Narrator: Americans are cursing more today than ever before. In fact, the average American utters 80 to 90 curse words every day. That’s about five curse words every waking hour. And it might not be in vain. Turns out, swearing may help make you live a happier, healthier life in the long-run.
When you stub your toe and holler your favorite dirty, four-letter word, You’re actually doing yourself a favor. Swearing has been known to raise your heart rate, which can help reduce the pain. For example, one study found that people who held their hand in icy water while cursing lasted 50% longer than the people who used neutral words – like “wooden” and “flat.”
And if you’re still not convinced that you should curse more, consider this: Swearing could be the key to improving your workouts. Researchers asked people to curse while riding a stationary bike and holding a device that measured handgrip strength. Wouldn’t you know it, participants pedaled faster and gripped stronger while spewing their favorite expletives. And swearing won’t just help you get more fit, it can also reduce stress and anxiety.
For instance, one study found that swearing helped drivers better cope with their frustration on the road whenever a pedestrian illegally crossed the street. And in fact, this type of emotional relief is so common, it has a name: Lalochezia. Scientists think that this relief is one reason why we’ve evolved to curse in the first place.Because it’s a way for us to express strong emotions – like anger and frustration – without having to throw a punch or act out.
And this method – of choosing words over violence – has other benefits, too. Studies show that people who curse are perceived as more genuine and sincere. And researchers have found that people who can list the most swear words also come across as more honest when they’re measured on a lie scale.
But there’s still one place where cursing is almost always out of the question: Work. But you might have a good excuse to swear there too. Researchers studied a team of workers at a soap factory in New Zealand, and looked at the use of a particular swear word, we’ll call it “the f-word.”
Turns out that using “the f-word” helped the workers express politeness, alleviate tension, and bond with each other. So, we’re not saying you should curse out your boss, but a little swearing here and there can’t hurt, and sh-t, it may even help.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in December 2018.
There’s no question that 2020 turned the workplace on its head. The start of the pandemic led companies to reconsider everything from their office layout to how they can foster a sense of community when a majority of team members are working from home.
Tom Vecchione, Principal at architecture and interior design firm Vocon, believes the pandemic has only made the concept of the office and what it represents to employees more powerful. Of the executives he works with, Vecchione says, “What they miss the most is the level of ambition the office created for their teams and their staff. It’s very much part of the emotional, inspirational aspect of what an office gives us and your teams.”
To get back that missing spark, and to address the larger question of the office and its role overall, companies are starting to reassess their relationship with urban real estate.
What’s influencing them? “Everyone’s waiting for three factors,” Vecchione says. “What’s my peer doing, which is a very big influencer; what does science tell us we can do; and what do government agencies say we should do. This waiting game is creating uncertainty and volatility in the real estate market.”
The way Vecchione sees it, three tiers of employee engagement will emerge within the workforce: mission-critical onsite employees who must be onsite to do their jobs; hybrid employees who can split their time between onsite and offsite; and offsite workers who can effectively do their jobs without ever using the office as a permanent home. In order to gauge the demand for workspaces moving forward, Vocon is analyzing companies’ post-pandemic needs. “Executives aren’t sure why people really need to go back — if it’s for mentorship, culture, learning.” Vecchione adds that the purpose of the workspace isn’t just to facilitate the work itself, but to create knowledge, inspire culture, build a career path, and bring clients and talent “into the fold.”
There’s more to the workspace of the future than socially-distanced desks, sound barriers, and outdoor meeting rooms, and many employees find their job performance suffers when they lack access to a communal office. According to a 2020 survey conducted by enterprise platform Smartsheet in conjunction with 451 Research, 82% of workers feel less productive at work since going remote.
As companies start to consider the slow or staggered transition back to the office environment, they’re also thinking about something else: technology, and the key role it plays in the culture of collaboration.
“What I find fascinating is that we’ve all owned this technology and never really operated in this way,” says Anna Griffin, Chief Marketing Officer of Smartsheet. “(Companies) know that we’re going into a hybrid world, and they’re going into the new year in build mode.”
Smartsheet is seeing “a lot of enthusiasm for working this way,” along with signs of recovery and greater investments in technology, Griffin says. All of this signals that leaders are on board with modifying their business strategies.
Traditionally, changes like these have come straight from the top. Insider’s Human Impact of Business Transformation study, a project designed to gauge perspectives on business transformation as they relate to brand purpose, mental resilience, and more, shows that among 68% of respondents, it’s the leadership teams that drive such efforts.
But this model may not last. Employees are taking a larger role in the technology they use, and the workplace experience overall. Instead of the old approach, where management implements processes and expects teams to follow suit by using the tools they provide, Griffin is seeing employees driving these decisions. “The way you work, and the way people are able to participate more, is truly becoming democratized. And so there’s this shift in power. You’re doing something collectively together,” she says.
Ricardo Vargas, former Executive Director of Brightline Initiative, a coalition designed to help companies bridge the gap between strategy and execution, is seeing a similar trend as businesses prioritize employee satisfaction. The companies that succeed at transforming their business, Vargas says, also ensure their leaders are just as immersed in the company culture as their teams.
“In the more traditional organizations, the leadership lives in a castle on the top floor that nobody gets access to. You don’t talk to them.” Rather, Vargas says, leadership should be approachable and accessible, wherever they are.
Organizations now face an opportunity. The pandemic has highlighted weak spots in corporate culture, and leaders are starting to address those proactively. “We need to learn how to lead in permanent disruption because we are living in a permanent state of transformation,” Vargas says.
When it comes to designing the new workplace, Vecchione believes the physical work environment will never go away. Its purpose, however, may well be reinvented. Employees will one day find themselves in shared spaces again — and when they do, they’re likely to discover that a change was long overdue.
I take the University of California online anti-sexual harassment training course regularly, and when I do, I believe I’m helping the world become a better place. Like most working women, I’ve suffered harassment at work, and despite evidence from empirical studies and from my own experience that the training doesn’t work and that I take it to limit the liability of my employer in a sexual harassment lawsuit, I will myself to believe in it.
Staff and faculty who have been harassed simply suck it up and move on, changing positions if possible or just avoiding the offender. Occasionally, a scandal breaks through and a harassment case leads to the dismissal of a famous professor or administrator; yet, the victims who brought the suit forward usually live forever with the reputation of being a “troublemaker.”
Despite countless initiatives, corporate and university gender equity programs failed to mitigate damage done to the lives of working women wrought by COVID lockdowns as work moved home and online, and schools and daycares closed. Women’s participation in the workforce has dropped to 1988 levels, with women bearing the brunt of COVID unemployment figures at every level of income and education: four decades of progress for women at work has been undone in one year.
The University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana and Rand Corporation studies have shown that employee participation in employee wellness programs were low and that those who used them tended to be healthier and better paid – essentially resulting in a covert shift of organizational resources away from the lowest paid and unhealthiest employees to the best paid and healthiest ones. The Rand Corporation findings focused on maximizing employer return on investment, and recommended that employers focus their wellness programs on employees with the most severe health issues.
And yet, if your boss is paying attention to your muscle mass, poor sleep, lack of exercise or bad eating habits, I can guarantee that they are not interested in your wellbeing. They are, instead, very worried about having to pay higher health insurance premiums if their workforce is plagued with chronic ill health. Wellness programs neither save employers money nor increase employee wellbeing, but they continue to proliferate. Human Resources wellness centers cannot stop spending money on health tracking, meditation, and exercise apps that are “free to download” onto employee smartphones.
Through my workplace, I can download MyStrength, an app that helps me cope with stress in real time, or I can try the Headspace app, which will also help me “weather the storm” through meditation and exercise. If these two apps do not get me to optimal wellness, there is an app that reminds me to step away occasionally from my desk to do downward-facing dog.
As retired Harvard Business School Professor, Shoshana Zuboff shows in her book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, once data gathering reaches a certain scale, it becomes enormously valuable and exploitable. What is to prevent employers from monetizing the data gathered by all those “free” wellness apps? Very little, according to Zuboff, because privacy regulations lag behind tech innovations.
Poor economic conditions drive wellness
Wellness initiatives are designed to disguise the role that a solid paycheck plays in people’s overall wellbeing – in fact, low pay is one of the greatest stressors for workers of all races and sexes. Low socioeconomic status and poor working conditions lead to higher levels of cortisol in the bloodstream. Other indicators of stress, like diabetes and obesity, increase across populations with lower job status and lower pay.
People who make good money and have a high degree of control over their work lives also enjoy dramatically greater degrees of mental and physical wellbeing. A recent study on Universal Basic Income (UBI) from Stockton, California, a small, economically struggling city in California’s Central Valley, confirmed the connection between money and wellbeing. For two years, the program gave $500 a month to 125 randomly selected residents living at or below the city’s median income.
Initial results of the study show that the monthly cash infusion led to dramatic decreases in depression and anxiety in recipients of the no-strings-attached cash. Improved mental wellbeing allowed recipients to pay debts, find work, and deepen relationships with friends and family. The findings from Stockton disprove the fantasy that working class and poor Americans would be profligate with cash infusions. UBI is a controversial issue, but the Stockton study offers important lessons about the power of money in relationship to mental health and overall well-being.
No boundaries at work
If the pre-woke workplace was filled with sexism, racism, and overtly punitive evaluation protocols that encouraged the promotion of networked, white, male employees, the contemporary workplace has evolved into experimental sites of surveillance and data-gathering, all in the name of “caring.”
Covertly coercive, wellness initiatives serve as excuses for upper management to push aside questions of pay and pay equity for superficial engagement with our most private experiences. But, the last place I want to talk about my experiences of trauma is at work; I do not want my workplace to be involved with my daily practice of healing my wounds.
Just as school was my refuge from the unpredictability of home life when I was a child, I looked to work as a place where I could put aside, if only temporarily, my hair-trigger adrenaline-fueled over-reactions to setbacks and obstacles in order to better engage in the meaningful, joyful exercise of collectively exercised reason and argument. As a professor, I have come to believe that the best thing I could do for my students, traumatized and not, is to provide a space where the use of one’s intellect and powers of reason are respected, rewarded, and recognized.
In the view of my employer though, my approach to trauma is both too old-fashioned and too commonsensical. In the past month, I have been asked to participate in training courses in trauma-sensitive pedagogy, whatever that could mean. The way in which COVID has impacted working mothers and the lowest paid employees at the university has hardened my cynicism about pseudo-progressive managerial initiatives to care for employee wellbeing and promote workplace equity.
It is not social media addiction or millennials who are to blame for the deterioration of personal boundaries and the demise of critical thinking in our age: it is the pseudo-therapeutic initiatives of our over-managed world that have made it dangerous for us to insist on maintaining boundaries anywhere, but especially at work. Managerial initiatives infantilize workers while undermining our autonomy as private, suffering subjects.
For those on the bottom of the pay scale in any organization, a bigger paycheck would improve their mental health far more than any wellness or trauma initiative imposed upon us by HR. For those at the top of the payscale who are rewarded for finding ways to pay their employees less, this is a hard, if not impossible lesson to learn.
Catherine Liu is professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California Irvine. She is the author of the book Virtue Hoarders: the Case Against the Professional Managerial Class (University of Minnesota Press, 2021). She lives in Southern California and writes for Jacobin and has appeared on Chapo Trap House and Bungacast talking about her book and the class formation of credentialed elites in the 2021 global economy.
The Economist’s Glass Ceiling Index is a yearly assessment of countries where women have the best and worst chances of equal treatment in the workplace. The report analyzes a group of affluent countries that make up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The analysis takes into account several indicators: higher education, labor-force participation, pay, child-care costs, maternity and paternity rights, business-school applications and representation in senior jobs.
The report found that over the past year the US has seen some improvement in female representation in management positions, moving the country up four spots from the previous year.
Across the OECD, women account for about than one-third of leadership roles, according to The Economist. The analysis also found progress to the top of companies is slow for women in most OECD countries.
The report ranked Scandinavia as the top country for working women, while South Korea and Japan ranked last.
More than half of executives, or 51%, say they will require employees to receive the vaccine before returning to work, according to a poll of 150 C-Suite executives released Tuesday.
A COVID-19 immunization record could become a business essential. Employers can legally require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine and even ban them from the office if they don’t, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In West Monroe’s Quarterly Executive Poll, a company’s desire for employees to get the vaccine directly correlates to their location.
East and West Coast companies, 59% and 55% respectively, said they would require workers to receive vaccine doses. While in the Midwest and south, CEOs are more likely to not require a vaccine, with 53% and 57% respectively saying they would not force employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
The majority of the executives do not expect their companies to stabilize or return to pre-pandemic revenue levels until near the end of 2021, the poll found. That’s the same timeframe that the vaccine is expected to be widely distributed.
While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the vaccine could be available to the general public as soon as the spring of 2021, the vaccine roll-out has failed to hit several key targets set by the Trump Administration. Recent vaccine timelines do not anticipate the US will achieve herd immunity until the end of the year.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, says he expects the COVID-19 vaccine will become mandatory in many institutions.
“I would not be surprised, as we get into the full scope of [COVID-19] vaccination, that some companies, some hospitals, some organizations might require [COVID-19] vaccination,” he said in an interview with Newsweek the first week of January.
In a December poll of 150 current and recent CEOs of major companies, 72% of respondents, – including Walmart, Goldman Sachs, and UPS – said they were open to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Despite the potential mandates, corporate workers are a low priority in vaccine distribution plans. Healthcare workers and frontline workers, as well as at risk members of the community take precedence over employees that can more easily work from home. The vaccine will likely not be available for non-essential workers for many months to come.