May 23 , 2005
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Ever feel that you simply can’t get everything done at work? That your life is sometimes completely out of balance? Well, you are not alone.
A recent study by the Family and Work Institute found that nearly one-third of all U.S. employees report being chronically overworked, and more than a fourth say they’re overwhelmed. Over half said they felt overworked and overwhelmed at least sometimes in the past three months. Sixty percent felt they did not have time to step back and process or reflect on the work they were doing at least sometimes in the past three months.
Not surprisingly, employees who work more hours and days per week at their primary jobs felt more overworked. Those who have less control over their hours or who have less flexibility also experience higher levels of feeling overwhelmed. Those who said that they never have enough time to get everything done, those who had difficulty focusing on their work, those who experience work interruptions, or have too many tasks at the same time also reported greater levels of feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Technology plays a role in all of this, of course. It has become an increasingly salient issue as cell phones, e-mail and flexible work schedules blur the lines between work and so-called non-work times. A surprisingly high percentage of employees in this study (55%) feel the need to check in or do work while on vacation.
What are some of the strategies that managers can use to help lessen this perception, and what can employees themselves do? Research shows that employees who have opportunities to continue to learn, whose supervisors support them in succeeding on the job, and who have flexibility they need to manage their jobs and their personal lives, and who have input into management decision- making are less likely to be overworked. This is true even when they work long hours and have very demanding jobs.
Employees who put a higher priority on family than on work, or put at least equivalent priority on family and work are less likely to be overworked than employees who are “work-centric.” Having children under 18 or having more than one child are not in themselves associated with being more overworked. Among those with children, however, the parents of teenagers feel more overworked than parents with younger children. In addition, those that have eldercare responsibilities tend to be more overworked than those without the same responsibilities. (Galinsky, Bond, Kim, Beckon, Brownfield, “Overwork in America: When the Way We work Become Too Much, Families and Work Institute, 2005)
The Work/Life Resource Center (WLRC) is available to help U of M employees and supervisors to with some of the issues of work/life balance, from successful implementing of flexible work schedules, to help with child care eldercare resources, summer camps, and gradual return to work proposals following childbirth. Faculty and Staff Assistance Program is available to help when stressors become too great and you need help figuring out how to cope. WLRC is available on its website: http://www.umich.edu/~hraa/worklife/ or by calling (734) 936-8677.
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As many of us know the multitude of responsibilities we have take their toll. Often it feels like an easy option is to just grab the remote and “watch the tube” or just keep working on some “to do” project and end up feeling like we are stuck. Too much stress often affects both our mental well being and our physical health. When you become aware of your own internal cues, such as a back pains, headaches, tension or irritability that you are becoming stressed, consider one of following stress reduction techniques.
If you are interested in learning some other stress reduction ideas or just need a confidential place to discuss any life concern(s) the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program is available. Call 936-8660 to schedule a time to meet with one of FASAP’s professional counselors of email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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FASAP plans to pilot an Anger Management Group for Plant, Trades and Housing. The group is expected to begin this coming spring. The purpose of the group is to help individuals learn more appropriate ways to manger their anger. It will focus on accountability and responsibility for ones behaviors. FASAP counselors will also focus on learning and maintaining improved social problem olving skills to be implemented into ones daily lives. Additionally topics will include: understanding anger response, anger triggers, payoffs and consequences.
The group will run for 8 weeks, with one hour sessions per week. If you are interested in participating but it is not being offered in your area please feel free to contact FASAP at 936-8660 or email email@example.com .
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Let’s talk about e-mail. Wonderful thing, e-mail. I can keep in touch with my college roommate in Arkansas, my cousin in Virginia, a friend working on North Campus and a travel guide I met in China – all with equal ease and speed. I can send a memo to dozens of people without printing even a single copy. I can schedule a meeting without making a single phone call. What did we ever do without it?
Oh, sure, it has its downsides. There are flamers and spammers and scammers and virus spreaders, but we’ve learned to block them out. And there are traditionals among us who still value a message written by hand on good paper – nothing wrong with that. But there are also dangers in using e-mail that happen every day – dangers that can start disputes, make existing disputes worse, and even damage relationships.
The brief, speedy nature of e-mail and its tendency to seem curt or impatient have been widely recognized. Face to face you can say to a colleague, “I think you’re wrong,” or, “I disagree with that,” while your expression and tone of voice convey openness and friendliness. In an e-mail message, the same words will come across as harsh, or critical. Most e-mail users have learned to use greetings – “Hi,” “Dear Colleagues,” – and closings – “See you soon,” “Thanks,” “Enjoy the sun,” – and to sign our name, as very simple and very effective ways to add back the missing personal touch.
That’s fine for day-to-day business. It isn’t much help, however, when one or both parties are upset with the other, and decide to use e-mail to express the disagreement.
It’s a natural human instinct to stay away from overt hostility, and if there is someone I’m upset with, and I decide to tell them about it, there is a VERY good chance that person will react in a not-friendly fashion. That’s one of the reasons so many of us avoid conflict so often. Back in the era of B.E.M. – Before E-Mail – a little-used alternative was to write someone a note or a letter, but that was curiously unsatisfying. You’re upset or angry – even holding the pen doesn’t feel right – your handwriting deteriorates rapidly – you find yourself scribbling out words and stabbing the paper, instead of drafting a coherent thought.
And then, along came e-mail. The words fly from your fingertips – anything you “scribble out” just disappears – the font, unlike handwriting, never deteriorates – and wow, even the physical act of typing feels like stabbing the paper! And hitting that SEND button is EXACTLY the right exclamation point!
That may SOUND funny, but in fact it’s not; it’s very real. In addition to those physical factors, there is a sense of privacy and freedom when you compose e-mail messages, making it all too easy to say things you wouldn’t say in person. And maybe you meant to vent, edit, and delete before you sent the e-mail – but maybe that didn’t really help, or didn’t even get done.
And it gets worse. The other troublesome characteristic of e-mail is its “answer me now” effect on the recipient. I have yet to see a good psychological study of this phenomenon (is anyone over there in the Psychology Department reading this?) but we have all experienced it. You read the message; your fingers are on the keyboard, you key in your reply quickly so you can get on to the next message in the queue. If I’ve sent you an unhappy message, your response is most likely going to be even less happy. Suddenly a war of words is underway, one that has no interpersonal non-verbal cues (such as a smile) to tone it down.
Even if I’ve messaged you with the positive intention of getting a disagreement “on the table” so we can discuss it and work it out – even then – your feelings when you read my message are usually going to be irritation, anger, that sinking feeling of dread.
So what’s the solution? If you’re the person who wants to open up the conversation in order to resolve the dispute – do it in person! (Call us up at Mediation Services; we’ll help you plan what to say.) If you’re the person on the receiving end of an unhappy message – stop, print it to read later, and don’t share it with others until you’ve had time think and to talk it out with the sender. Try this: take the paper copy with you to talk with the other person. Start by saying something like: “You sounded pretty (angry? unhappy? fill in the blank);” “When I read it I felt (hurt? sad? fill in the blank).” And the most important thing to say: “I wasn’t sure what you meant here, so I came over to ask.”
Meanwhile, your face and your tone of voice need to say, “I’m here as your colleague. I really want to understand. I’m not here to yell at you or tell you you’re wrong.” Not feeling that way? Act that way anyhow. You’ll be surprised how well it works.
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Can wearing a pedometer really help people to get more exercise? Research confirms that it does, according to research published in a recent issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Study participants wore a sealed pedometer that recorded their steps. One group also had a pedometer that they could check at any time to tell them how many steps they had taken, and were encouraged to take 10,000 steps per day. The other group had sealed pedometers, so they could not check them, but they were encouraged to take a 30 minute brisk walk each day.
Taking 2,000 more steps per day can be the difference between weight gain and maintaining or losing weight. As one of the researchers commented, “Pedometers can provide an incentive for people to increase their activity levels, contributing directly to better fitness and health. In a society where poor diet and physical inactivity contribute to nearly 400,000 deaths per year, we need to pay attention to this study, which highlights the beneficial effect of a low-cost and simple motivation technique that really works.”
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Wendy joined the Work/Life Resource Center team in January 2005. After many years of teaching children of a diverse range of ages and cultures, she is now returning to the field of Early Childhood, reacquainting herself with the world of children by doing volunteer work in the Children's Program at Safe House and through professional development.
As a Resource and Referral Specialist, her role is to assist faculty, staff and students with locating and accessing child care within Washtenaw County, as well as providing parents with resources to ensure that the care found best suits the family's needs.
As a single parent and non-traditional student, Wendy is well acquainted with the challenge of finding child care, as well as balancing work and life.
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Perhaps you have heard their voices over the phone, helping you to set up and appointment, or helping you to find the answer you need, but you have never actually met them. You know about Charlie’s Angels™ but do you know about the “angels” of the Work/Life Resource Center, Faculty and Staff Assistance Program and Mediation Services for Faculty and Staff?
Heather “Danger” Catron is the main support for Mediation Services for Faculty and Staff, not to mention the front desk duty that she diligently tends to for FASAP. You know her as the first voice you generally hear when you call one of our departments, “This is the Faculty and staff assistance program, Heather speaking. How can I help you?”
Bridget Kerr “The Communicator” is the main support staff for Work/Life Resource Center, which provides faculty, staff and students with childcare and eldercare assistance. Bridget can also register you for the Kids Kare at Home backup daycare program. For more details go to: http://www.umich.edu/~hraa/worklife/kidskare/index.html
Christina “Tina” Weymouth “The Arranger” is the main support for FASAP, she is the kind voice you often hear when you make your appointment with one of our counselors or if you would like to schedule a brown bag. If there is anything you need to know about our offices ask Tina!
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A representative of FASAP and the WLRC can come to your department or staff meeting a make a short (10 to 20 minute) presentation on the range of services that are offered by the two programs.
To arrange a presentation please call 936-8660 and speak to a program representative.
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resolutions is published in January, May and September of every year. To obtain additional information regarding our services contact FASAP/Mediation Services at (734) 936-8660.
Hospital employees may contact the M-Works EAP at 763-5409 for counseling service.