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Learning Center Experience
By Kimberly Gehrke Walters, Full-Time Faculty Member Published January 2015
In a world of global business
where time on the clock blurs with time off the clock, leaders have a practical
interest in helping employees manage health-damaging stress. High stress has
been linked to many health concerns such as high blood pressure, unhealthy fat
distribution in the abdomen, and decreased learning and memory capability
(Sapolsky, 2008). Ultimately, the long-term effects of stress decrease the
productivity and efficiency of employees and limit their ability to cope with
the continuing change that is a reality in business today.
In the documentary “Stress: The
Portrait of a Killer,” Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University (2008)
highlights the impact of stress on a troupe of baboons over time. The troupe
experienced high blood pressure, unhealthy fat distribution in the abdomen,
decreased learning and memory capability (stress actually killed brain cells in
the hippocampus). One of the most fascinating parts of his study resulted from
a terrible misfortune; some members of the troupe ate tainted meat and died. The
ones that died were aggressive males with few social ties; the “nice guys” and the
females lived. This changed the dynamic of the troupe in a way that still holds
true 20 years later. They spend more time on stress-reducing activities and
less time causing stress in others. And they are healthier—they have lower
blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When there was
less stress in the environment, the troupe experienced better health.
What can leaders learn from these baboons? The leaders of
our organizations can impact the health of employees, and ultimately their
productivity, by creating and supporting a culture that values stress
reduction. Research shows us that activities such as the following can help reduce stress:
Organizations can also
offer ways to increase social affiliation, giving instead of receiving, and
compassion (connecting with and helping others). When an organization offers
opportunities like these, employees know that their health and well-being are
important. Studies have shown that if employees take advantage of these
opportunities, organizations will earn higher marks from employees, resulting
in lower turnover and higher recruitment success, increased productivity, and
higher morale (APA, 2014).
American Psychological Association. (March 19, 2014). Psychologically healthy workplace awards: APA
recently honors four organizations for best practices. Retrieved October 20,
2014 from http://www.siop.org/article_view.aspx?article=1239
If you are considering a business degree we invite you to find out more about the School of Business and Information Technology and explore our undergraduate and graduate degree offerings.
Interested in other business career insights? We invite you to take a look at our Career Moves site, which periodically publishes new articles and other content on this subject.
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