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September 28, 2007

October health and wellness observances

October is a busy month for health observances. We've selected a few and offer resources that might be useful in your wellness programs.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month - A new report on breast cancer demonstrates that public awareness and early detection saves lives: the breast cancer death rate continues to fall by about 2% per year. But it remains leading cause of death for women, and this week we learn about a new study linking breast cancer to alcohol consumption. For news, resources, and help for survivors, visit Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

National Depression Screening Day - Oct. 11 - Each year in America almost 30,000 people die by suicide, and 70% of those people tell someone or give warning signs before taking their own life. National Depression Screening Day provides mental health screenings and educational materials about common mental health problems, and it educates friends and family members about the signs of suicide and effective ways to respond to a loved one who may be at risk for suicide. The site has a wealth of information, including a clickable national map of screening sites.

Drive Safely Work Week - Oct 1-5 - The single greatest source of work-related fatalities is traffic related accidents. This annual campaign sponsored by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety is devoted to improving the safety and health of the nation's workforce by promoting safe driving practices at the workplace.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month - According to The Centers for Disease Control, victims of severe intimate partner violence (IPV) lose nearly 8 million days of paid work—the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs—and almost 5.6 million days of household productivity each year. Overall, IPV is estimated to cost nearly $6 billion a year. In terms of prevalence, 85% of IPV victims were women and groups with high risk include Indian/Alaskan Native women and men, African-American women, Hispanic women, and young women and those below the poverty line.

Sudden Infant Death (SIDs) Awareness Month - Despite some progress in reducing incidences in recent years, SIDS remains the leading cause of death for infants one month to one year of age, continuing to claim the lives of more than 2,000 babies each year. While there is no known prevention, there are steps parents can take to reduce the risk. The site offers facts and educational materials, as well as news and links to local activities.

Celiac Awareness Month - Celiac disease (CD) is a common genetic disorder. In people with CD, gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) can trigger an autoimmune response which can damage the small intestine. This, in turn, causes the small intestine to lose its ability to absorb the nutrients found in food, leading to malnutrition and a variety of other complications. The main treatment is living a gluten-free life. The website offers resources to help people learn more about this disorder and how to live a gluten-free life.

September 26, 2007

Achieving your childhood dreams

There's a remarkable video lecture that is making the Web circuit right now, singularly one of the most inspiring 75 minute film segments we've had the privilege to see. It's a story of courage, leadership, creativity and grace under pressure. Randy Pausch, handsome, vibrant 46-year old father of three beautiful young children and in the prime of his professional life as Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction and Design at Carnegie Mellon University, presents his last lecture. His professional career has been full of creative challenge, but today he faces his life's greatest challenge: He has pancreatic cancer and has been told he has only 2 to 6 months to live.

We recognize that it's a bit long but we recommend finding the time to view the entire lecture, Achieving your childhood dreams. It is funny, vibrant, inspiring and heartbreaking, all at the same time. One of the enjoyable aspects is not just the story of how he fulfills his own dreams—walking in zero gravity, designing a theme park ride for Disneyland, creating a popular 3-D animation software program—but how he then turned his energies to enabling his students to identify and fulfill their dreams. It's very motivating and might be just the thing to show at your next leadership training session for managers.

September 20, 2007

News notes from around the HR blogosphere

In HR world, the word "prank" is very frightening. If you haven't been following the developments of the legal brouhaha surrounding the firefighters who fed a coworker dog food as a prank, George's Employment Blawg has the scoop.

And while we're on the topic of legal matters, HR Lori calls our attention to 3 recent California law employment decisions that you should know about if you have California employees.

Meet your future work force. They think water always came in bottles. Human Resources Blog points us to the annual Beloit College Mindset list for the Class of 2011.

Speaking of mindsets, are rising health care costs occupying a big share of your mindset these days? A good way to follow what's going on in the health care arena is to check in to Health Wonk Review, a biweekly roving carnival that features the best recent posts from health policy bloggers. Check out this week's issue at Managed care Matters.

Evil HR Lady answers a question about how to fire someone with a medical condition. By the way, we've come to think "evil" is a misnomer here.

Bootstrapper lists the Top 100 HR Bloggers, and we are happy to be on the list. But there goes our productivity today - there are so many blogs we haven't discovered yet!

One blog we recently discovered, not from the Boostraper list but from a thoughtful comment left on one of our recent posts, is Wally Bock's Three Star Leadership Blog. This looks like it will be a regular stop for us - check it out.

It's wonderful how the web gives us access to so much good compliance information. Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer has recently authored an article on plant closings and the WARN act.

Yvette Bethel of The Games People Play at Work has a good question for you. She wants to know: What is your idiot switch?

September 14, 2007

Too much fun?

Is fun and essential component in a healthy workplace? Inc. magazine devoted its entire August issue to the theme of Fun: The New Core Value. In the introductory article, they state their rationale:

"With labor markets tight, business leaders understand that fun can tip the scales when all else is equal. Fun not only lures employees, it also helps them acculturate, which becomes more important as businesses become more virtual. And, of course, fun is associated with creativity."

The introduction also cautions that fun at work can turn into a grotesque joke unless an organization first has its act together. For fun to thrive, prerequisites include, "... meaningful work, competent management, fair compensation, and mutually respectful employees are table stakes."

Inc's "fun" issue encompasses nine articles on the theme, ranging from case histories of organizations that have successfully infused fun into their corporate culture to twenty-five ideas for keeping things loose at work.

We've previously posted about creative workplaces and creative employers, such as Google and we have a humor section here in our blog, so we have been proponents of fun. Particularly with the millennial generation, fun can be an important step in bonding and teaming, and can also have many salutary effects, such as stress reduction.

Can fun go too far?
But there is a curmudgeon in every crowd, and Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard shows the dark side of all the jocularity, making the case that the recent emphasis on fun in the workplace is infantalizing corporate America. In his recent article in The Weekly Standard, Are We Having Fun Yet?, he notes that, "Like a diseased appendix bursting and spreading infectious bacteria throughout the abdomen, fun is insinuating itself everywhere, into even the un-hippest workplaces."

Matt takes a biting look at the emerging industry of fun consultants and sees a a nightmarish picture of mandatory fun run amuck. (Matt, I hate to tell you this - but your article was fun to read!) He certainly makes some valid points and trenchant observations:

"So who's to say the funsultants are worse than anything else that's happened to the American corporate drone over the decades? After all the paradigm-shifting and diversity-training and outsourcing and TQM'ing and synergizing and empowering and value-adding and globalizing and downsizing and full-frontal lobotomizing, maybe finger puppets are just the logical terminus."

All things in moderation
The whole issue brings to mind that parental wet-blanket cautionary note, "It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye." While we remain proponents of humor and fun, we agree that things can go too far, particularly when things become mandatory rather than optional. There are any number of employment attorneys who would largely agree with Matt's take on things, reminding their clients that in the workplace, there is just a gossamer thin confetti streamer that separates fun from a discrimination lawsuit or a workers compensation claim.

Thanks to Workplace Prof Blog for the pointer to the Matt Labash article!

September 11, 2007

9/11 and lingering PTSD

Six years after the events of 9/11, many Americans are still struggling with fear and anxiety and many are suffering from varying degrees of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unsurprisingly, those who were in closest proximity are suffering the most. Researchers at New York University and the New York—Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center have conducted follow-up studies with adults who witnessed World Trade Center events and with children who lost a parent. The research shows enduring psychological and neurological repercussions, including an alteration in brain chemistry. The children in particular may be prone to developing other problems in later life, ranging from hypersensitivity to stress to actual physical manifestations, such as the development of diabetes or weak bones.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta discusses PTSD and some promising new methods of treatment. If there is any silver lining that can come from such a tragedy, it is in the potential advances that might come from studying survivors with PTSD and developing new treatments for dealing with this crippling affliction.

Of course, 9/11 is only one event that can trigger PTSD. Iraq and Afghanistan vets, post-Katrina survivors, and anyone who has experienced a fire, a violent assault, or a vehicular accident can also be affected by PTSD. After a traumatic event, Acute Stress Disorder is fairly common. This is a disruptive condition that can be marked by nightmares, anxiety, and general life disruption. Many people experience this but it is generally short term in nature. In contrast, a smaller subset will experience PTSD - some put that number at about 10%. It's difficult to know why some will experience PTSD and others don't. Some experts think that occurrences are more frequent and deep-seated in response to man-made disasters such as war or violence than in natural disasters. PTSD often has delayed onset, sometimes not surfacing for as much as 6 to 18 months or more after the triggering event. PTSD symptoms are generally much more severe than ASD and often quite debilitating. Some recent research, such as the studies cited above, seem to indicate a bio-chemical alteration in the brain that keeps a victim "stuck" in trauma mode and susceptible to repeatedly re-experiencing the traumatic events. Treatment is essential.

Meaningful commemoration
While on the topic of 9/11, we learned about what we think of as a fitting way to memorialize that terrible day. Many people think that the best way to commemorate 9/11 is to reclaim the day and dedicate 9/11 to positive action, such as doing good deeds or performing acts of kindness. A focus on national service does honor in a meaningful way to those who perished and is particularly poignant way to remember public servants who gave their lives in an attempt to save others. This might be a healing way for an organization to mark the anniversary of any severely traumatic event that has affected a number of employees.

PTSD Resources:

September 6, 2007

HR Tools and handy widgets

Learn how much your organization's turnover is costing. The University of Wisconsin offers an Online Employee Turnover Calculator

The Charity Navigator is a great resource for researching potential recipients of your organization's philanthropic efforts. The site uses a rating system to evaluate a charity's financial health and offers advice on safe and responsible giving. The site has received many media accolades for the service it provides.

Is your workplace as green as it could be? Calculate your office footprint to see how you stack up and to access some useful resources.

Here's an interesting site that is a clever resource for your wellness program: What does 200 calories look like?. The site is designed to help people make better, more informed nutrition choices by depicting photos of a 200-calorie portion of various foods.

Dread those upcoming presentations? Dumb Little Man, a blog that focuses on productivity and other matters, offers basic public speaking tips for newbies and follows up with some tips for making killer presentations. You might also view this amusing You Tube clip showing you how NOT to use PowerPoint in your presentations.

The Glossary of Health Insurance Terminology is a useful reference tool to keep in your bookmarks come benefit renewal season. Also, the Glossary of Terms in Managed Health Care.

Want to have "mad skillz" when it comes to online searching ability? Try this handy reference list to learn about deep searches: Research Beyond Google: 119 Authoritative, Invisible, and Comprehensive Resources

Have a zip code but don't know what location it's associated with? Use this handy zipdecode map to find out - simply click the map and type in your zip code.

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