Nav: Home

A little kindness goes a long way for worker performance and health

September 10, 2019

University Park, Pa.--Small gestures of kindness by employers can have big impacts on employees' health and work performance, according to an international team of researchers. The team specifically examined the effects of employers enhancing the lunches of bus drivers in China with fresh fruit and found that it reduced depression among the drivers and increased their confidence in their own work performance.

"An ultimate solution to improve worker performance and health could be big pay raises or reduced workloads, but when those solutions aren't feasible, we found that even small offerings can make a big difference," said Bu Zhong, associate professor of journalism at Penn State.

According to Zhong, bus drivers are vulnerable to specific health problems due in large part to their stressful working environment, which often includes irregular shift schedules, unpredictable traffic conditions and random meal times. In addition, the sedentary nature of driving and continuous whole-body vibration contributes to fatigue, musculoskeletal problems such as lower-back pain, cardiovascular diseases and gastrointestinal issues.

Zhong and his colleagues conducted an experiment with 86 Shenzen bus drivers. During the experiment, on-duty bus drivers were given, in addition to their typical box lunch which includes no fruit, a serving of fresh fruit--either an apple or a banana--for three weeks. The cost of the fruit was 73 cents per meal.

The team distributed surveys to the bus drivers at three time intervals--one week before the experiment began, once in the middle of the three-week-long experiment and one week following the end of the experiment. The findings appear today in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics.

The researchers assessed depression with a personal health questionnaire that is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The scale consisted of eight items, asking the participants to rate, for example, how often during the past two weeks they felt down, depressed or hopeless, and had trouble falling or staying asleep.

"Bus drivers reported significantly decreased depression levels one week after the experiments ended compared to one week before it began," said Zhong.

The team measured self-efficacy--perceived confidence and ability to implement the necessary actions and tasks so as to achieve specific goals--using the 10-item General Self-Efficacy Scale. Items on this scale included, "I can always manage to solve difficult problems if I try hard enough" and "I can usually handle whatever comes my way."

"We found that self-efficacy was significantly higher in the middle of the experiment week than in the week after the experiment ended," said Zhong.

Zhong concluded that while eating an extra apple at lunchtime may seem trivial, its impact can be large.

"This research suggests that employees can be sensitive to any improvement at the workplace," he said. "Before an ultimate solution is possible, some small steps can make a difference--one apple at a time."
-end-
Other authors on the paper include Xiaohua Wang, professor of advertising, Shenzhen University, and Fan Yang, assistant professor of communications, University of Albany.

EDITORS: Bu Zhong may be reached at 814-865-1023 or bxz11@psu.edu.

Penn State

Related Health Articles:

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.
Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.
Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.
Geographic and health system correlates of interprofessional oral health practice
In the current issue of Family Medicine and Community Health (Volume 6, Number 2, 2018, pp.
Bloomberg era's emphasis on 'health in all policies' improved New Yorkers' heart health
From 2002 to 2013, New York City implemented a series of policies prioritizing the public's health in areas beyond traditional healthcare policies and illustrated the potential to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
Youth consider mobile health units a safe place for sexual health services
Mobile health units bring important medical services to communities across the country.
Toddler formulas and milks -- not recommended by health experts -- mislead with health claims
Misleading labeling on formulas and milks marketed as 'toddler drinks' may confuse parents about their healthfulness or necessity, finds a new study by researchers at the NYU College of Global Public Health and the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut.
Women's health has worsened while men's health has improved, trends since 1990 show
Swedish researchers have studied health trends among women and men aged 25-34 from 1990-2014.
Health insurance changes, access to care by patients' mental health status
A research letter published by JAMA Psychiatry examined access to care before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and after the ACA for patients grouped by mental health status using a scale to assess mental illness in epidemiologic studies.
Community health workers lead to better health, lower costs for Medicaid patients
As politicians struggle to solve the nation's healthcare problems, a new study finds a way to improve health and lower costs among Medicaid and uninsured patients.
More Health News and Health Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.