SF: So you might say complexity breeds stress and strain, which spill over into family life. How do you study and measure these things? What are you looking at to assess work-to-family conflict, for example?

SS: In Canada, we took a large, random, national sample across all occupations and sectors and looked at various dimensions of their work. Dimensions included work autonomy, schedule control, flexibility, challenging work, and complexity of work, but then also the pressures, the hours, being required to work overtime with little advance notice, etc. We’re not just looking at specific occupations and status, but at what it is about their work that would be related to psychological functioning and what might be causing problems or stress in the work/family or even the work/non-work interface, which would include things like friendships, leisure, and community engagement, for example.

We’ve also done in-depth qualitative interviews with about 65 individuals from dual-earner families and with kids younger than 18 at five different times points over the next decade to measure changes. We’re asking them about multitasking, doing work-related and family-related activities at home, who’s doing it, why they’re doing it, and how they think their family feels about it.

SF: Tell us! What are people saying?

SS: In a nutshell, it seems as though when women do more paid work hours at home they’re significantly more likely to engage in work-family multitasking. The implication is that you’re not in either role fully. A lot of people will talk about how good that is—they need to do that—and the reason they say they need to do that is because there are too many pressures and work that are spilling over.

SF: Right, so at least this way they stay connected and engaged and responsive to the work demands. But, it sounds like there’s a “but” coming…

SS: There’s a big “but” coming. It often makes people feel guilty, especially women, for not really being fully engaged and fully attentive. A huge issue related to this, for men and women, is the sending and receiving of work-related communications after whatever people define as “work hours.” That gets people into trouble. We’ve heard stories in the qualitative data of marriages having problems with this behavior.

SF: You can be physically present and psychologically absent, and that’s the critical nature of quality connection: being attentive with your mind as well as being physically in the same space.

SS: People will assert that they are in control and that they are deciding this for themselves. We sometimes ask, “Are you sure you’re in control?” if you feel like you need to respond to that email at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night when you could be doing something else with your family. “Can it really not wait until Monday morning?” We try to engage in that dialogue in our interviews with the families.

SF: How do you attain that sense of control and pursue the things that matter to you? How can you be helpful to the people that matter when they need you? You’re saying that people will assert that they have control, but they are really just rationalizing?

SS: To some extent, yes. You hear people say, “It’s my decision—I am on vacation, but I’m going to go to Starbucks and check my email for a couple of hours.” But in those moments, they’re not on vacation. You’ll hear people say that they need to do it just to check in and make sure everything is okay. Except there’s evidence that suggests being fully disengaged and taking breaks does ultimately improve your productivity. And really, what’s the worst thing that could happen if it waited until you got back from vacation? Those are the kinds of the things we confront when we probe our interviewees which helps them see that maybe they’re not in control.

On vacations, especially around the holidays, what ends up hurting people a lot are unclear expectations. In times when you’re going to be particularly stressed, it’s important to decide when it will be okay to ease off. One of the things that comes out of our research in Canada has been that when people have clear, open communication with their supervisors about those kinds of boundaries including hours and expectations with respect to workloads, those direct conversations really pay off. A lot of people find that they are afraid of drifting away from the norm of the ideal worker of seeming always eager and ready to work at a moment’s notice.

SF: I’ve found that most people have a lot to gain from asking what they should expect. It’s so important to clarify expectations in order to convey to other people that you respect what they have to say—that you’ve thought about it and that it matters to you—and it gives them a chance to correct you, showing them that you’re willing to be wrong. That conversation can save a lot of pain and angst.

You can find out more about Scott’s work on his website.  Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottSchiemanUT.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America

Taking a Breather — Scott Eblin

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Scott Eblin, an executive coach, speaker and author, who works with senior and rising leaders in some of the world’s best known and regarded organizations.  His most recent book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, offers a potential solution to the stress and strain that many experience in different parts of their lives.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Scott, how did you first come to understanding mindfulness as a way of managing stress and reducing strain?

Scott Eblin: scott eblinLike many people, my first real introduction to mindfulness was a book Jon by Kabat-Zinn called Wherever You Go, There You Are. It is comprised of little chapters and essays on mindfulness, and he has such a wonderful way of making it conversational and thought-provoking. In the nineties, that was my morning book. For a couple of years, I would read parts of it to start my day, and then I would contemplate what I read and usually journal a bit. That was the beginning for me.

It really accelerated for me in 2009 when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). I was an athlete and I ran all the time, so it was a real shock to develop that disease. It put me on my back, almost literally. I could barely walk around the block, and I was having trouble getting up the stairs to bed. After about a year and a half of that, my wife and I read that yoga can really help people with MS, and so I went to try the studio close to our house. I thought, “I don’t really think I should be here. I can barely stand up, let alone do tree pose or whatever.”  But the instructor said, “Listen, we have people like you in here a lot. If you can come here three days a week, it will change your body, and if you come here more than three days a week, it will change your life.” I chose the more-than-three-days-a-week option, and she was right; it changed my life. Initially, yoga was just a physical practice for me, but I found the deeper you go with something like that, the more it affects other aspects of your life too. It really taught me the importance of baby steps—little steps, bit by bit. I´ve seen that practicing the physical aspects of yoga, and then I started bringing that observation to my work as an executive coach and consultant after reading research on the impact that mindfulness meditation has on strengthening our genes’ ability to express themselves.

SF: When you first started out with yoga, what changes did you see when you started practicing? How much of your life was devoted to yoga at that time?

SE: I was going to three or four classes per week. I always say that the changes are incremental and then they´re sudden. For example, you´re trying to learn to do a yoga pose, like Upward Facing Bow.  For the first three months, I couldn’t even get my shoulders or head off the floor, and then one day, suddenly, I´m just like up in Upward Facing Bow with my head and shoulders off the ground.

SF: So you´re working at it, working at it, working at it—and then all of a sudden you can do it.

SE: Yes, bit by bit. Four years later, I do handstands and headstands regularly. I had never done one of either of those in my life before I started four years ago. I´m still the guy with MS, but yoga helps me manage the MS effectively. You have to manage your stress if you have MS, otherwise your body is going to let you know immediately. It´s been a learning-by-doing type of process. I began to see the impact of the yoga almost instantly.  I literally felt better at the end of the first week.

SF: That’s great that you feel the effects right away. Mindfulness is more than yoga though, right?

SE: Totally. The way I think about mindfulness is that it equals two things: awareness plus intention. Awareness includes what’s going on around me extrinsically, while at the same time I´m also aware of what’s going on intrinsically inside of me. These thoughts occur not just physically, although that’s very important, but also mentally and emotionally. First, what is my mental thought process right now? And, second, what is my emotional state a response to or reaction toward what’s going on around me? Once I´m aware, I can then choose to be intentional about what I´m going to do, or maybe more importantly, what I´m not going to do. In the face of the problem of being overworked and overwhelmed, not doing anything is maybe more important than doing something.

SF: You´re choosing what to exclude from your intention, and your subsequent action is just as, if not more, important than choosing what it is you will do. Why do you say that?

SE: First of all, research shows that multitasking is a myth. In my own research with our leadership—the executives and managers we work with in our programs—we´ve been running a 360 with them for years which tends to mirror the 72 different leadership behaviors outlined in my first book The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success. So many of those behaviors are things like ¨pacing myself by taking regular breaks from work,¨ ¨giving others my full presence and attention during meetings and conversations,¨ ¨regularly taking time to step back to define or redefine what needs to be done¨—all of these are behaviors that mindfulness can really address. People are generally very good at getting stuff done, but they´re not so good at stepping back and asking themselves what really needs to be done.

SF: Yes, and it´s a hard thing to begin to do, isn’t it? How do you get people started in taking a step back so they can become more conscious and deliberate about the choices they make, about the focus of their attention, and where they invest their energy? What´s the first step if somebody comes to you stressed out saying, “I need to be more mindful, help me Scott.”

SE: First of all, it´s good that you’re recognizing that you’re stressed out as opposed to continuing to put your foot on the gas pedal driving forward with your head down. It´s like Dear Abby used to say, ¨Recognition of the problem is 90% of the solution.¨ The next thing I want to do is to look for things to prioritize. If we think of an XY graph with the vertical axis representing ¨easy to do¨ and the horizontal axis being ¨likely to make a difference,¨ I would recommend people look for things that are in the upper right hand corner of that graph: things that are relatively easy to do and yet likely to make a difference.

SF: For people who are listening right now, in their cars or in their homes, tell them where somebody could really begin now.

SE: First, just breathe. Slow down your breathing. When I first started teaching about mindful leadership, I was going through yoga teacher training myself. I asked my 25-year-old yoga teacher trainer to think if he were to be conducting the same executive coach training program as I was, what he would focus on for the corporate people in this program. He answered, “I´d focus on their breathing—ambitious people don´t know how to breathe.” What does he mean by that? That they breathe from their chest, and it´s really shallow. Sometimes you even forget to breathe when you´re stressed, and you´ll hold your breath.

What I talk a lot about in my work now is that I think people are in a chronic state of fight-or-flight. It´s not the acute “oh my gosh, there´s a saber-toothed tiger around the corner, let me run” fight-or flee response. Rather, it´s all the input we’re trying to deal with all day long which puts us in a constant state of fight-or-flight. In the end, what I think the mindfulness stuff really does is activate our bodies´ opposite response, nicknamed the rest-and-digest, your body´s para-sympathetic nervous system. Think of fight-or-flight as the gas pedal, and rest-and-digest as the brakes; you need both. You would never drive a car and only use the gas—that’d be a recipe for disaster.

SF: So the way to consciously activate the rest-and-digest system, as we´ll call it, is to simply breathe?

SE: Yes, start with breathing deep breaths from your belly.

Navy SEALS are trained to breathe like that when they´re deployed. They have a little exercise called the ¨Four by Four by Four¨: four minutes of deep breathing with four counts on the inhale and four counts on the exhale. Repeat until your four-minute timer goes off. Clearly when SEALS are deployed, their fight-or-flight response is going off, but they also want to have rest-and-digest so they make really clear, sound decisions in critical life-threatening moments. Breathing this way helps them do that.

SF: When you stop to focus on your breathing, you become actively conscious of it.  How does actively thinking about your breathing change your mindset and your physical condition?

SE: It focuses your attention in the right places. Recently I came across a study on neuroimaging from USC which found that the average person has 70,000 thoughts a day. If you think about it, most of those thoughts are probably the same thoughts you had yesterday. There’s a word in the Sanskrit language (which dates back thousands of years ago in India) called pritti which means “mental chatter,” commonly known as the monkey mind. With all the distractions we face in our hyper-connected lives with smart phones and everything else we’re dealing with, it’s very easy to have chatter-filled lives. Focused breathing can help us clear that. I think it’s the easiest and most accessible thing you can do to be more focused and center yourself in the moment because you carry your breath around with you all the time.

SF: So you start with that, but the chatter and the tools competing for your attention pull you away from that state of awareness quite quickly, especially for people just starting out with mindfulness exercises. How can you build the capacity to sustain consciousness of your breathing and still be able to undertake all the things that need your attention?

SE: Breathing is just one way to become more aware and more intentional. I think movement is another good way. So many of us now sit at our desk in front of screens for hours on end. It’s not good for your thought process, your decision-making, or your productivity, and it’s definitely not good for your health and well-being. All of the studies now are saying that sitting is basically the new smoking—it´s the same impact on your life expectancy if you sit for 8 or 9 hours per day versus smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. You really want to get up and move 5 to 10 minutes every hour at least. It helps you mentally, and it also helps you physically. The research shows that a little bit of movement every hour helps you focus mentally when you come back.

SF: It would depend on what you do with your movement, right? Are there particular things that would be useful for the beginners out there—people who are just getting into the idea of finding a greater sense of calm and reducing strain in their lives? If you were to start getting up for five to ten minutes each hour, what should you do exactly?

SE:  Something as simple as a walk around the building. And leave your phone behind when you do. I know that’s radical, but it will be there when you get back, and even if you miss something, it’s only a ten-minute break. You can also get up from your desk and stretch. Raise your arms up toward the ceiling. Turn the palms of your hands like you’re stretching up toward the ceiling and bring them down and back up again three times.

Look for those little still points throughout the day. That’s a term I learned from David Kuntz—he’s got a number of great books, but the one that I really love is called Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going. David talks about different kinds of breaks, and the shortest of these he calls a “still point,” which is a little interlude or brief pause throughout the day. I don’t care how busy you are.  Even the most back-to-back calendared people have brief 5 to 10 minute interludes throughout their days if they pay attention to them and are looking for them. Then the question is, when you get that 5 or 10 minute break, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to try and answer ten more emails? Because you know that if you get 200 emails per day, responding to 10 more in that five-minute period is not going to help you that much. What is going to help you much more is to give your rest-and-digest response an opportunity to perform. You’re going to think more clearly when you get back to work, you’re going to feel better, and you’re going to be more fully present for the people you’re working with. There are lots of benefits to be had if you just take that free minute to move or to breathe.

SF: What’s the most important word of advice you could give about accessing greater mindfulness in ways that could help people, not just at work, but in all different parts of their lives?

SE: I would want people to think about three quick questions. First, how are you when you’re at your best, and what does it look like when you´re in zone, in the state of flow? Second, what routines are going to help you show up and be your best, physically, mentally, relationally, and spiritually? Third and finally, what outcomes are you hoping for from showing up at your best? These should be outcomes in three big areas of your life: your life at home, your life at work, and your life in your community. Stew, I know you talk about this in your work. If you can get those answers on one sheet of paper, then you’ve got a reference point. Don’t try to do ten things, but start with just one thing that’s going to make a difference for you now. Begin with baby steps because progress really does comes incrementally and then suddenly, like we discussed at the beginning of the hour. If you´re consistent with improving just 5% per week, then in one month you’re 20% more mindful.

To learn more about Scott´s work, check out his recent books Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative (October 2014) and The Next Level: What Insiders Know about Executive Success (October 2010) and follow him on Twitter @ScottEblin.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America

How Work Affects Health — Robert Hedaya, MD

Contributor: Andrea Yeh

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Robert Hedaya, psychiatrist, founder of National Center of Whole Psychiatry. The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: How did you come to look at your patients as whole people not just a picture of symptoms, but people trying to create harmony and integration in their lives and health?  What is it that shaped your thinking?

Robert Hedaya: Robert Hedaya. M.D.The short answer is that back in about 1983 or so when I first went into practice, I had a patient who was a 50-year-old woman.  She had one child and a marriage that wasn’t so good, and her child was going off to college.  She started having panic attacks, and I thought she was anxious about having to live with her husband or leaving her husband. I went through a series of standard treatments over the course of a year.  Nothing worked – not therapy, not various medications, not cognitive behavioral therapy. I went back to the drawing board.  I looked at her labs and saw that the size of her red blood cell count was a little bit larger than the upper limit of normal.  I did a little research and found out that it could be a B12 deficiency.  I gave her a B12 injection, and her panic attacks cleared up overnight.  I was blown away. And I thought, “Gee, this is important.  I wonder what else I’m missing.  What else wasn’t I taught, and what didn’t my teachers know?”  I eventually figured out that it is essential to remember that the head is connected to the body by the neck.  I learned all the different interactions between the body and the mind and ultimately how the mind is really influenced by every level of our environment.

SF: As you know, on this show we focus on work and the rest of life, including our minds and our bodies and our spiritual lives, as well as family and communities.  We’re looking at how the four domains of work, home, community, and self interact; how they affect each other in both positive and negative ways; and what can be done to maximize the former.  In the National Center for Whole Psychiatry, what is your primary mission, and how do you go about serving it?

RH: l I’ve shifted my focus recently, and I’ve decided to look closely at inflammation because inflammation really is the key factor for all of our chronic illnesses.  Inflammation is affected by psychiatric conditions.  Just take an example in the workplace:  If you have a boss who is abusive, if you’re having trouble with your colleagues, or if you’re frustrated and you’re having continual difficulties, these all cause changes in your immune system, which leads to changes in your gut.   Most of your immune system is around your gut, so then you get these immunological changes, which will bring out various illnesses over time.

SF: Inflammation – can you define what that is for our listeners?

RH: When you get a cut and you see redness and increased blood flow and heat, that’s a localized inflammation. We have more and more difficulty as we age in controlling inflammation, so we might have more aches, more pains, more joint problems.  We may have inflammation in our cardiovascular system, for example. And inflammation is at the root of atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries.  Inflammation is also at the root of dementia, osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.

SF: What are some of the most important aspects of the work environment that can cause problems like the ones you’re studying now with inflammation in various body systems?

RH: A useful metaphor is to think of concentric rings. On the outermost ring might be something like the stability, innovation, or financial condition of the organization that you’re a part of.  Then you move to a ring that’s closer into you, and you might have management issues, which might be having an even closer and more direct effect on you.  Of course if these are good situations, your health improves and wellbeing improve.  If there is an opportunity provided by the organization and management to grow – challenges, learning, stimulation, supportive relationships with you, your colleagues, etc. – that also supports your health.  Then if you move even a little bit closer in, it might have to do with your immediate work environment, say the floor you’re on, the office you’re in.  Maybe the lighting is affecting you in a positive way or negative way.  Maybe there’s a moldy environment.  Then you can move more intimately towards yourself to look at the relationships that you’re involved in on the day-to-day and the hour-to-hour basis at work and examine how those are affecting you.  Ultimately if you come in even closer, it’s worth asking how your skill set fits with the kind of work you do.  Does it provide you the opportunities that you as a person need to feel fulfilled, to find meaning in your life, and to be challenged?

SF: Let’s dig a little further into that if we can.  From a whole psychiatry perspective, there’s just so much you could look at, in terms of identifying the sources of physical and mental strain.  How do you know where to start?  Especially if the source of the problem is at work, how do you find that in your intake and diagnostic?

RH: I spend a lot of time with people. I’ll usually spend four hours on intake.  I’ll do a medical history and a physical, and I’ll talk with family members.  That’s something that’s not accessible to everybody.  I wrote a book about ten years ago that’s still available called The Antidepressant Survival Program.  The content of the book gives an analysis of different aspects of a person’s life.  Going through that might help you identify areas of vulnerability.

SF: So the book takes you through a kind of diagnostic checklist to look at things that might be affecting your health?

RH: That’s right.  I think that’s one way of doing it.  Another way is to think about where you feel best at work, and where you feel worst.  What are the stresses at work, and what are the strengths?  What is it you wished you had more of?  When were you happiest in your work life?

SF: I wonder if you could share an example of someone who you’ve treated where there was a work element to both the diagnostic and the treatment that helped.

RH: I have a good story about a woman who was in her fifties working for the government.   She started to become ill, and we went through the whole checklist of situations in her life, but nothing had really changed.  It turned out that an important factor was that she had recently advanced in her career and moved to a different building.  Many government buildings are old, and she moved into a building that was full of mold – it was a sick building.

SF: Sick building?

RH: Yes, it’s called “sick building syndrome.”  There was a lot of mold and toxins in the air.   It turns out many of the people that she was working with would become ill.  There was just a lot of subtle illness.  So when we got her to work at home, she just really cleared up.

SF: Amazing.  Bob, is there one piece of advice you’d like to leave our listeners with in terms of how to think intelligently about their mental and physical health and how their work affects it?

RH: I think the key comes down to finding meaning in your work; that is the most important thing.

You can find meaning in work by the nature of your work, by the nature of the relationships you have, by helping people around you, and by being of service to the people around you. Hedaya’s work underscores the importance of evaluating our lives holistically.  Given that mental, social, and physical problems may all be interrelated, finding a resolution to an issue we face may require a multi-dimensional analysis.  As Hedaya suggests, we can ask ourselves, when we have personally found our work and life most rewarding, and what were the circumstances surrounding that satisfaction?  Have you experienced instances where your physical and mental well-being affected one another in a positive and synergistic way?  Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below.

To learn more about Dr. Hedaya, the Founder of the National Center of Whole Psychiatry and his work, read his book, or visit the National Center of Whole Psychiatry on Facebook.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Andrea YehAndrea Yeh is an undergraduate junior majoring in Operation and Information Management and in International Relations.

Gaining Self-Control — Katy Milkman

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Katy Milkman, the James G. Campbell Jr. Assistant Professor at the Wharton School with a secondary appointment at the Perelman School of Medicine, both at the University of Pennsylvania.  She has been recognized as one of the top 40 business school professors under 40 by Poets and Quants, and was voted Wharton’s “Iron Prof” by the school’s own MBA students.  Katy uses “big data” to examine the choices we make and how self-control, or the lack of it, affects those choices.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation. And here’s the complete podcast.

Full Podcast with Katy Milkman

Stew Friedman: There may be a tendency to see self-control as personal issue.  Why is self-control important for performance and effectiveness at work?

Katy Milkman: Katy MilkmanMaking deadlines, avoiding distractions, focusing; these all require self-control. Self-control is linked with higher I.Q and with greater productivity. Also having self-control effects health and being healthy means you can perform better at work

SF: What’s the association between self-control and IQ?

KM: Waler Mischel, the Stanford University psychologist who originated the marshmallow test back in the 1960s, told children that they could either eat the marshmallow now or, if they waited they’d get a second marshmallow.  Then he observed to find out how long they could wait, delay gratification. He found that those who were able to wait longer ultimately attained higher IQ later in life, and higher SATs, too.

SF: So, is the ability to delay gratification, to have self-controllearned or are you born with certain propensities? What’s your take on this?

KM:  Both.The example that I use is that it’s like a muscle. You can exercise it and strengthen it to improve outcomes and health.

SF: How did you personally get into studying this?  It’s a bit unusual for a business school professor.

KM: It’s “me”search. You have to be passionate about what you study. I always struggled with food cravings, going to the gym, focusing at work (not checking Facebook and Twitter), and my sweet tooth. I struggle with self-control.  Studying it, I could see that, “Oh, it’s not just me, others struggle, too.”  Studying this phenomenon allows me to contribute to the literature on it, increase knowledge for others, not just for myself.

SF: So what are the big insights? How can we avoid temptations?

KM: Uncertainty is bad for self-control. If you don’t know if you’ll have a job, or if you’re waiting for results from a medical test, or something like that, if there are these “incidental uncertainties,” then there’s a tendency to reach for the Ben & Jerry’s,  low-brow magazines, and the like.

SF: So, anxiety, or worry, interferes with our capacity to stay focused on tasks; to exert self-control?

KM: If something is unresolved, that’s when self-control diminishes.  When are the moments that we are most motivated to have self-control? And how can we encourage workers to go to the gym, to have flu shots? Google asked these questions about its own employees. When’s the best time to deploy incentives? How about the New Years’ Eve effect?  This is when there’s a fresh start, a new year, people start diets at a higher rate, go to the gym more. There are many fresh start moments, not just New Year’s Eve.

SF: Does the beginning of the day count?

KM: Yes, in hospitals, people sanitize their hands more at beginning of day. Within the day, yes, there are fresh starts. The start of a new week, or month, following birthdays and holidays – these are other fresh starts. They break continuous flow of time. My past failures are behind me; I can restart this month, have a fresh start, a new semester.  Except on the 21st birthday!  People search more on Google for diets at beginning of the month, for example.

SF: Religions do this, denote time.  This wisdom has been around for a while through religious rituals using the architecture of time.

KM: Is there a higher rate in the Jewish population of greater self-control after Yom Kippur? We’re studying it!

SF:  What did Google do with what it learned about timing? Is there extra messaging and are there more incentives offered when people are ripe for fresh start at the beginning of the week or month?

KM: You can’t send messages out all the time.  So, yes, they now target them at those fresh start moments.

Caller from Minnesota, Molly: I only have so much energy and then it breaks down. Willpower is like a muscle, it gets tired.  What can be done?

KM: “Temptatation bundling” helps with things like struggles to get to gym and watching too much low-brow TV.  What if you only watch low-brow when you’re at the gym?!   Time flies at the gym and you’re anxious to go to gym; you look forward to it, there’s an incentive. Temptation bundling harnesses the power of the temptation of the low-brow. You only let yourself go to the burger joint when you’re with a difficult colleague, or get pedicures when responding to email. So you give in to the indulgence and you find that you have available willpower storage, so you don’t exhaust or deplete the reserve.

SF: What has the biggest impact?

KM: Prompting people to form concrete plans about when they’re going to follow through. Let’s take an example with onsite free flu shot clinics, which are important because they decrease absenteeism, reduce costs, and yield happier and more productive employees.  So, how can a company increase free flu shot use?  We did a mailing, and we did the same mailing plus a prompt for the employee to write down a date and time when they would come to get the shot.  They didn’t have to reply, they were simply asked to write this down for themselves. There was a big effect; flu shot use went up 13%. And attendance more than doubled (with the writing-it-down group) when there was only one day flu shots were being offered.

And we’ve discovered the same effect with getting a colonoscopy – which is a lot more to ask!  Same thing. Write it down. Same with voter turn-out.  The prompt is free and yields big effects. It’s a way to overcome forgetfulness and procrastination.

Katy Milkman is the James G. Campbell Jr. Assistant Professor at the Wharton School and has a secondary appointment at the Perelman School of Medicine, both at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her research relies heavily on “big data” to document various ways in which individuals systematically deviate from making optimal choices. Her work has paid particular attention to the question of what factors produce self-control failures (e.g., undersaving for retirement, exercising too little, eating too much junk food) and how to reduce the incidence of such failures.  To learn more, follow her on Twitter @Katy_Milkman

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.



The Online Collision of Our Work and Personal Lives: Ariane Ollier-Malaterre

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Ariane Ollier-MalaterreProfessor of Management at the University of Quebec in Montreal, where she conducts research on and teaches about work and life around the world.  Her recent work focusses on the impact of technology on our work and non-work lives.  The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: How did you get involved with and intrigued by the question of how life online collides with the rest of life?

Ariane Ollier-Malaterre: Ariane Ollier-MalaterrePrior to my life in academia, I was in the business world.  There I observed that, though we all have multiple identities and commitments in life, employers don’t seem to recognize or tackle this issue.

SF: What do you mean, they don’t tackle it?

AO: Most organizations operate under the myth that we leave our private lives at the door. But in truth, as your work demonstrates, Stew, when you come to work you come to work as a full person,  with history and with emotions and it’s a challenge to behave as if you are a professional robot.   Employers expect employees to behave in only a professional way, bounded by the physical space (the office) and the time (the work day).

SF: You’re saying that theboundaries are often ignored to detriment of both parties. So what about the research you’ve been doing onsocial networks with my colleagues here at Wharton, Nancy Rothbard and Justin Berg?

AO: Facebook has 1.3 billion active users, when last I checked, and half are on every day. On social networks, people average 130 connections including 16 co-workers, and sometime supervisors. So interactions at work extend to cyber space, online. But you also have personal things happening online. You may have supervisors, coworkers, clients, friends, family; all online.  People forget who has access, they disclose too much to their “invisible audience.”

SF: So what happens when these professional and personal worlds collide online?

AO: Cyberspace offers opportunities to connect with colleagues and broadcast information, for example to market a product or book.  But it also creates challenges. In real life we have boundaries. We can segment time or space.  We can have different email in-boxes for different categories of connections. We have mental fences to help us simplify complex realities and remind us of social scripts. In the real world, as opposed to cyber space, you come to work in attire appropriate to the work setting and you use appropriate language, you behave in ways appropriate to your professional setting.

SF: In the real world there are markers, reminders: clothes, mores, norms, codes of conduct.

AO: Yes, you know not to wear a bathing suit to work. But you might post a family beach vacation picture in which you’re wearing a bathing suit.  What about if your Board of Directors sees that picture of you in your bathing suit on Facebook? They might be open to it, but their perception of you will change.

SF: With what consequence?

AO: We’ve found that there are important consequences in terms of respect and liking. If you share many personal pictures, people might like you more because they know you more. They may also like you less, if, for instance, you have a different political opinion than they do.

SF: Better to avoid politics in cyber space?

AO: Yes. That’s part of the content strategy. If you feel the need to re-create the boundary that you don’t have in cyberspace, just share neutral material. And don’t share goofy comments.  the other thing is the audience approach. Try to control who gets to be connected to you and who gets to see your information.

SF: With whom should you connect? Supervisors? Peers? Subordinates? Should LinkedIn be for professional circles and Facebook for friends and family, for example?

AO: It depends on the goals. You can try to re-create some boundaries. If you do nothing to create separation, that’s an open approach, and you might disclose too much which can have serious consequences to your professional reputation. An example of an infamous social media disaster: “The Infamous Africa tweet” by Justine Sacco, a communications executive with IAC, who was on her way to South Africa and posted a tweet “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding.  I’m white! She spent 11 hours on the plane while the tweet ricocheted around the internet and when she landed, she was fired. Funny is hard; it’s risky. You can’t judge the audience so that you can make adjustments.

SF: So, is the open strategy is to be avoided? Should caution rule? What’s your advice?  What does the evidence indicate?

AO: It is best to try to do something about the collision of the worlds.  Ignore people or don’t accept their invitations.  But then, of course, you might offend people who, while colleagues, consider themselves friends of yours. But it is best to try to re-create boundaries. Make mental fences.  And be careful about content. Avoid politics, sexual orientation, and religion.

SF: So, avoid hot content. But what about invitations from colleagues and coworkers?

AO: Bosses who ask to be connected ask are intruding. And there can be consequences to team dynamics. What if boss is friends with one or two but not with others?

SF: Are there any benefits from cyber connectivity, bringing different parts together?

AO:  You get to connect with people with whom you work and that helps your charisma.  Mixing the professional and personal makes you seem authentic.  Creating different Google circles is an option.

Ariane Ollier-Malaterre is Professor at University of Québec in Montréal (UQAM), Canada. Her research investigates how individuals articulate professional and personal identities and responsibilities and how organizations address changing career and work-family issues in different parts of the world. @ArianeOllier

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Thriving at Work — Gretchen Spreitzer

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Gretchen Spreitzer, Professor of Business Administration at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan about her research and teaching on thriving at work, part of the Positive Organizational Psychology scholarship.

Stew Friedman: How did you come to studying thriving at work, engaging with the work, and being productive at work?

Gretchen Spreitzer: gretchen spreitzerSeveral colleagues and I were talking about how much we loved our work and how meaningful it was, but also that it’s the type of job that is never ending; there’s always something to be done. We wondered how we could avoid burnout, but still be on the cutting edge. What we’ve found is that people thrive in their work when they feel energized, have vitality, feel alive at work, and feel as though their learning, growing, getting better.

SF: So what’s the impediment to this? Why doesn’t everyone feel energized and alive at work?

GS: People tend to learn from difficult situations; a crisis jolts people out of their complacency.  And it propels people to do better. We took the opposite tact. We wondered What about when there’s no crisis? How can we be pro-active?  How can people pro-actively manage rather than wait for a crisis?  How can we learn to turn on a light bulb to help people get more out of work and life?

SF: So what’s the key?  How can people take control and pro-actively find ways to thrive at home and work?

GS: We designed a study that asked people to report incidents when they are thriving at work and report when they feel they’re thriving outside of work. We found that those two correlated. When I’m thriving at work I’m doing things that create energy, not deplete energy. When they finished their day and went on to other activities, they had energy.

SF: It’s what social psychologists call “positive spillover” from one life domain to another. Feelings from one domain spillover to other domains; it’s not an either/or, it’s not a zero sum game.  It’s possible to have both, indeed it may be likely.

GS: We call it a “virtuous cycle.” It produce more resources rather than using up resources.

SF: Have you found that people in business are open to this idea that they can feel vitality at home and at work, or are they skeptical?

GS: Many people say they want that, but that they have too many other pressures and constraints that prevent them from making changes.

SF:  They feel trapped, they feel as though  they can’t make changes, that they can’t control their circumstances.  What can they do?

GS: With Jane Dutton I’ve written How To Be A Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big ImpactWe encourage people to figure out what small steps they can take to kick start a change in the right direction.

SF: This is similar to the Total Leadership approach I started at Ford Motor Company in the late 1990s.  We asked people to experiment with things that were under their control to create demonstrable and measurable change at work, at home, in the community and for their private self; what I call four way wins. And in doing this weekly radio show I hear the same thing each week from CEOs, practitioners, researchers. So why don’t more people do this?

GS:  We are kindred spirits. My point of view is that we need to look for the psychological pre-conditions that allow people to feel empowered, not the external factors. Self-empowerment includes four things: a sense of meaning or purpose in their job — a personal connection, a sense of competence, self-determination or autonomy, and impact. Being self-empowered is not about whether they are in an empowering situation.  An individual can feel self-empowered by finding ways to have meaning and purpose, for example helping customers or having strong connections at work.

SF: It’s relatively easy for us professors.  We have comparative freedom and resources. What about others?

GS:  Everyone can do this.  Our Center for Positive Organizations has developed a Job Crafting Tool.  It helps you figure out what are the parts of your job where you can still do the core work, but where you can make subtle changes, for instance in how, how frequently, or with whom you do different tasks. For example, how can a cook craft a job so it’s more meaningful, more energizing? What small changes around the edges can be made while still doing the core work? Maybe you can design a presentation on the plate so it’s more creative. The tool takes you through the process to find levers to make small changes even if you have little autonomy.

SF: What’s your advice for leaders in organizations, for managers, for small business owners?  How can they help to create an environment that supports and supports self-empowerment?

GS: If you are a leader you can be proactive, take the initiative, be transparent, minimize incivility in order to enhance high quality connections, provide performance feedback, and play to your own strengths.  If you are striving to be the best you, you are likely to thrive at work and elsewhere.

Gretchen Spreitzer is the Keith E. and Valerie J. Alessi Professor of Business Administration at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  Her research focuses on employee empowerment and leadership development, particularly within a context of organizational change and decline.  Her most recent research examines how organizations can enable thriving.  This is part of a new movement in the field of organizational behavior, known as Positive Organizational Scholarship (www.bus.umich.edu/positive).   To learn more, go to http://howtobeapositiveleader.com/.


Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Feeling Overwhelmed — Brigid Schulte on Work and Life

Contributor: Alice Liu

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Brigid Schulte, staff writer at the Washington Post and author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One has the Time. Schulte speaks about being overwhelmed and how we can address it.

Following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with Schulte:

Stew Friedman: What inspired you to write the book in the first place?

Brigid Schulte: Brigid SchulteI’ve described it as an accidental book. I was a completely overwhelmed working mother of two. I worked full time. I felt very guilty. I didn’t really stop to ever think about it. I just thought, “Well maybe this is the price I have to pay for being a working mother.” I was incredibly over-involved. I was not only working the second shift, but come holidays, I was working the third shift as well.

SF: Let’s define second shift. That’s the term Arlie Hochschild wrote about twenty-five years ago, that moms not only work at work, but then, when they come home, they’re working another shift as well. What is the third shift?

BS: I describe holidays as the third shift for women, because women are traditionally expected to put on the holidays, do the kin work of reaching out to keep the family bond strong, and creating the magic of the moment. That’s still a very strong image in our traditionally gendered roles. So come Thanksgiving or Christmas it’s women doing a lot of the work and planning. I was very much caught up in that, and I really didn’t think that it could be different. Everybody I knew was feeling that way too. Lots of other mothers I knew were also feeling guilty and overwhelmed,   angry with their husbands, and worried about their kids and whether they were doing right for them by working.

When a sociologist who studies time told me that, in general, women like me have 30 hours of leisure a week, I just about fell out of my chair and said, “You’re out of your mind.” That amount of time was so completely out of the realm of my imagination, as if it didn’t even exist on the same planet that I lived on. Since I didn’t believe him, he challenged me to keep track of my time. He said, “Keep a time diary, and I will show you where your leisure is.” And so that’s really what started this entire book. I kept a time diary, and I began to write, not only about what I was doing, but how I was feeling about it. I would argue this gives a much more real sense of time, because our perception is what shapes what our time feels like. It’s really about how you feel about it. That’s much more real than saying I was on a bike ride, for example. It looks like leisure on the outside, but if you’re worried and thinking about a million things – the memo you still need to send, the carpool you have to arrange, the groceries you have to buy ­– then all of that contaminates your time.

SF: It’s what some psychologists call psychological interference. The worries from one life domain invades another. What happened after you kept a time diary?

BS: I kept a time diary until I had both the real time and the contaminated time recorded. Then the sociologist analyzed it. He took out a yellow highlighter, and he highlighted 27 hours of what he called leisure time.

SF: So he was right?

BS: Well I looked at that time, and I about burst into tears because to me that didn’t feel at all like leisure. It was 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there – little bits and scraps of time that didn’t align with what I considered leisure to be. For instance, there was a time I had taken my daughter to a ballet class and the car broke down on the way home and we were stuck on the side of the road for 2 hours waiting for a tow truck. He called that leisure time, and I said, “You’re kidding,” and he said, “Oh, that’s right you were with your daughter so that’s technically childcare,” and I said, “So if I had been by myself that would have been leisure time?” and he said, “Yes.” That really started this journey for me of trying to understand what is leisure time? What does it mean to have that sense of refreshing your soul that the Ancient Greeks said was the point of having a good life? And if I didn’t have any of that time, why not? Was there a way that I – and other imperfect souls like me – could find it?

SF: So what did you do Brigid?

BS: I took a leave of absence from the Washington Post. I wanted to use my skills as a reporter and as a journalist to look deeply at modern life. What I quickly learned is that you cannot look at leisure time without looking at what Eric Ericson called the three great arenas of life. If you want to know what’s happening to leisure, you have to know what’s happening to work, and if you want to know what’s happening to work you have to know what’s happening in the home sphere and with love. The three great arenas of life – work, love, and play – are very interconnected.

What I found is that our workplaces are still organized as if no one has families, as if the best workers are the ones who can work all hours all the time – particularly now with technology – and that hours and face-time are rewarded rather than performance and flexibility. I found that our gender roles at home still very much slide unconsciously into traditional roles. The ideal mother, the all-sacrificing icon, was very powerful in driving a lot of my personal guilt at home and a lot of my ambivalence about working. And then I discovered that in this country, we really do not value leisure time. We value busyness and being productive, and that comes from not just working hard but over-working. We have, what I call, “busyness as a badge of honor” where you almost brag about how busy you are and that’s how we show our status to one another.

SF: It seems that the tide is starting to turn there, particularly among young people. Do you see it differently?

BS: I think there’s some great hope and real excitement amongst young people, whether you want to call them Gen Y or Millennials. There are things that they value that perhaps people in my generation did not. When I talk with young people, they look at middle-aged men and women, particularly women, and they say I don’t want what you had. I still think I can work and make an excellent contribution. There’s new science that’s emerging that says that all of that face-time and over-work doesn’t make us more productive. It doesn’t make us more innovative or creative and, in fact, it really burns us out and leads to disengagement. I think that the younger generation is getting smarter about it. Now we just have to convince the people in power who set the tone for all those workplaces.  

SF: In our first hour, we had one of those folks, Doug Conant who ran Campbell’s Soup, and he was talking all about what it was like for him to create a culture where the whole person is valued.

BS: One of my favorite stories in the book is “If the Pentagon Can Do It, Why Can’t You?” We think of the pentagon as the ultimate face-time, work-long-hours kind of culture. Michèle Flournoy came in as the number three civilian in the Obama administration, and she, in her interview with secretary Gates, said, “I will work my rear end off for you, but I’m a mother of three, and I am going to be home for dinner when I can, and I’m going to have to have touch stone anchor time with my kids.” He so supported her in her drive to be authentic – fully present at work and fully present at home – that she turned around and said, “How can I then do that for my staff?” She didn’t look at this as a working mothers’ issue. She saw this as a human capital issue, because what she saw were people in her office over-worked and burned out. A lot of the people in her office, for example, were between deployments so they were coming from a very stressful combat environment. This was supposed to be their home leave, and yet they were never seeing their families.

SF: So what did she do?

BS: She took pulse surveys to get a sense of how people were feeling. She brought in consultants to figure out how things could be done differently. She put two young fathers in charge of this effort.

SF: That seems like a good move to de-stigmatize it as a women’s issue.

BS: Exactly. She also made a real point that this was not about working less, this is about working smarter. They came up with what they called an alternative work schedule. After a certain number of hours in a certain period of time, you got the rest of your time back as your own. They trained the managers on this new model, which was really important. She also made sure that this work schedule was implemented in policy, in regulation, and in performance evaluations so that it became infused in the culture. We all know that there are so many corporations out there with policies that sound wonderful in the books, but the culture is such that nobody takes advantage of them because they know that it violates the norm of over-work. So what she sought to do was really rewire the culture. She told me she knew that it actually worked when one day she went to give a speech in the middle of the day and she turned to the Colonel who was with her and asked if he wanted to ride back to the Pentagon building. He said, “No I’ve worked all my hours in this pay period, and I’m going to take the rest of the afternoon off to go sledding with my son.” She said, “ I knew that it had caught on then. I knew that it was a success.”

Schulte discusses how she started on her journey of examining leisure time and how that connects to the  constant feeling of being overwhelmed that many people experience. She also discusses how leaders in organizations can rewire the culture of the workplace so that employees can feel less overwhelmed, more productive, and more authentic. Do you feel overwhelmed in your life? Do you experience contaminated leisure time? Join us in the comments section below with you thoughts.

To learn more about Schulte’s work, read her book, follow her on Twitter @BrigidSchulte, or visit her website.

Join Work and Life on Tuesday, May 20 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Janet Hanson and Nilofer Merchant. Visit Work and Life for our schedule of future guests.


About the Author Alice LiuAlice Liu is an undergraduate senior studying Management at The Wharton School and English (Creative Writing) at the College of Arts & Sciences. 

Rebels of Slow and Attention Warriors — Maggie Jackson

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

Stew Friedman spoke with Maggie Jackson, former foreign correspondent for Boston Globe covering work-life issues and author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.  On Work and Life Jackson explained the steep cost of technology in fragmenting our collective attention and how society can get back on track by challenging norms of busyness and multi-tasking.

Following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with Jackson:

Stew Friedman: In your book, you spoke about how the technologists or inventors in our society have one view of what they’ve brought into the world, but the people who actually use it have a different experience. What about the Internet specifically?

Maggie Jackson: Maggie JacksonThe internet started out as a small defense-related mechanism for people to communicate with one another, but as we know, it has grown into the behemoth that we are experiencing today. I think the Internet is an obvious example of how technologies have become so ingrained in our lives that we don’t actually see them anymore. This is a critical realization for us to have – today, who actually looks at an electric light bulb every evening, for example, and says, “Whoa, look at that?” With technology, there’s somewhat of a perceptual fade over time where we cease to see these things anymore once the novelty has worn off. That is an important issue for us to grapple with, because once we stop seeing it, we stop looking at it critically. We might see the content coming at us and hear the beeping, but do we really take a step back and think through what are the pros and cons, how am I going to live with this technology, what can I really do with it? We have developed some very simple ways of dealing with technology, but I think now we need to become more sophisticated in how we think about our interaction with these new products. This fade is an inevitable part of the historical process, but it’s also that is really urgent for people to grapple with because there is such a steep cost to misusing technology.

SF: What do you see as the primary costs to humanity and to individuals in taking for granted the new tools that are so much a part of our lives now?

MJ: There are so many. I actually like to talk about it as “technological excesses,” because I don’t blame the technology. I don’t think that we should get rid of it all, and I don’t think that we have to go backwards. I personally have a lot to do with technology, and I love the way it works for me. It has changed our world for the better. One of the steep costs, however, has to do with the way we utilize our attention during our interactions with technology. In the average workplace, for example, people switch tasks every three minutes throughout the day. That’s enormous, and those switch costs lead to slower and less efficient work. We end up doing more trivial tasks, and ultimately we’re more stressed and more frustrated. That fragmentation of attention that we’re seeing all around us creates a tremendously steep cost to things like engaging with a question, wrestling a messy problem or an ill-structured situation to the ground, and really sticking with challenges. In this country, for example, there have been tremendous longitudinal studies done on creativity. , Across the board creativity has fallen, right from kindergarten to adulthood. Fluency, originality, expressiveness, and imagination are all slipping downwards, particularly in the last ten years. But the score that has gone down the most is something called elaboration – the ability to put flesh on an idea, the ability to wrestle with it, and the ability to stick with it to the end. The decline in elaboration, combined with the fragmentation of attention, both reverberate in our social and our intellectual lives and are demonstrated consequences of the way we’re living. So yes, there are enormous costs, but I am still hopeful and optimistic too.

SF: This fragmentation of attention and the declining capacities of people in our society to stay with an idea or a problem are things that many people have identified and are clearly serious concerns. Let’s talk about solutions – what are the most important things we need to be thinking about to address these problems of the modern age? You suggested earlier that we need to become more mindful about the choices that we’re making. Can you say more about what can people do to combat the “coming of the dark age,” as is stated in the subtitle of your book? What do we do to fight that erosion and keep the light?

MJ: I’d like to tie in one small mention here to the idea of questioning. I think that when we’re able to see and think about technology – and we’re not so busy that we just fall into bed and sleep with the smart phone – but when we really take a look at what we’re doing, then we are able to get on the road of control, mastery, and understanding of the role of technology in our lives, and then moving forward to chart the course. Related to that, I think, is the issue of questioning a lot of the different social norms and value systems that go under the radar. For example, what are we teaching kids about what success looks like? The image is often a person who is so busy that they’re only half-listening to those around them, a person who’s got their nose in two or three different smart phones, and a person who’s generally distracted from the people and the issues that matter. We really need to question that norm.

SF: What do you mean by questioning that norm? How would you do that?

MJ: I think we need to talk about it and put these issues on the table. For example, one of the hot points or “lightning rod” moments in any corporation is meetings. There have been many discussions surrounding the rules of meeting etiquette in recent years. For example, how do people feel if they’re presenting and no one is looking at them? How can we get on the same page if that is something we want to value? How do we want to think about meetings? I don’t think we really actually talk candidly about these sorts of things right now.

SF: It seems like a pretty uncomfortable thing to talk about. I was just at a restaurant, and sitting next to me there was a middle-aged couple with two teenage kids. While they were waiting for dessert, the wife and the two kids were all just looking directly at their smart phones, and the dad was just kind of staring out into space. I thought to myself, that’s an interesting tableau – there seems to be something wrong with this picture. Maggie, what is he to do? What are people to do to intervene to change or to challenge these norms?

MJ: One of the best ways we can do that is to demarcate. I think we have a love-hate relationship with boundaries of any kind, perhaps because, to us, the boundaries represent the industrial age. Today, we think of home and work as being integrated, and that’s true in many good ways, but I think that we’ve really torn down the boundaries between the physical places of where we are, so work and home aren’t distinct. And yet, a boundary is kind of a good limit and really almost a way to embrace having priorities – a way to demonstrate what’s truly important. Think, for example, of the curfew for the teenager, or your job description at work, or the Industrial Age invention of the weekend – these are all boundaries. Boundaries are really terrific ways to focus, and your focus is actually a boundary. I’d love to talk a little bit more about the different types of attention we have to utilize, but one important type of attention is called focus. Scientifically, it’s called orienting. Focus is really about boundary-making. They call it the spotlight of your mind – what’s in and what’s out of your focus, and that’s what you’re spending time on. I believe boundary-making is an essential thing for us to start to bring back.

In Jackson’s conversation with Stew, she discusses how individuals need to challenge the cultural norms surrounding constant distraction by demonstrating the personal and organizational benefits of focus. Influential leaders can champion these positive behaviors as “rebels of slow” and “athletes of attention.” Do you know someone in your work, family, or community who places a strong emphasis on focus and attention? What specific practices do they engage in that are evidence of this priority and what outcomes do you observe in their tasks and relationships? Join us in the comments below with your experiences and reflections.

To learn more about Jackson’s work, you can read her book or visit her website.

Join Work and Life on Tuesday, May 13 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Neil Blumenthal with Nilofer Merchant. Visit Work and Life for our schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate junior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

How to Avoid Maxing Out — Conversation with Katrina Alcorn

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

On Work and Life, Erin Owen, as guest host for Stew Friedman, spoke with Katrina Alcorn, author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink.  Following are excerpts of Alcorn’s conversation with Owen:

Erin Owen: How we can have work that is compatible with having a healthy, enjoyable personal life?

Katrina AlcornKatrina Alcorn: Businesses have an incredible opportunity to create desperately needed change in the American workplace. Employers need to start looking at how to empower their employees with more autonomy. I know from having been a manager that this idea can be really scary. You might feel, for example, as though your job is to make sure that everyone is in their seat and working hard. But that’s not necessarily the best way to go about it.  Just seeing someone present in the office doesn’t mean we’re getting the most out of our employees, nor does babysitting them mean we’re being good managers. One interesting new management strategy is the high-performance or results-oriented work environment. The idea is that you can empower employees – whether they are knowledge workers or people who work on a factory floor – to make the best decisions and do the best job that they can. In this model, employees have control, instead of the boss is telling everyone what to do. When people are empowered and have real responsibility, they find their work is a lot more meaningful. It’s also great for morale because no grown-up wants to be babysat.

EO: This implies a culture shift that affects every level of an organization and gives employees more responsibility to make decisions.

KA: That’s right.  And the other side of freedom is holding them accountable. It’s not just about showing up. It’s not about how many sick days you took.  It’s about holding yourself accountable to doing the best job you can do.

EO: Are you suggesting that having a more meaningful work will translate to having a more healthy and enjoyable personal life?

KA: It’s not as though we become one person when we step into the office and a different person when we go home, although sometimes it may feel that way. We are one person with one life, no matter what we’re doing. Part of our growth involves bringing our humanity to everything we do and not turning it off when we’re at the office. Our humanity makes us good at our jobs.

I started in a managerial role after my first child was born. At the time, I was just learning how to manage people, and I started noticing all the ways that being a mother actually made me a better manager of adults. It wasn’t that I was mothering them, but I found that being a mother taught me to put my ego in check. Being a mother also helped me learn how to rise above conflict and to be the one to help people come to resolution without holding grudges. Things about motherhood translate back to your work in wonderful ways.

EO: That’s just one more reason for employers to want to bring parents back into the work force after a parental leave.

KA: That’s right. Another important thing for employers to think about is productivity. Americans now work the longest hours and have least time off compared to workers in any other country. We think this is part of what makes us so productive, but the research is showing that – while it may be counter-intuitive – working less can actually make us more productive. When we consistently work long hours, for example, we actually can go into what is called a “negative productivity cycle.” Employees are so overworked that they are sitting in meetings but it’s as if they’re not even there, or at least that their brain isn’t. People are making decisions, but they are often bad decisions because they’re just so exhausted. Having employees working really long hours doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re more committed or that they’re doing a good job.

EO: You’re saying that, as a manger, I need to empower my employees to make their own decisions. Next, they need to work less.  Isn’t this a danger to economic performance?

KA: Research shows that long hours kill productivity, profits, and people. The author of a summary of cited 150 years of research, including studies spanning multiple industries over decades, which showed that when you work more than 50 hours per week, things start to go wrong.

EO: We talked about ways to cultivate more meaningful work so that it can be compatible with a healthier personal life, from the employers’ perspective. How about from the employees’ point of view? What can we do as individuals?

KA: One of the things I’ve been told I need to work on is learning to say no and how to set good boundaries. I know there are tons of people like me who are also people-pleasers and who also find it hard to say no to people. I want to say yes. It’s a practice that I have to constantly keep in mind. For example, I just got an email today asking parents to chaperone a field trip at my kids’ school. I try to chaperone lots of field trips because that’s one way in which I can really help out.  Plus my kids love it and I really enjoy it. This time I ignored it because I have a meeting that day. But then the school sent out an email saying, “please, please, please, we’re going to have to cancel it!” I had this feeling that I just have to say yes. But then I thought about how impossible my week was going to be if I took a half-day out to do this. Sometimes I do have to say no, and it doesn’t always feel good. And the “no” extends to work issues too, not just life issues.

EO: You really need to be clear about what’s best for you, what helps you be healthier, more present, and more focused in all parts of life.

KA: Exactly. I think what we need to do is start really valuing our physical health and our mental health in a new way. Everyone feels stress, and that’s a normal part of life, but we all know when we’re crossing the line or when it’s just too much. The truth is that no one is going to advocate for you, especially in the workplace, but even in your personal life too. Only you are going to do that, and if you don’t do it no one will. We have an obligation to take ourselves seriously and really look at what we need in order to make sure our life is healthy, enjoyable, and meaningful.

Katrina Alcorn is the author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink. She is also a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post as well as her personal blog “Working Moms Break” which can be found at www.workingmomsbreak.com. To learn more about Katrina, visit her website at www.kalcorn.com.

Tune in to Work and Life next Tuesday, February 18 at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversation with the Wharton Total Leadership Mentor corps on that work for improving performance in all parts of life. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate junior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

Separators, Integrators, and Cyclers — Ellen Kossek on Work and Life

Contributor: Alice Liu

Work and Life is a two-hour radio show hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111.  Every Tuesday from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self.

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dr. Ellen Kossek, the Basil S. Turner Professor of Management at Purdue University and Research Director at the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence, about focusing on high-value tasks, setting boundaries, and taking small breaks to recover and enhance long-term productivity at work and at home. Following are edited excerpts of Kossek’s conversation with Friedman.

Stew Friedman: How did you first get into the field of work and life?

Ellen KossekEllen Kossek: I was a PhD student at Yale. I had been married about three years, and right in the busiest time of my fourth year of school, I was pregnant and about to have my first child. If I had taken any time off, I would have been stigmatized and I would have lost my fellowship, so I stuck it out. I think a lot of our choices as leaders stem from what happens in our own lives. I became passionate about wanting to make organizational changes to help others. I focused on this in my dissertation, and I never looked back.

SF: What is a healthy organization?

EK: A healthy organization provides social support to employees on the job. I think managers and workers need to support each other both with daily tasks and with recognizing when people have to handle their own difficulties. It’s actually family-friendly if you have a boss who is very clear about what matters most for high-value work. There are some things that really add a lot of bang for the buck to the company.

SF: Focusing on high-value of tasks can make a big difference. Is that something you see happening in your work?

EK: Very much so. If we feel like we have to redesign our whole life or change the company’s whole culture, change will never occur. One of the other things I’ve looked at is boundary management.

SF: What exactly do you mean by “boundary”?

EK: Well, we have psychological and physical boundaries in how we organize our roles and parts of our life. Even when some of us are physically at home, psychologically we might still be at the office. For example, if we are at dinner, we might see that email coming in on a smart phone. The small thing I’ve tried to focus on is to be in the moment, especially for high-value tasks. We know we shouldn’t text while we drive – why do we think we can look at our smart phones while we are listening to a friend or our family member?

SF: But people are expecting immediate responses to emails and texts, so isn’t creating that boundary particularly challenging in today’s digital age?

EK: Part of it is setting expectations and filtering. Most of the time we can wait a little bit. When people go away on vacation, sometimes they’ll send a message saying, “I’m out of the office for the holidays, if this is an emergency, contact me. Otherwise, I’ll talk to you in January.”  I think we make ourselves more important than we need to be. We might be less stressed and get more done if we didn’t keep moving back and forth.

SF: So how does this relate to your study of boundary management?

EK: There are three different ways that we manage boundaries. First are “separators” – these are people who like to manage boundaries by working in chunks. For example, I’m trying to teach myself to be more of a separator by not sneaking a glance at my email on the weekends when I am taking a break.  Another group is the “integrators” – people who are switching back and forth between personal and work all the time, and it’s one big blur. Some of them are fusion-lovers and in high control, and others are reactors, always feeling pushed and pulled by different communications. The last group is what I call the “cyclers”. They’re people that switch back and forth in patterns. Sometimes they have periods of high separation when they would really like to be able to integrate more. Think about somebody going on a big business trip. They’re forced to separate at times when they don’t want to. And when they come back from that trip, all of their personal life comes down on them. They would like to have fewer peaks and valleys.

SF: So what do the “cyclers” do?

EK: Some of them get very depressed and have a crisis. I think sometimes if we don’t take little breaks we just shut down. If you feel stressed, if you feel cranky, if your mood is difficult, it may be time to take a small break. One way to do this is to take advantage of transition times. For example, a woman I spoke to who works at an East Coast bank has a seventy-five minute commute each day. She says, “I love it, because I put on National Public Radio and start planning my weekend.” Most of our transitions are shortening. We’re on the phone while we are commuting. The vanishing vacation ­– or the vanishing weekend – is one of the problems many people are facing.

SF: How do you advise people to manage the problem of the vanishing vacation?

EK: If you never take a weekend off, there are health effects. In fact, there have been studies coming out of Europe that show your productivity on a Monday morning can be higher if you’ve taken a break over the weekend. Making time to exercise or doing things that you love that make you feel relaxed, and can enhance your productivity. Having breaks can be linked to recovery. If everybody is slogging along with 60-hour work weeks, it can hurt your creativity and well-being.

SF: But to play devil’s advocate here, don’t you get more done if people are working longer?

EK: In the short run, yes, but in the long-run, you burn your talent out. To have long-term change, you need to train leaders.  You also need to have teams and co-workers and individuals relate to each other authentically and have conversations about how we are at work to support the company in a way that allows people to be all that they can be in their total life. Part of this dialogue is encouraging people to bring their identities to work, whether that’s mother, father, LBGT, older worker, married, divorced, runner, etc. and backing each other up.

Ellen Kossek has been among the most prolific researchers in the work-life-family sphere and is a mother of four. She is the President of the Work Family Researchers Network and the author of CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age.

Tune in to Work and Life on Tuesday, February 4 at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Marci Alboher and Katrina Alcorn.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Alice LiuAlice Liu is a senior studying Management at The Wharton School and English (Creative Writing) at the College of Arts & Sciences.