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News from March 2004
- Credit checks becoming a common recruitment tool in US
(Mar. 28 '04)
According to the New York Times (March 28), growing numbers of US employers are running credit checks on job applicants. This practice has spread beyond jobs in which employees handle cash or have to be bonded. A well qualified applicant risks not getting hired if he or she has a bad credit record. Beyond the privacy concerns this raises, it is ironic that the practice is spreading at a time when Americans have record high levels of personal debt.
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- Low turnover may be a problem
(Mar. 28 '04)
Low turnover rates are not necessarily a good thing. This article argues that employers need to look at low turnover and be able to answer the following questions: Are employees staying here because they are genuinely happy and productive? Are they staying here because they have a comfortable place to put in their time and "float" without accountability? Or might they be ready to move when the economy turns around? The important point is understanding the reasons behind turnover.
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- Workplace fitness and health programs spread as US employers fight fat
(Mar. 26 '04)
Writing in the Washington Post (March 21, 2004) Amy Joyce documents how US firms are getting serious about helping employees trim the fat. This is prompted by the recent Centers for Disease Control declaration that obesity is becoming the leading cause of preventable deaths in the US. The Food and Drug Administration recently launched an anti-obesity campaign. Employers are doing their part, introducing wellness and weight-loss programs at a growing rate. According to a 2003 survey by the American Management Association, 71 percent of executives say corporations have a "responsibility to promote wellness among employees." The main motivation is lower heatlh insurance costs.
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- Toronto police face retirement crunch and loss of experience
(Mar. 18 '04)
Writing in the Globe and Mail, 18 March 2004, Katherine Harding reports that about 800 to 900 of the Toronto Police force's 5260 officers are eligible to retire this year. Two major push factors are increased pension deductions to cover stock-market losses and declining morale. The police chief has voiced concerns about the significant loss of 'corporate memory'. These challenges are being faced by police services across Canada.
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- Stress affects job performance in the military
(Mar. 17 '04)
Many US troops experience high levels of job stress but fear the consequences of asking for help, according to a Pentagon survey of over 12,700 personnel. The study was conducted in 2002, prior to troop deployment in the Iraq war. Results were just released.
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- Coffee May Increase Work Stress for Men
(Mar. 11 '04)
A report on healthday.com claims that coffee may not be the performance enhancer at work that many men think it is.
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- Work stress is a cultural creation: UK academic
(Mar. 7 '04)
BBC News takes a critical look at recent studies documenting that work stress has become an epidemic. Even Prime Minister Tony Blair's heart problem last year is attributed to stress. The article interviews experts who doubt that life and work has become harder than in the past. According to academic David Wainwright, co-author of Work Stress: The Making of a Modern Epidemic, life has not necessarily become more stressful. Rather, he says, in our "therapeutic age", where we tend to view ourselves as fragile creatures in need of a self-esteem boost, we are encouraged to see even minor problems as potential crises and to underestimate our ability to cope without official help. According to Mr Wainwright, the contemporary obsession with stress is a result of cultural shifts, rather than workers - or children, for that matter, living harder lives than their ancestors.
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- Lean and just-in-time: new restrictive hiring strategies in the US
(Mar. 7 '04)
According to the New York Times (Louis Uchitelle, 'New Patterns Restrict Hiring', March 6, 2004) the 'job-loss' economic recovery in the US reflects a basic shift in employers' hiring strategies. Media attention has focused on the outsourcing of jobs to China and India, and rising productivity thorugh more effort and technology. However, these factors reflect the rise of just-in-time hiring -- adding temporary workers only after production and sales are up. This has big implications for job security and the quality of work life -- and over the longer term may not be sustainable.
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- Leaders'long hours cause work stress
(Mar. 5 '04)
Business leaders in the UK are working long hours and suffering from work-related stress, according to a survey by Grant Thornton. Two-thirds of 870 senior business people surveyed worked more than 45 hours a week, with 64% working between nine and eleven hours each day. Often their work spilt over into weekends (17%), while 10% worked a six-day week. More than half (53%) suffered from stress, mostly caused by "having too much to do in too little time". Grant Thornton was concerned that weekend working and six-day weeks may mean leaders are not achieving the right work/life balance.
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- Worker healh linked to 'offshoring' of US jobs
(Mar. 3 '04)
Michigan-based columnist Rick Haglund ("Lean-and-mean corporate mantra extends to workers," March 3rd) raises interesting issues in the growing US debate about the flight of jobs to India and China.
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- Working well - an update on US workplace wellness programs
(Mar. 2 '04)
In an article entitled "Working well: At more and more companies, health coverage expands to include wellness and prevention" Pohla Smith (March 02, 2004, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) reviews recent trends in workplace wellness in the US. She notes that some employers want to create a "culture of wellness" yet this seems to mean encouraging a higher percentage of their employees to exercise, eat right, better manage pre-existing health problems, and cope with the stresses in their lives. This is still about introducing a menu of wellness and health promotion programs, rather than about transforming the work environment to support healthy ways of working.
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