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  1. Attempting to get her new business off the ground, Anna worked in public services by day and as a startup founder during every other minute she could spare. She was feeling isolated by the extreme schedule and neglectful of her friends and family — typical of startup life — when she learned of her sister’s suicide. It would be the Twitter message, accidentally ignored for a month, that would send Anna reeling. The note asked that they get together. “I miss you,” it read. Anna finally saw it just days after her sister’s death. Grief doesn’t just come with sadness and loss. Grief can also come fully-loaded with guilt, anger, uncertainty, denial, regret, and so much more. Yet many companies lack norms or policies for dealing with grief — or “bereavement,” in HR-speak. Those that do have policies often find they’re insufficient. There are strict rules around what type of grief makes one eligible for leave. In most countries, a stillbirth doesn’t warrant bereavement leave, nor does the loss of a best friend, a favorite aunt, or a beloved nephew. In the U.S., Oregon is the only state to guarantee paid bereavement leave. Most current bereavement policies suggest that an employee should absorb their shock, plan and execute a funeral, cope in a healthy way with their loss, and then return to work within three days at full engagement.
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  2. Here's how to strike that "Goldilocks" balance between too much stress and too little. This may come as unpleasant news, but all stress isn’t bad. That doesn't mean that feeling overwhelmed and exhausted at work isn't a problem—it is. But some stress, in short bursts, can actually drive your performance on the job if you know how to use it. And that's a bit of a balancing act. You don't need to be told that too much stress can hurt your health and productivity. But many people don't quite grasp how to use a certain degree of work-related stress to help them. Here's a look at the different kinds of stress you're likely to experience and how to strike that delicate balance. PUTTING ACUTE STRESS TO WORK Research from the University of California–Berkeley hints at how some stress can actually be helpful. In the 2013 study, researchers subjected stem cells in the brains of rats to significant but brief periods of stress (in other words, "acute" stress), which caused them to generate new cells. Two weeks later, after these new cells had matured, the rats’ alertness, learning, and memory had improved. The researchers inferred that acute stress may help keep the brain alert, and that better alertness equals better performance. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense: Stress is what helps animals adapt and survive, and that's no less true for modern humans. Inanother study, scientists at UC San Francisco analyzed this effect on a cellular level in humans. The results indicated that while chronic stress is damaging, small bouts of acute stress keep our brains resilient and can condition us to persevere under pressure. So what does this research mean for the workplace? Simply that stress isn’t inherently bad and that some of it can actually be good. It can push employees forward and help them perform at their best. Think about delivering a presentation, landing a big account, or meeting a tight deadline. During each of these stressful events—which are limited in length and can feel intense but not life-threatening—employees kick into high gear and push themselves to get results. WHERE CHRONIC STRESS TAKES OVER Just because some stress is good doesn’t mean it all is, though. We’ve heard over and over again that stress can have a negative impact on our health and well-being. And that’s exactly what chronic stress does. As the Mayo Clinic explains, when we feel stress, hormones including adrenaline and cortisol are released. Once the stressful event is over, our hormone levels go back to normal. But when we constantly feel stressed, our response system stays active, which means our hormones remain at unhealthy levels for extended periods of time. This type of chronic stress impacts every system of the body, including the respiratory, cardiovascular, and endocrine systems. That can lead to changes in appetite, loss of sleep, panic and asthma attacks, heart disease, weight gain, and more, according to the American Psychological Association. Unfortunately, many professionals experience chronic stress on an daily basis. And when it takes a toll on the employees' health, it can hurt the health of a business as a whole. A 2015 study published inManagement Science found that workplace stress causes additional expenditures of anywhere from $125 to $190 billion dollars a year. So if occasional stress helps employees grow, but too much stunts them, the challenge is finding the right balance. Here are a few ways to do that. SET TOUGH BUT ACHIEVABLE CHALLENGE When employees get comfortable with their regular tasks, it’s time to push them outside their comfort zones with new responsibilities. Those unfamiliar tasks can introduce the right amount of stress that pushes them to take on new challenges and learn new things. If you’re going to give employees new tasks, though, you first need to remove some of the older responsibilities they’ve already mastered. Otherwise they’ll feel overloaded, which can lead to chronic stress. Many professionals feel they have an unrealistic amount of work to do already, so if you aren't careful to keep your team members' workloads in check, assigning that "stretch" assignment can lead to burnout, not growth. ASSIGN ONE BIG TASK AT A TIME Give employees a large task, like delivering a presentation, leading a meeting, spearheading an initiative, or taking the lead on a major project. Whatever the project is, only assign one at a time. That way, employees are clear on what their priorities are and what they need to focus on. Unclear expectations can be a huge stressor. Focusing on one project at a time will help clear up what needs to get done and allow employees to set realistic goals to complete them. At the same time, each new project will introduce small amounts of stress to steadily improve employees' performance and skill sets. GIVE YOUR TEAM MEMBERS CONTROL Many professionals feel they don't have enough control over the timelines for completing their work, a feeling that chronic stress tends to exacerbate. And when their managers constantly change their priorities, team members are left scrambling to stay on track—and chronically stressed out. Instead, work with employees to set realistic goals and deadlines. That doesn't mean getting rid of deadlines altogether—timetables can still help apply small amounts of acute stress, which can be useful. But it's important to give your team members some say over what deadlines make sense. That will help control stress levels to ensure that the pressure remains productive, not overwhelming. Chronic stress is rampant among employees, and employers need to do their part to help create healthier work environments. At the same time, they should challenge employees to reach their potential. So banishing stress from the workplace probably isn't a feasible solution any more than a desirable one. The right balance is tough to strike, but it's achievable. In fact, that's a pretty good target for work itself—tough but achievable.
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  3. 1. Are employers required to accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of applicants and employees? Yes. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on religion. This includes refusing to accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs or practices unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship (more than a minimal burden on operation of the business). A religious practice may be sincerely held by an individual even if newly adopted, not consistently observed, or different from the commonly followed tenets of the individual's religion. 2. What does Title VII mean by "religion"? Title VII defines "religion" very broadly. It includes traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It also includes religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, or only held by a small number of people. Some practices are religious for one person, but not religious for another person, such as not working on Saturday or on Sunday. One person may not work on Saturday for religious reasons; another person may not work on Saturday for family reasons. Under Title VII, a practice is religious if the employee's reason for the practice is religious. Social, political, or economic philosophies, or personal preferences, are not "religious" beliefs under Title VII. 3. What are some common religious accommodations sought in the workplace? Applicants and employees may obtain exceptions to rules or policies in order to follow their religious beliefs or practices. Remember that employers may grant these accommodations for religious reasons but still refuse to grant them for secular reasons. Examples of common religious accommodations include: an employee needs an exception to the company's dress and grooming code for a religious practice, e.g., Pentecostal Christian woman who does not wear pants or short skirts; a Muslim woman who wears a religious headscarf (hijab); or a Jewish man who wears a skullcap (yarmulke). The EEOC has developed a technical assistance document "Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities" along with a fact sheet explaining these issues due to the frequency of their occurrence. a Catholic employee needs a schedule change so that he can attend church services on Good Friday; an atheist needs to be excused from the religious invocation offered at the beginning of staff meetings; a Christian pharmacy employee needs to be excused from filling birth control prescriptions , or a Jehovah's Witness seeks to change job tasks at a factory so that he will not have to work on producing war weapons; an adherent to Native American spiritual beliefs needs unpaid leave to attend a ritual ceremony, or a Muslim employee needs a break schedule that will permit daily prayers at prescribed times; an employee needs accommodation of a religious belief that working on his Sabbath is prohibited. 4. How does an employer determine if a religious accommodation imposes more than a minimal burden on operation of the business (or an "undue hardship")? Examples of burdens on business that are more than minimal (or an "undue hardship") include: violating a seniority system; causing a lack of necessary staffing; jeopardizing security or health; or costing the employer more than a minimal amount. If a schedule change would impose an undue hardship, the employer must allow co-workers to voluntarily substitute or swap shifts to accommodate the employee's religious belief or practice. If an employee cannot be accommodated in his current position, transfer to a vacant position may be possible. Infrequent payment of overtime to employees who substitute shifts is not considered an undue hardship. Customer preference or co-worker disgruntlement does not justify denying a religious accommodation. It is advisable for employers to make a case-by-case determination of any requested religious accommodations, and to train managers accordingly. 5. What other protections might apply, and where can I get more information? Title VII also prohibits disparate treatment, job segregation, or harassment based on religious belief or practice (or lack thereof), as well as retaliation for the exercise of EEO rights. EEOC publications on religious discrimination and accommodation are available on our website. What You Should Know About Workplace Religious Accommodation Search Jehovah´s witnesses

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