up at the workplace
Worked up at the workplace
Roger Dobson on attention deficit trait, the new workplace health disorder that results from target-centric pressures of modern office life
You’re irritable and restless — sometimes impulsive — at work. Sometimes you wonder if you are becoming overwhelmed by the stress of your job. But then you look around and you notice that others are working just as hard, enduring the same amount of pressure — and looking just as ragged as you are.
Is there something wrong with you? Or is there something wrong with the modern work culture? Attention deficit trait (ADT) is a newly recognised workplace disorder caused by the pressure of modern office life. When the pressure gets too great, fear takes over as the driving force, and the result, it’s suggested, can be ADT, a perpetual state of low-level panic, guilt and fear, with difficulty in organising, setting priorities and managing time.
As many as one in three employees, especially managers, may have some symptoms of the disorder, but it’s claimed whole organisations can be engulfed by it, leading to widespread depression, anxiety and a host of other complications. "It’s a response to the hyper-kinetic environment in which we live," says psychiatrist Dr Edward Hallowell. "But it has become epidemic in today’s organisations."
This deficit trait joins a growing list of workplace health problems that now include stress, anxiety, burnout, bullying, workaholism, alcoholism and post-traumatic stress. With one in five managers at risk of depression, 12 per cent of them having a major depression and more than 6.5 million working days lost in Britain each year due to stress alone, mental ill-health has become a significant problem.
New research shows how mental health problems have become one of today’s biggest occupational health risks. In six years, the number of mental illness problems being seen by occupational physicians has trebled, while physical causes have stayed at about the same rate. The physicians are seeing three times as many new cases of people with stress and mental illness as they were six years ago — 36.7 per cent compared with 11.4 per cent.
The research, at Manchester University and Imperial College is based on reports from more than 500 occupational physicians, the doctors who examine sick employees, and shows that rates for men were 25 per cent higher than those for women, and that six out of 10 diagnoses were for anxiety or depression. The research also gives a unique insight into who is most at risk from which disorders. It shows that around one in four bouts of mental ill-health are blamed on the job itself, with work overload the main cause.
Changes at work, including new responsibilities and new technology, accounted for one in 10 cases, while problems in relationships with colleagues were to blame for almost one in five health problems among women employees. A surprise finding was that very few — four per cent of the cases — came from tension between home and work. The results also show that illness rates, especially anxiety and depression, were higher than expected among managers, secretaries and clerks, and people employed in the financial industry and in education. Alcohol problems were greater than expected among those working in sales, while post-traumatic stress was higher among machine operators and train drivers.
Not all sick workers are seen by occupational physicians, and the majority are treated by GPs, but other research shows a similar picture.
It’s estimated that half a million men and women suffer work-related stress at a level that makes them ill, and that one in five workers believes their job is extremely stressful.
The researchers say doctors needed
to be trained to spot early signs of problems at work if mental ill-health is to
be reduced. They also say that greater expertise is needed to improve the
workplace environment, including reviewing job demands, and improving working
relations and organisational change.
"ADT is a very real threat to all of us," he says. "If we don’t manage it, it will manage us. I recommend companies to invest in things that contribute to a positive atmosphere." Professor Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, says the problem of mental ill-health in the workplace is reaching epidemic proportions. "We all know there is a big problem going on. It is the new disease — the black plague of the 21st century." He says there are a number of causes: "Change, and change over which people feel they have no control, is a significant cause of stress.
Twenty years ago, we had a
nine-to-five culture with an hour off for lunch.
"We Americanised the UK to the extent we now have a long hours culture, and we know that if you consistently work long hours — and that is more than 41 a week, not 50 — you will get ill. We have the longest working hours in Europe. The way in which people are managed causes problems, too.
"We manage people more by targets and performance indicators, more by fault-finding than by praise and reward. Recognising that there is a problem is the first step."
Recognition may head off the kind of acute problem of karojisatsu, or work-related suicide, seen in Japan, which has been linked to more than 1,000 deaths. "Long working hours, heavy workloads and low social support may cause depression, which can lead to suicide," say the researchers.
"Appropriate countermeasures are urgently needed."
— By arrangement with The Independent
Girls, a better bet
The phrase ‘the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,’ may now be more than just words, as according to a new report, Womenomics, the girl power phenomenon, may pose a threat to the male supremacy bastion.
Women tend to do better at school, more get degrees than men and if parents want a child to look after them in later life, a girl is a better bet, the Economist magazine has revealed.
It added: "One long-standing reason boys have been seen as a greater blessing has been that they are expected to become better economic providers for their parents’ old age. Yet it is time to think again. Girls may now be a better investment."
The girl power
phenomenon — dubbed womenomics — reveals women’s role as
consumers, entrepreneurs and investors is vital worldwide.
Despite their importance, women are still paid less than men—and their skills are often under-used. A Women and Work Commission’s report said that without parity between the sexes, Britain’s economy will suffer.
It said helping women escape the five C’s — the caring, cashier, clerical, cleaning and catering sectors — would boost Britain’s economy by `A3 23 billion.
Many women are working day-in, day-out far below their abilities and this waste is an outrage when the UK is facing increasing competition in the global market place and an outrage for those women personally," Commission chair Margaret Prosser was quoted by The Sun, as saying.
Meeting of memories
A session of shared milestones and turning points. Aruti Nayar attends Nostalgia 2006 in Shimla
When Loreto Convent Tara Hall, Shimla, was sold by the Irish nuns to the congregation of Sacred Heart, many students wondered where they would be able to have a reunion. Nostalgia 2006, celebrated at the end of June, at Tara Hall, was their answer, thanks to the generosity of Sister Jacintha Noronha, the present Principal of Sacred Heart Tara Hall. Barriers of congregations were immaterial, she wanted all the girls who had studied in the institution to meet annually.
The first reunion of the girls of Tara Hall was much more than memories mixed with a desire to recapture and recount tales of pranks played and lessons learnt\ unlearnt and revised not only from textbooks also through life and experiences narrated by peers and teachers.
Somewhere deep down the memories of school are entwined with the most impressionable times and many firsts...the first time on stage, the first speech or the first friendship. As Sister put it, an alma mater is like a guidepost and all is dark, your name awakens in me a desire to unlock memories of the past and lock dreams for the future..."
As ex-students shared milestones, turning points as well as crossroads along their life’s journey, the red and grey building that housed cherished memories and moments for its alumunae came alive with laughter and giggles. Vimla Kitchlu, one of the only three Indian girls to join Tara Hall, (the other two were her sister Sheila and a Parsi, Shirin) joined the school in 1924 as a five- year-old. She passed out in 1934 and remembers the love and care that the Irish sisters showered on her. Says she, "I was a motherless girl who got so much of love and affection from the sisters at Loreto Convent Tara Hall that it saw me through life."
Kitchlu especially remembers Mother Philippa, whose entire family had been shot by the Germans but who radiated tremendous warmth and generosity. Just the thought if we did something naughty we would have to confess to her was a deterrent.
She moulded our values and gave us a thorough grounding not only in getting grades but being humane." Be it during her stint in England as an educationist or as the Chairman of the National Book Trust, Delhi, Kitchlu continued to remember school as her anchor. It was a treat to hear her speak and the standing ovation by the students spoke for itself.
Priya Jhingan, the first woman to be recruited to the Army’s JAG branch, spoke feelingly of how she was not good academically but her restlessness and high energy levels were channelled in the Army.
It was indeed an emotional moment for the girl "responsible for 90 per cent of trouble in the class" who recounted how she could not wait to show her crispiest uniform and pip to Sister Brenda (then in Lucknow) and even borrowed a vehicle to salute sister. "Only then did I feel I had attained something," says Priya.
A landmark in the hill town, the school can boast of a formidable list of alumunae, which includes banker Naina Lal Kidwai and her sister ace golfer Nonita Lal Quraishi, film directors Mira Nair and Pamela Rooks, Romi Dev, MPs from Punjab and Himachal, Preneet Kaur and Pratibha Singh, media personalities Komal G.B. Singh and Usha Alberquerue and many others.
Tara Hall, an intrinsic part of the town’s heritage, gets it name from a building of the same name in Ireland.
It was set up by Mother Gongaza on November 30, 1895 in the two buildings, Belle Vue and Tara Hall. Mother Melissa would go in a rickshaw all the way with Dicky, her dog, from Tara Hall to Chalet Day near Simla Club daily.
From the days when girls learnt to be good wives and mothers to the early 1960 and ’70s when they were groomed to take on larger roles and responsibilities, there are many more pressures now.
As Sister Jacintha observes, even the focus of education has shifted. If the aim of the school was "to develop small girls into fine ladies, they also have to be prepared to take life and accept it with all its pressures and challenges. We try to inculcate a sense of discipline in the girls but parents do like to pamper the kids nowadays and it is an uphill task to instil values."
Many teachers who studied at the school now pass on what they imbibed to the girls. Sister John Baptist was lovingly called Jaan-e-man by the girls and others evoked awe.
Recounts Pradeep Ahluwalia, who taught physics, "Mother Councillio told me a teaspoon of honey draws more people than a barrel of vinegar, both are good for health. You can decide what you want to be." The words stayed with him all through his teaching career and even later as Director Technical Education, Himachal Pradesh University.
She may have become the darling of the small screen after Heena but now Simone Singh is making waves in Bollywood ever since she starred as the scheming girlfriend of Saif Ali Khan in Kal Ho Na Ho.
After earning rave reviews for her cameo in the Saif Ali-starrer Being Cyrus, Simone is busy with the shooting of her next film, Delhi Heights where she is paired opposite Rohit Roy. The film revolving around the lives of couples who reside in the same building, also stars Jimmy Shergill, Neha Dhupia and Om Puri and is scheduled for release in September.
Her other film Marigold, an American production, was directed by Willard Carroll and starring Salman Khan.
On television, Simone is busy
anchoring the second season of Kosmiic Chat on Zoom. Life
surely has come a long way after she first shot to fame with Heena
on Sony several years ago. — NF