How Changes in the Workplace may Affect Employees

Posted by martin.parnell |
How Changes in the Workplace may Affect Employees

Over the past few days, our town of Cochrane, North West of Calgary, has been experiencing a Chinook. One of the most striking features of this weather phenomenon is the Chinook arch, a band of stationary stratus clouds, which can look like threatening storm clouds, although they rarely produce rain or snow but can crate stunning sunrises and sunsets. So, what is the definition of a Chinook?

According to L.C. Nkemdirim, in the Canadian Encyclopaedia online, posted February 2006:  “In Canada, the Chinook belt lies almost exclusively within southern and central Alberta. The wind occurs in every season, but it is more distinctive and numerous in the winter, when the unseasonable warming it brings differentiates it from the normal cold winter weather.

A Chinook is a warm, dry, gusty, westerly wind that blows down the Rocky Mountains into the eastern slopes and the western prairies. The Chinook, a native word meaning "snow eater," belongs to a family of winds experienced in many parts of the world where long mountain chains lie more or less at right angles to the prevailing wind.

In south-western Alberta, one in 3 winter days is a Chinook day; its frequency drops to one in 5 in the northeast. The maximum daily temperature anomaly associated with the wind ranges from +13°C in the northwest to +25°C in the southeast. The temperature rise at the onset of the event is abrupt and steep; an increase of 27°C in 2 minutes has been observed.

In Scientific terms “The warmth of the Chinook is derived primarily from 2 non- mutually exclusive sources. Firstly, the replacement of arctic air (the mean temperature at Calgary's elevation is -24°C) by maritime air (-2°C) improves surface temperatures.

Secondly, if the down slope flow occurs following a loss of moisture through precipitation on the windward side of the mountain, the heat used to change the water into vapour (latent heat) is returned to the air parcel and warms it. The down slope flow leeward of the mountain warms the wind further, reducing its relative humidity sometimes down to 25% or less. Wind speed ranges from 16 km/h to 60 km/h, gusting to 100 km/h.

The Chinook melts snow, dries soil, desiccates vegetation and is a factor in soil erosion. Most people appreciate the Chinook because it is a pleasant break from the frigid winter temperatures characteristic of the region. However, a significant minority complain of discomforts ranging from headaches and earaches to depression and attempted suicide.” 

So, if you live in Alberta, you could define a Chinook as a warm wind that blows in, unpredictably, from time to time, causes changes for a while and then leaves. 

Sounds a bit like some of the people who might appear in you workplace. 

Apart from customers, a visiting dignitary or someone from head office, there are several ways in which the general flow of the workplace may be affected, by people who come and go, including part-time workers, multiple job holders, and those in short-duration jobs. Sometimes, production activities may require the bringing together of groups of individuals specific projects. Stages of projects change and this may require the addition of temporary staff or the letting go of those surplus to requirements. 

Certain types of work exhibit high pace of job and worker reallocation. There is more opportunity for “job hopping”, for promotion and other types of career opportunity and workers are more geographically mobile. Additionally, it may not be just the people who come and go that are causing the most significant changes in the workplace, they can also occur with the constantly advances in technology.

In a paper published in 2017, on the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine website, entitled Information Technology and the U.S. Workforce: Where Are We and Where Do We Go from Here? We are told:

“Technological advances can create enormous economic and other benefits, but can also lead to significant changes for workers. IT and automation can change the way work is conducted, by augmenting or replacing workers in specific tasks. This can shift the demand for some types of human labour, eliminating some jobs and creating new ones. Information Technology and the U.S. Workforce explores the interactions between technological, economic, and societal trends and identifies possible near-term developments for work. This report emphasizes the need to understand and track these trends and develop strategies to inform, prepare for, and respond to changes in the labour market.”

If you are a part-time worker, changes can be particularly stressful, as you may not be there, when changes are implemented. On theBusiness Daily website, onMay 25, 2017, Chad Brooks considers this in a study based on surveys of 1,500 U.S. adults who were employed full or part time or were self-employed. The article is entitled Change in the Workplace Stresses Your Employees Out Most and states:

 “While employers usually enact change to improve the workplace, new research shows it can actually have the opposite effect. A study from the American Psychological Association (APA) found that organization changes, such as restructuring, budgetary modifications, new IT or human resources systems, or new leadership, can lead to employees who are overly stressed, have less trust in their employers and have a greater desire to find new jobs.

Change is quite common in most workplaces. Half of the U.S. workers surveyed have been, currently are or expect to be affected by organizational changes in the next year. Employees impacted by change are more than twice as likely to suffer from chronic stress. Specifically, 55 percent of employees experiencing recent or current change reported prolonged stress, compared to just 22 percent of those who had no recent, current or anticipated change

In addition, workers experiencing change were also four times as likely to have physical health ailments – which could be any symptom, including headaches, stiff necks, dizziness or shortness of breath – as those who didn't face any workplace changes. They also ate more and smoked cigarettes more during the workday than they did outside of work.

Mental and physical health issues aren't the only problems organizational change causes. The study found that U.S. workers who reported recent or current change were more likely to have work-life balance conflict, feel cynical and negative toward others during the workday, and have lower job satisfaction and significantly less trust in their employers.

The research also revealed that employees experiencing change are more than three times as likely to look for a new employer in the coming year compared to those with no recent, current or anticipated change. 

Change is inevitable in organizations, and when it happens, leadership often underestimates the impact those changes have on employees," said David Ballard, head of APA's Center for Organizational Excellence, in a statement, "If they damage their relationship with employees, ratchet up stress levels, and create a climate of negativity and cynicism in the process, managers can wind up undermining the very change efforts they’re trying to promote.

The research found that the negative feelings could be attributed to a level of scepticism employees have in their employer when change is enacted. Nearly 30 percent of all the workers surveyed said they believe management has a hidden agenda for instituting change, with 31 percent saying they believe employers have different motives and agendas for enacting change from what they say publicly. Additionally, 28 percent believe organizations try to cover up the real reasons for changes.”

Whether the changes that take place are short-lived, like the Chinook or having a longer-lasting impact, people react to change in varying ways. 

For some, the appearance of a Chinook is an opportunity to throw off those winter layers and embrace the warm air. For others, it can bring on a debilitating headache. 

One thing we do know, as in a change in the workplace, that Chinook is going to occur at one time or another; it’s just finding our own way to deal with it.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Set Goals, Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Outstanding Results” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality and his film “The Secret Marathon” was released in late 2019. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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