September 07, 2018

The Roundup: Less stress in open offices, what the most satisfying jobs offer, and don’t Bcc bosses

In this week's Roundup, research finds that open offices might lead you to be more active and less stressed. Plus, the characteristics the most satisfying jobs have in common, and why you shouldn't Bcc your boss.

Danielle Ng-See-Quan

Dani is the Managing Editor, Content Marketing at Ceridian.

Open offices might make you more active and less stressed

We recently wrote about the open office debate and the basic rules to help people survive open-plan life. Employers seem to love it, but employees hate it. Study after study seems to show that it’s bad for social interaction and productivity.

Now, new research findings show indicate that open offices correlate to less stress and more physical activity. The study, commissioned by the U.S. General Services Administration and performed by University of Arizona researchers, tracked heart activity, physical movements, and reported stress levels of 230 federal office workers.

Quartz, reporting on the study, writes:

They found that workers in open offices (where there are no partitions between desks, or the partitions are low enough to see over while seated) were over 30% more active while at the office than people working in private offices, on average. They were also over 20% more active than people who worked in cubicles. Further, open-office denizens rated their stress…as significantly lower during the workday (9% lower on average).

The reason? The researchers say that the open space encourages activity and interaction. “Office workstation type was related to enhanced physical activity and reduced physiological and perceived stress. This research highlights how office design, driven by office workstation type, could be a health-promoting factor,” the researchers wrote as part of their conclusions.

In that same vein, workers in cubicles and offices reported higher levels of stress at work, and, according to The Association for Psychological Science, researchers speculate that this could be caused by lower activity levels.

The most satisfying jobs have these things in common

According to a study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, the most satisfying jobs in the U.S. include clergy, firefighters, teachers, sculptors and painters, and operating engineers.

Why so satisfying? It’s not news that salary isn’t the only factor that keeps an employee engaged and satisfied. Employees have their own set of criteria, perks, and opportunities that they look for when job-hunting. So Jory Macka of productivity app RescueTime, via FastCompany, looked the characteristics that the most satisfying jobs have in common. Here are some highlights:

  • The work is engaging: Yes, engagement is a priority for many organizations, but it’s also a buzzword that can be hard to define. Mackay quotes 80,000 hours founder Benjamin Todd’s explanation: “Engaging work is work that draws you in, holds your attention, and gives you a sense of flow. It’s the reason an hour spent editing a spreadsheet can feel like pure drudgery, while an hour playing a computer game can feel like no time at all: Computer games are designed to be as engaging as possible.”
  • You’re good at the work and feel valued for it: Makes sense – if you’re good at your job, you feel good. And, if you have a manager and peers who recognize you for a job well done – whether with verbal kudos or by offering opportunities to work on more challenging projects – you’re more likely to feel satisfied.
  • You have flexibility in how and where you work: This isn’t news, either, but worth reiterating, as organizations continue to evolve and transform their policies to meet the needs of the modern workforce. Flexible work options are increasingly expected, versus being considered a perk. Flexible work can mean options to work remotely or work flexible hours – in short, it’s a sign of an employer encouraging work-life balance and productivity for its employees.

Before you Bcc the boss...

A group of researchers recently wrote in Harvard Business Review about how the Cc and Bcc functions can “corrode trust and cloud intentions” at work. They studied how senders and recipients interpret the use of the Cc and Bcc functions, and found that people equate Bcc-ing with being less moral. They said:

This study revealed that people consider Bcc-ing a supervisor as less moral, more secretive, and more intimidating than Cc-ing a supervisor.

The researchers also investigated the reasons why people use Bcc in the first place – that is, the instances when they don’t feel using the function is deceptive.

We then asked participants to share what they thought were valid reasons for people using Bcc. The reason they most frequently cited was “administrative reasons” (for example, to “update the supervisor in such a way that they know their reply to the email is not required” or not wanting to “share the contact information of the supervisor and run the risk that the supervisor will be contacted directly”).

Taking their investigation one step further, the researchers also wanted to explore whether explaining that Bcc-ing the boss was for “administrative reasons” would lessen negative perceptions of the sender. It didn’t.

Participants said they considered Cc-ing a supervisor more acceptable, because it’s a more transparent action – but it’s also an action that elicits uncomfortable feelings in the recipient. Participants generally preferred forwarding emails to a supervisor, because they perceived it as less harmful.

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