The Easiest Way to Be Less Stressed at Work

Commuting to work by bike can help you start your day with less stress, new research suggests, and the benefit may have lasting effects through the afternoon and evening.

The three authors of the new study, which was published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, all bike to work and wanted to see if they could find empirical evidence for what they personally knew to be true: that a morning bike ride can boost people’s moods and reduce their stress.

“We were discussing amongst ourselves the good feeling we’d get every time we rode our bikes to work,” says Stéphane Brutus, professor of motivation and employee performance at Concordia University in Canada. “Anecdotally, we felt like we were a step ahead, first thing in the morning, of the rest of our coworkers who insisted on taking cars or public transportation.”

The researchers surveyed 123 employees at an information technology company in Montreal, considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. Everyone filled out a questionnaire just after the workday began and rated their mood at the start of the day, their commute-related stress and their subjective vitality—a measure of wellbeing, physical health and energy levels. They also indicated what type of transportation they had taken that day.

bike work commute

Overall, 54 had arrived to work in cars, 42 had taken public transportation and 25 had ridden bicycles. Two had ridden motorcycles, but they were excluded from analysis due to a small sample size.

The researchers controlled for vitality, since they assumed that healthy, active people would be more likely to bike to work and also to report better moods and less stress. Even with this adjustment, though, they found a significant difference in stress levels between the three commuter groups. On a five-point scale, with 5 being the most stress, averages for each group were 2.54 for car drivers, 2.25 for public-transportation users and 2.18 for cyclists.

The finding suggests that cycling can help commuters start their day on the right foot, says Brutus. That’s important, because previous research has shown that people’s early-morning stress level can be a strong predictor of how the rest of their day turns out. Other research backs up additional benefits of a healthy commute. A large 2017 study showed that people who walked or biked to work were less likely to die during the five-year study period than those who took public transit—even if they just biked part of the way.

In this study, however, the researchers did not find major differences in mood between the three groups. “The data was pointing in the right direction, but the results weren’t significant,” says Brutus. He thinks this was because of the relatively small number of cyclists in the study, compared to the other groups. “With more statistical power, it is my guess that we would have found an effect.”

Brutus points out that the study was not able to show a cause-and-effect relationship between biking and lower stress levels and that stress tends to be more consistent, day-to-day, than mood. Even though they controlled for vitality, he says, other factors could have still played a role in the results.

“People decide to drive to work or cycle to work for all different reasons, including their physical shape, how they perceive risks and how they perceive life,” he says. “If you choose to drive a car, for example, you may be the type of person who gets stressed more easily and who can’t afford to bike to work because you need to get to work earlier.”

Cycling to work isn’t practical or possible for everyone. But for those who do have the option, Brutus recommends giving it a try and seeing if it has an effect on their mood or stress levels throughout the day.

“Our relationship with our cars is so ingrained that we don’t even question all the stress and frustration that owning them and driving them can cause,” he says. “We want people to realize there might be a better way.”

Can tai chi help you perform better at work?

Are you feeling too downbeat to complete your targets at work? This time don’t just pick up the coffee or head out for a run. Try something that’s gentle yet effective – tai chi! The ancient Chinese martial art tradition comprising a series of slow movements – is said to reduce symptoms of depression and rebuild focus. It’s been around for over 1,000 years and is getting even more popular.

Builds balance and energy levels


Tai chi combines deep breathing and slow and gentle non-impact movements that brings about serenity. Originally developed for self-defence, it is suited for people with any level of fitness. And it’s not tough at all. Says teacher Radhika Surwani , “Imagine yourself doing yoga? This is just like that with a small difference. One posture just flows into the next and your body is in constant motion. It allows the energy to travel freely along the pathways in the body. You also do breathing techniques along with meditation which increases your mindfulness.”

(Pic: Thinkstock)
There is no fixed spot for practicing this. You can perform tai chi on the grass, on the beach or in the privacy of your own home. The rhythmic movements are supposed to be so effective that in no time you feel at ease and develop great inner calm, both of which can help you immensely in other walks of life. Nimisha Jain, a banking executive from Andheri who has been taking a tai chi class for the last six months, says it improved her work output. “In just two sessions, I felt so relaxed, the usual joint pains I had from sitting for long hours had gone and I was recharged,” she says.

Health benefits
– Increased energy levels and stamina
– Lowers depression and stress levels
– Increases muscle strength
– Builds flexibility and balance
– Decreases blood pressure
– Improves heart health

Cycling to Work May Help Beat Stress and Increase Your Work Output

To lead a healthy lifestyle, other than minding your diet, you also need to make an effort to partake in physical activities. This is a habit that you need to make consciously. Be it walking, running, yoga, aerobics or swimming, even 30 minutes of some sort of activity daily can take you a long way to staying healthy. Even cycling around

can work wonders to pump up those happy hormones. What if you cycled to work? According to a new study, cycling to office can help reduce stress and improve your work performance.

Researchers Stephane Brutus, Roshan Javadian and Alexandra Panaccio compared how different modes of commuting – cycling, driving a car and taking public transport – affected stress and mood at work. The results indicated that cycling to work was a good bet. “Employees who cycled to work showed significantly lower levels of stress within the first 45 minutes of work than those who travelled by car,” he says. The study did not, however, find any difference in the effect on mood.

The research team collected data from 123 employees at Autodesk, an information technology company in Old Montreal, using a web-based survey. Respondents replied to questions about their mood, perceived commuting stress and mode of travel. The survey differentiated between perceived stress and mood, a more transient state affected by personality traits and emotions.

cycling

The study only assessed answers from respondents who had completed the questionnaire within 45 minutes of arriving at work. This was done to get a more ‘in-the-moment’ assessment of employees’ stress and mood.

 

“Recent research has shown that early morning stress and mood are strong predictors of their effect later in the day,” he explains. “They can shape how subsequent events are perceived, interpreted and acted upon for the rest of the day.”

“With growing concerns about traffic congestion and pollution, governments are increasingly promoting non-motorized alternative modes of transport, such as walking and cycling. I can only hope that further studies will follow our lead and develop more precise and deliberate research into this phenomenon,” concluded Brutus.

 

The study was published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.

Employees can be sacked for social media use, even outside of work

AFTER a long day at work keeping face and kissing butt, it can be a relief to get home, turn off the proverbial filter and relax.

But in the age of social media, public and private time is blurred.

A questionable tweet, post or comment while sitting on your couch at night can cost your job – whether it is about work or not.

That was the experience this year of one man who publicly shared a screen shot of a woman’s Tinder profile with a snide remark.

After the post attracted nasty and threatening comments towards the woman, it went viral with the hashtag “sexual violence won’t be silenced” and ended with the man being fired.

The content was not related to any workplace, employer or company and was posted outside of work hours but Johnathan Mamaril, principal and director of employment law specialists NB Lawyers, says this does not matter.

“The main rationale behind the dismissal of (this man) would have been the ability to bring the company’s reputation into disrepute, whether it was realised or not,” Mamaril says.

“The mere perception has the damaging effect already.”

Avoid the shock and think before you post, comment or tweet. Source: iStock

Avoid the shock and think before you post, comment or tweet. Source: iStockSource:Supplied

Mamaril says all employers should have a social media policy but especially if they have a reliance or presence on social media, if they actively advertise through social media, if employees identifies themselves on social media as working for the company, or if employees use social media as a marketing tool for their job.

“Employers can take action against an employee for inappropriate social media use as long as they have a social media policy in place and have some type of training regarding the policy,” he says.

Another recent case was hotel manager Michael Nolan who lost his job after calling feminist commentator Clementine Ford a “sl**” on Facebook.

Ford shared a screen shot of their interaction to her 80,000 Facebook followers and tagged Nolan’s employer.

Feminist commentator Clementine Ford names and shames men who harass her online.

Feminist commentator Clementine Ford names and shames men who harass her online.Source:Supplied

Fair Work Commission commissioner Leigh Johns says the rules are not new but rather old rules being applied in the social media context.

“If you had two work colleagues fighting with each other at a work social function or in private time and it might tarnish their employer, it might be caught by these rules,” he says.

“If you’re on social media saying nasty things about your boss, you can imagine that’s going to cause problems.

“You should imagine anything you post may end up in front of someone you don’t want to see it.”

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Johns says most unfair dismissal cases he sees that stem from social media policies are unsuccessful.

“(There was) one case where the employee had some pretty terrible things on Facebook of an anti-Muslim nature but he was able to establish, because of his age as an older person, that he had no understanding of how Facebook worked and security settings,” Johns says.

“He had no idea this was a public forum and thought he was communicating between himself and his friends.”

But that would be a difficult defence to use anymore as Facebook has become so widespread.

“I wouldn’t hold that case up to give hope to people who post silly things on Facebook,” he says.

Most dismissals are a result of work-related content being posted online.

Johns recalls an employee who went on a Facebook rant after he was not paid the correct amount.

He broke the employer’s policy to always be polite and courteous, so was fired.

In another case, a young motor mechanic apprentice posted photos that were critical of his employer’s customer.

It got back to the customer and the employee was fired.

“He made a silly mistake and lost his job,” Johns says.

“We still see (social media cases) coming through and I’m still surprised people make these types of errors.”

Career coach Rebecca Fraser. Picture: Paul Loughnan

Social media is not only a tricky issue for workers – jobseekers need to be equally careful about what they post online.

A quick Google search will be part of the recruitment process for many future employers.

Career coach Rebecca Fraser says she Googles herself all the time.

“I want to know what others can find out about me and ensure that I am happy that this is what they are seeing,” she says.

“I look at all of the different selections, such as images and scholarly articles, just in case.

“I also specify my search down to my local region as well as globally.”

The founder of Rebecca Fraser Consultingshares her top tips for managing an online profile:

* Ensure all personal information remains private

* Be aware all opinions shared on open forums online are accessible long term, not just today

* Never appear derogatory, negative or rude towards past employers, colleagues or managers

* Be aware of what others are posting about you or images you are being tagged in online

* Regularly review yourself by Googling your name.

* Keep your personal and professional lives separate.

Fraser says people who find content about themselves online that may be detrimental to their career should contact the owner of the website and/or owner of the information and request to have it removed.