Notations and Ponderings

After being overseas for the past three years, I have returned stateside with a new perspective. I immediately noticed fewer birds and wildlife, shorter and skinnier trees, less traffic, the moon looked even more sad and beat up, the rain feels and looks different. The external looks for SUV and Sedan models are boring look-alikes with subtle differences between “high end” and “low end” models. I also noticed slower service in restaurants, longer wait times in lines to secure a hotel room and to receive services, increasingly long hold times to speak to a representative, slumped and/or extremely tense shoulders in personnel, and chronically ill coworkers. What is happening within corporate America?

The site http://www.usgovernmentspending.com says: “The reason that government has got so big is not, as many claim, the weight of armaments and wars. Instead the money goes for health care, education, pensions, and welfare programs.” Why?

The University of Maryland reports that “Nearly half of American workers describe their jobs as very stressful, making job-related stress an important and preventable health hazard. In a struggling economy, worry about job loss produces a tremendous amount of stress.” A current WebMD report through R. Morgan Griffin suggests that 10 illnesses that are introduced, exasperated, and/or hastened due to stress are: “obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.”

I overheard a medical professional and patient interact between each other with regards to a hostile work environment that the patient had left. “I don’t know what it is with this State,” said the medical provider. “It used to not be this way,” said the patient. The provider then shared, “I know. You’re not allowed to do your job. You have to either suck it up or be nasty.” She later shared with me that a high number of clients who come in to see her for health reasons are suffering symptoms related to work stress – often related to workplace violence.

A mental health professional said, “When a job doesn’t work out, it is often for a good reason. New doors open and after a while you say, ‘Oh, that’s why. I’m so glad.’ So many choose to stay in [negative] work environments. They’re worried about going without a paycheck. You’re health [suffers greatly]. It’s not worth it.”

Suggestions of UM to reduce stress include: reduced work hours, a match between job responsibility and wages, career change, exercise, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT counseling services), hypnosis, acupuncture, long weekends/vacations, massage therapy, and other remedies obtained through eastern medicine and practices. Unfortunately employers and health insurance carriers do not encourage many of these. Thus, additional expenses ensue directly and indirectly to the employee, employer, and nation as a whole.

George Mason University reports that the American Institute of Stress suggests that $300 billion in costs are related to “accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, direct medical, legal, and insurance costs, workers’ compensation awards as well as tort and FELA [Federal Employers’ Liability Act] judgments” within corporate America. In a book written in 1979 by Dr. Paul Rosch of the AIS, “concludes that the approximate cost to U.S. businesses totals $150 billion per year.” Thus, estimated work costs related to increased stress levels within the workplace increased by $150 billion within less than two decades.

Frith, Anderson, Tseng, and Fong (2012) report that chronic problems within U.S. hospitals from the nurse’s perspective include: “inadequate staffing, time pressures, unit environment, and fatigue.” They referred to a report made in 2009 where nearly 500 nurses within three different hospitals were interviewed. The research uncovered “that 85% of missed care was attributed to too few labor resources (nurse staffing). They found when too few nurses are available to meet the needs of patients, nurses may omit steps, take shortcuts, or deviate from approved standards in order to get the work done.”

Efforts have been made to reduce medication errors. However, what about preventable illness (such as sepsis), ICU admits (or lack thereof), and other life-threatening situations that can be prevented due to short staffing, “nurses’ workload, fatigue, time pressure, and work interruptions, all of which have been implicated as causes of medication errors” (Mark & Belyea, 2009)? Mark & Belyea (2009), reported by NIH, further suggest that challenges of finding evidence to determine costs of understaffing nursing staff include underreporting due to a time burden on data collecting (often retrieved by volunteers), enormous costs in obtaining and analyzing data, and discovering a “method of collecting medication error data that simultaneously meets criteria for validity (in terms of what is reported), reliability (in terms of the number of errors reported), and economy (in terms of data collection time and cost). [Thus,] researchers are forced to make tradeoffs, maximizing some criteria, while dealing with the limitations imposed by criteria met in a less satisfactory fashion.”

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) writes: “Why are human conditions, such as fatigue, complacency, and stress, so important in aviation maintenance? These conditions, along with many others, are called human factors. Human factors directly cause or contribute to many aviation accidents. It is universally agreed that 80 percent of maintenance errors involve human factors. If they are not detected, they can cause events, worker injuries, wasted time, and even accidents.”

The Workplace Bullying Institute reports that eighty percent of harassment and mistreatment in the workplace is considered legal. Seventy-two percent of bosses engage in bullying behaviors. Executives often report that the bullies are “a few bad apples” within the organization rather than taking responsibility or a form of action. HR (human resources) is most likely to take the side of the bully rather than the targeted employee – especially if management is involved.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration reports: “Nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. Unfortunately, many more cases go unreported.” Mark Haynes of Cornell University (on April 13, 2013) reports, “OSHA defines workplace violence as ‘any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site’… Employees who fall victim to workplace violence lose $55 million annually in wages… [and] adds up to a $4.2 billion annual expense for employers as well. When indirect costs such as loss of public image, insurance, and lost productivity are added in; the total cost to employers increases to between $6.4 and $36 billion annually.”

We need to re-evaluate our priorities: personal health and welfare, corporate health and welfare, and country’s health and welfare. How? Increased staffing, increased wages which then lead to increased consumption, improved health and welfare of individuals, corporations, and the nation.

“I have a friend who works at McMinnamins. She said they intentionally short-staff their employees” a business owner and hairstylist said with disgust. “I love going to Starbucks and shopping at Trader Joes and Costco!” He brightened and said “Trader Joe’s is my favorite. I love shopping there! The employees are happy: they are paid well, have benefits, and are treated well. Thus, they are genuinely happy which in turn gives good service, which makes me want to shop there. There is a costume shop I hate to shop at. They are made to call their customers ‘guests.’ I am not their guest. I am their customer. Just because someone calls me their guest does not make me want to shop there. Just because they call me ‘Guest’ does not make me feel welcome.”

I feel like the luckiest gal alive. Due to sheer determination, I am able to pursue my dreams. I am able to take a break and recoup from significant workplace violence. I can smile, be kind, and enjoy interacting with the people around me. Thus, I have been receiving discounts from local businesses. All because “I am nice to work [with].” It is good to enjoy life, to pursue dreams and ambitions, to treat others – and be treated – with respect and dignity at home, within the community, and in the workplace.

 

(Sites referenced:  http://www.nursingeconomics.net/necfiles/specialissue/2012/Frith_Staffing.pdf, http://www.stats.org/stories/2004/counting_costs_stress_sep23_04.htm, http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/stress, http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/10-fixable-stress-related-health-problems, http://www.cornellhrreview.org/workplace-violence-why-every-state-must-adopt-a-comprehensive-workplace-violence-prevention-law/, http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/handbooks_manuals/aircraft/media/AMT_Handbook_Addendum_Human_Factors.pdf, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2628558/, http://marketrealist.com/2013/09/u-s-consumerism-economy-flawed-design, http://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/employer-reactionhttps://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolencehttp://marketrealist.com/2013/09/u-s-consumerism-economy-flawed-design/)

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