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Stress Management, Fixing ESG and Moving Slowly: What We're Reading This Week

Feb. 2, 2024
A look at some environmental, wellness and well-being news of note.

Woo! We made it to February. Question: Is it too early to schedule my out of office message for when I’m on vacation at the end of the month?

I am buoyed by Punxsatawney Phil not seeing his shadow this morning. I’m not sure how good a prognosticator Phil is, but he sure is a cutie. I feel like I ought to watch “Groundhog Day” again. 

I’ve been buoyed the past few weeks thanks to the prospect of seeing some of my favorite people and my absolute favorite dog. I also bought some new exercise clothes. I know it doesn’t really matter what I wear to exercise, but if it gives me a psychological boost, then that’s all that counts. I think that can be true for other aspects of life, too.

We may have some circumstances we can’t change or parameters that can’t be altered (e.g., your budget for PPE). But, we are able to make choices that affect attitudes. It can be difficult to remember and find those opportunities, but from everything you have told me, that’s one of the best ways to gain buy-in.

I’ve found a few stories that emphasize just how important our words and actions are, and how they can collectively lead to great things. I know it’s so easy to feel like you’re just one person, carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Even if you are the sole safety professional on payroll, you’re not alone—and you are doing great things. Take a cue from the fable of the tortoise and the hare and keep plugging away.

Until next time, stay safe and be well! And, if there’s something EHS Today can do to help, please drop us a line in the comments box below.

Helping Your Partner Cope

The artwork for this story caught my eye while scrolling LinkedIn, and I read it because I never considered the topic: dealing with your partner’s work stress.

(As an aside, the article is based on a dual-career couple, which is increasingly the norm. But if your partner stays at home to, say, raise tiny humans, that sounds pretty darn stressful, too. Also, the article is framed around a heterosexual married couple, but I think these emotions and recommendations can apply to any partnership; feelings are universal.)

There’s that saying that workers should leave their personal problems at the door. For years, I tried to do that, only to finally realize it’s just not possible. Even if It were, I think it would deny us part of our humanity and our ability to be compassionate, kind and empathetic colleagues. So, if it stands to reason that we bring our personal life to work, we also bring work into our personal life.

That makes it even more important that we learn how to cope with work stress for ourselves and those we care about. The good news? Jennifer Petrilieri, assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD told Harvard Business Review that “[w]hen a couple is good at managing stress, it makes them [as individuals] more resilient.” And, because we’re talking about supporting those closest to us, we can tailor our efforts in a way that will help us help them.

The article reminds us to give our partner our full, undivided attention when we listen but not to try and solve their problems. It suggests ways to create a structure that allows for maximum sharing and listening based on what you need. This could mean a few minutes to decompress as soon as you’re both home and other planned times to dig into a problem or talk career goals.

It reminds me of how, in “How I Met Your Mother,” Marshall learned about the chain of yelling at work that started with top management and went all the way down to his boss’s kids. I know that was done for comedic effect, but I’m also going to do whatever I can so my home is my respite.  

Read the full article from Harvard Business Review here.

Fixing ESG

It’s all in a name, and it’s time for a change, says one banker turned professor.

The concept of environment, social and governance (ESG) may have started out with good intentions, but lately, the concept has gone from buzzy to contentious. Hence one expert’s call for a rebrand.

“Advocates and critics have become so caught up in cheerleading and criticizing ESG, or scoring points against the other side, that they’ve lost sight of the shared goal to create long-term value,” wrote Alex Edmans in a Jan. 20 paper. Instead, he wants to use the term rational sustainability, because it puts the attention back on efforts to create long-term improvements to the planet rather than the politics de jour.

It’ll be interesting to see where ESG goes from here. I personally hope we can find some common ground so we can focus our efforts on preserving the planet for generations to come.

Read more about fixing ESG here.  

Slow and Steady

I’m a little tired of hearing about the Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle and the return to office battles. It seems I’m not alone. So, perhaps, it’s fitting that this pervasive fatigue may result in the next big workplace trend: strategic slowness.

The idea is that working fast has led to some big uh-ohs lately, and it might be time for businesses (and their employees) to slow down so they can do things better.

"So many fiascos fueled by hurry sickness--the rash and failed decision to fire Sam Altman at OpenAI, the unethical choices made by convicted felon Sam Bankman-Fried and his colleagues at FTX, the string of impulsive missteps by Elon Musk at X that have destroyed more than 50 percent of the company's value, Elizabeth Holmes's conviction for fraud at Theranos--will finally convince investors and leaders that they need to become more adept at hitting the brakes,” says Robert Sutton, an organizational psychologist at Stanford University, on LinkedIn.

"Knowing when and how to slow down and fix things is the path to enduring financial success, to building healthy workplaces, and staying out of jail, too," he adds.

Or, as my dad would say, you can either do things right or do things fast, but you can’t do both. We’re in an age where a few down quarterly reports, a less-than-winning season or anything less than meteoric rise can be perceived as failure. We value lean, doing more with less and just doing more, period.

Writer Jessica Stillman reflects on her own career, where working fast and incessantly led to burnout. I think the message is that this (imagine me doing a sweeping hand gesture to indicate everything) is not sustainable. Many industries are experiencing hardships, and we spent the better part of three years in a very difficult global pandemic.

Perhaps, instead of trying to continue operating at this breakneck pace, we decide to move intentionally. It’s easier to exercise if you do fast reps, but it’s an even more intense workout if you move slowly and focus on your form and breathing. Let’s see if the business world agrees.

Read more from Stillman here.

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