resources that can help workers manage work-family conflict,
such as flexible work schedules, leave and support from family,
friends and neighbors. As those resources increase, work-family
conflict decreases. “It’s not necessarily money that’s making
things easier,” says Burns. “It’s the extra resources that make it
easier to cope.”
Not all of these resources had that same effect independently,
however. “It’s not that having one resource alone will necessarily
alleviate work-family conflict,” says Burns. “Pooling them
The impact of sleep quality
Improving workers’ sleep could be another way to improve their
health and well-being, according to research by Yifan Song, a
graduate student in the University of Florida’s department of
In one study, Song and colleagues collected data from
employees working for Chinese information technology
companies. They found that workplace stress in the mornings
increased workers’ tendency to eat unhealthy fatty food once
they got home. However, a good night’s sleep changed things. If
employees slept well the night before, they were less likely to eat
badly the next evening, even if they’d faced morning job stress.
In a second study, the researchers found a similar pattern in
customer service representatives in a Chinese call center. Being
mistreated by customers in the morning prompted negative
moods in the afternoon, which led to poor eating at night.
Once again, sleep helped: A good night’s sleep gave employees
more energy in the morning, which helped prevent bad moods
in the afternoon. That in turn kept them from indulging in
unhealthy eating at night.
“Organizations could provide training programs to help
employees learn how to get better sleep at night,” says Song.
“They could even provide a time and space for employees to
have a nap during their lunch breaks.”
Introducing a new type of office
Other presenters focused on the physical aspects of workplaces.
Christian Korunka, PhD, a psychology professor at the
University of Vienna, examined a new way of designing offices
that encourages workspace flexibility. Instead of fixed spaces
for workers, this new type of office offers zones for specific
activities. A “zen zone” offers a quiet environment for creative
work, for example, while workers who need a telephone
use “call boxes.” “This new kind of office concept is quite
fashionable these days,” says Korunka.
To assess the new design’s impact, Korunka and colleagues
used surveys, interviews and focus groups to see how workers
reacted when their traditional office was replaced by a flexible
design. Workers reported that the new design improved
productivity and information-sharing. Employees experienced
fewer interruptions and more interaction, for example.
The news wasn’t all good, however. While the number of
social interactions increased, employees reported that the
quality of those interactions had decreased. “In conventional
offices, people sit at the same desk every day, so you know
where you can find people if you want to have a coffee break or
go out to lunch together,” says Korunka. “In the new office, you
never know where you’ll find your colleagues.” The result can
be loneliness, says Korunka, adding that new office designs need
to include meeting rooms, “interaction zones” or other ways of
meeting employees’ social needs.
Social media in the workplace
Facebook and other forms of social media could help mitigate
that loneliness among employees, according to research by
Hannah J. Murphy, another graduate student in industrial-organizational psychology at Clemson.
In a study of full-time workers who are active Facebook
users, Murphy and her team found a relationship between
employees’ use of social media and social support from
co-workers. The link could mean that social media helped
employees feel connected with co-workers or that employees
already feel connected in person and so connect online, too,
says Murphy, explaining that the research shows a correlation
rather than causation. “But if future research found that
social media use with co-workers increases feelings of social
support, that would be huge,” says Murphy. “Social support
increases the likelihood that people are satisfied with work
and stay on, that they don’t burn out because they have
friends at work.”
The research also revealed a connection between social
No matter what the job, a NIOSH analysis found, workers
who reported high levels of stress and burnout also reported
having worse health than their less-stressed counterparts.