From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Readers Respond: What Will They Mute Next? And a Workable Definition of Control For the Workplace

Dear Editor:

I just had a couple comments regarding your article, Lawmakers Look to Mute In-Dash Navigators and Cell Phones [Ergonomics Today, June 20, 2003]:

#1: It would be interesting to see the research and how it was conducted to determine that the driver’s eyes were not on the road 75% of the time. How would it compare with trying to look at a regular map while driving?

#2: With the use of a hands-free cell phone they stated that research indicates response times were still negatively impacted. How does that compare with having other people in the car with you? Children in the car probably cause more distraction than a cell phone. Will they now say that we should not drive with anyone else in the car? Where will it stop?

Thank you,
Rhoda Matheson
Occupational Therapist

Dear Editor:

These days, most stress researchers believe that “having control” in your job is healthy [Guidelines Look to Regulate Workplace Stress; Ergonomics Today, June 25, 2003]. I agree, but I think that the idea is very confused.

The release this week of the HSE’s new stress strategy has stimulated me to write to you about it, hopefully to shed some light.

It is clearly true that people (and animals) nearer the top of a stable social hierarchy are in better health than those nearer the bottom. That’s what the Whitehall studies measured. But we can’t just call this “control,” because that would be lumping several quite different things together.

I think that control over your work means, first and foremost, your ability to finish. If you can’t finish your work, you can’t relax, and in the long term that’s as close to a definition of “stress” as you need. The new strategy proposed on 16 June 2003 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK misses this point almost entirely; instead, it defines control as simply “having a say” in the way that you do your work.

Control is not about consultation