March 23, 2018

The Roundup: Progress for working women globally, toll of work culture, and spontaneous gratitude

This week, The Economist’s recent glass-ceiling index signals (albeit slow) progress, while a Stanford professor says it’s time to look at social and human factors as causes for workplace stress. And, try coping with a buffer of gratitude.

Danielle Ng-See-Quan

Dani is the Managing Editor, Content Marketing at Ceridian.

The Economist’s glass-ceiling index indicates signs of progress for women in the workplace

The Economist’s sixth glass-ceiling index, released last month, ranks the best and worst countries in which to be a working woman. The score is based on 10 indicators, including pay, maternity and paternity rights, and representation in senior jobs (managerial positions, boards and in parliament).

Sweden topped the list this year, with a 44% share of women in parliament and over 80% female labor-force participation.

While there’s still much work to be done, the index revealed reasons to feel positive about progress.

The index found that “women broadly lifted their presence in the workplace,” and further, The Economist notes that countries on the lower end of the index “show signs of change in cultural attitudes.”

Stanford professor says workplace stress is literally killing us

In his new book, Dying for a Paycheck, Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer explores the toll of work culture on today’s employees.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Pfeffer said that it’s time to focus on “the social environment – the human environment” instead of only looking at physical workplace conditions.

Making “human sustainability” a priority would mean taking a closer look at long work hours, heavy workloads, toxic cultures, and job insecurity, and understanding how these factors negatively affect individuals’ physical and emotional health – as well as the business bottom line.

Pfeffer adds that wellness initiatives aren’t the solution, but rather are “an attempt to remediate the harmful attempts of what’s going on in the workplace.” He says the solution is prevention – in short, if the workplace changed, employees wouldn’t need wellness programs.

In a separate interview with Stanford Business, Pfeffer references “social pollution” – a term coined by IESE Business School professor Nuria Chinchilla – essentially, the stuff that generally disrupts an individual’s personal life. In the interview, he says that workplace factors contribute to this pollution.

“Companies should care about what they are doing to the social environment, not just the physical environment,” Pfeffer says.

Challenging day? Gratitude can help

A recent story in Harvard Business Review states that for leaders to instill grit and grace in their teams, they need to cultivate gratitude, compassion, and pride.

The author says these emotions build social bonds as well as increase patience and perseverance.

Of gratitude in particular, a recent study has found that “spontaneous gratitude” – that is, mustering up the feeling of gratitude “as a just-in-time-response to stress and negative events” – is helpful during a challenging time.

According to Psychology Today:

“For people who are able to muster up gratitude when the going gets rough, not only as a general characteristic but also as a just-in-time response to stress and negative events, gratitude can be a ‘bridge over troubled water’ that helps to keep us from getting pulled down into a negative spiral of maladaptive coping.”

Especially in times of disruption, a little gratitude sounds like a good idea.

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