Tag Archives: stress

Professional Pets

May 3, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Some of the names spoken about at the marketing firm Envoy might seem unorthodox: Adam, Steve, Stella … and Butter? These names don’t belong to people, but to a pair of Devon rex cats, a French bulldog/pug, and a mini goldendoodle. Dentists have kept tropical aquariums in their waiting rooms for generations, but expanding a workplace’s pet-tential is far more common than that.

Penny Hatchell and Kathy Broniecki have owned Envoy for 13 years, producing materials for clients as varied as Hiland Dairy, Boys Town, and Max I. Walker Cleaners. The decision to allow pets in the office came from the desire to create a flexible and welcoming work environment: “We love to come to work, and we want our employees to come to work,” Broniecki explains. The decision seems to be working for them: “There’s a much greater overall wellness to the office—our quality and productivity has improved, and it keeps things light.”

Kathy Broniecki’s French bulldog/pug, Stella, comes to the office daily.

The animals are great for keeping employees happy, or helping employees who have a bad day cheer up.

“This has been studied and we can see that animals have value in emotional therapy, or to be assistant animals in places like nursing homes,” says Teresa T. Freeman, a therapist in Omaha. “They have noticed a positive effect in studies pets have on people in isolated situations to help boost their mood, wellness, and even improve physiology—things like heart rate, blood pressure, and other stress responses.”

The cats were rescued and considered part of Envoy, while the dogs and a hedgehog are others’ personal pets.

Broniecki says the company is reasonable about how having pets around can affect productivity, too: “It’s natural to get distracted at work, and focusing too hard can just make things worse. Getting by distracted by the pets is a much more positive outlet than other options,” Broniecki says.

Perhaps the greatest boon to Envoy has been the camaraderie the animals’ presence has built. “One stormy day,” Broniecki says, “Adam the cat went missing. It became an all-hands-on- deck situation in that moment trying to find him.” Everyone keeps treats on their desks for them, and when the dogs arrive in the morning, they make sure to greet every employee first thing, desk by desk. Hatchell, who takes the cats home with her when the day is over, adds: “even over the holidays, I’ll get texts asking how they’re doing, and even requesting pics.”

That camaraderie is a common bond between employees and furry friends, and can be a way to connect with shyer clients or new staff members.

“It breaks down barriers,” Freeman says. “People may not be comfortable with where they’re at emotionally, or isolated.”

Envoy’s office cat Adam, is a rescue cat.

Envoy is not alone in enjoying the pet perks. At J.A. McCoy CPA (located off 90th and Maple streets) Julie McCoy, in partnership with her rescue dog JoJo, tackles that lightning rod of stressful situations—taxes. McCoy has kept a dog at work since day one of starting her firm. “We work a lot of long hours, and dealing with taxes and estates is often not a fun experience. But with JoJo here, people look forward to coming in,” she says. Like at Envoy, McCoy has seen the same positive influence in her office: “Clients love it–we get a lot of business by word of mouth because of JoJo.” And of course, employees are encouraged to have play time. “We’re doing stuff that requires a lot of concentration, so it’s good to have a break.”

Pam Wiese, V.P. of public relations for the Nebraska Humane Society, also believes that having pets in the office can do wonders to reduce stress. “Focusing on something that isn’t another person, like the nurturing qualities of animals, can help calm people down.” Pets, she says, provide an element of levity that certainly has value in defusing tense work scenarios. She brings her own dog to work every day, but cats, fish, and even critters can all contribute. “We once had a bearded dragon here in the office. He’d sit out on his rock and sunbathe while people came to visit him over their lunches,” Wiese says. Though the NHS has not made any concerted push to get animals into offices, they have had their share of interested parties looking to adopt. “We’re happy to work with people to find an animal for them,” she says, “as long as it’s an appropriate situation.”

There are certainly many factors to weigh before introducing a pet into your own office. “Animals need to be comfortable,” Weise says. If the conditions aren’t safe or comforting for the pet, that opens up the opportunity for additional problems, like becoming loud or aggressive. If you’re going to have a pet, they will need to have their own private space and occasionally training to cope with many active people surrounding them. There’s also the human factor to consider: not everyone is an animal lover. “You’ll need to be considerate of the phobias, allergies, and even prejudices of the people passing through your workplace.”

McCoy, Broniecki, and Hatchell were all able to speak to experiences with clients that turned sour because of their furry compatriots, but also noted that they were few and far between. “Only one client of ours didn’t want to come to the office because we had cats,” Hatchell explains. Similarly, McCoy shared that she did have clients with phobias: “We always try to be upfront and communicate ahead we’re a pet-friendly office. When a client comes in that has trouble with that, we make sure JoJo stays in her ‘office’ [and she does have an office, nameplate and all].”

Regardless, they were each in confident agreement: their pawed pals have been a big plus for their businesses.

Nora belongs to Amy Goldyn.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Hopelessly Devoted

April 14, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

At 63, John Erickson looks like he could still put a sleeper hold on a steer. If possessing the intimidating presence of a Midwestern hit man is a hurdle to getting acquainted with someone, it is a blissfully low one.

“I admit it is a barrier, looking like a bouncer or a cleaner, that kind of thing,” Erickson says, musing on the subject of first impressions at Caffeine Dreams where he’s a fixture, even lending his mug to a Joshua Foo photo exhibit on faces.

Tough though he may be, Erickson is also a healer, a licensed therapist trained in suicidology. He “tends the garden of the mind” at Bergan as well as doing risk assessments in “jail settings.”

In this stressful, post-9/11 world, our understanding of brain function has increased dramatically.

Much of that time Erickson has been on the front lines. One might expect a suicidologist to be morbid, but nothing is further from the truth.

“We have much greater understanding of brain function today and it’s well established that when our system gets stressed, we can reach a tipping point,” says Erickson. “And we live in very stressful times.”

From contentious politics to the carnival of souls that is Facebook, stress is omnipresent.

“Studies have been done of children growing up in poverty, where their neurological systems show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder,” says Erickson, whose wife is a fifth grade teacher.

“She teaches in a school with a lot of poverty, and it does have an effect. It takes a compassionate response based on understanding and respect. Walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you judge or criticize them.”

Police and medics are called for mental illness related welfare checks that can end tragically, but Erickson believes mental illness first aid training has been paying off in Omaha. 

“Credit to the Omaha Police Department for handling things. A lot of times, they have no idea what they’re going to walk into or what the response is going to be,” Erickson says. “I’ve just recently had police respond to a patient of mine who was distressed and they handled it exceptionally well. There are more and more police officers understanding mental illness.”

Training mentally ill patients to call attention to their psychiatric conditions during crisis helps forestall tragedy, says Erickson, who is not just an advocate for others, but himself as well.

“There are different levels of mental illness. It is very common. I have attention deficit disorder. It’s a lifelong condition,” Erickson says. “We all have a tipping point…and as the mind goes, so goes the body. Some have neurological systems that are over-reactive or under-reactive to stress. Anytime we feel threatened—physically, socially, intellectually, or emotionally. There is a segment of the population with mental illness that just has a very difficult time handling stress.”

Helping others can cause stress as well. John recently came off medical leave for compassion fatigue. Insurance issues left him feeling “like he was driving down a winding road with faulty brakes.” Knowing that feeling personally is one reason John has trained in suicidology.

“Suicide is the heart attack of mental illness,” John says about why he keeps going. “I’ve had an opportunity to have patients who are more than patients; they’re friends. I care about them. It doesn’t always work out, but it does have an effect.” 

JohnErickson2

Anger

January 11, 2014 by

Anger and frustration are emotions everyone experiences. The ways we manage those feelings are what is important. Teenagers are not experts at managing their anger and frustration in comparison to adults. Every day is a learning experience, especially for teenagers who are involved in many activities.

School is what most teenagers, I find, get angry about. Whether it is because of their heavy homework load or being up early on a Monday morning, there is always someone complaining about school. It makes sense—school takes up the majority of our time. We spend seven to eight hours at school a day, not counting the clubs or sports that follow after the final bell rings. To the average teenager, school is like a second home.

I also get frustrated with the stresses of school and grades, but I understand how to manage it. My friends and family are always there for me, patiently listening to me vent when I have a bad day. They have my back and will sympathize and help me rationalize my anger. It is a healthy way to unleash my anger and frustration without taking it out on someone else or letting it overly affect me.

Teachers and counselors are also resources that can be used for teenagers who are angry or upset. If it is about a specific reason involving school, they are the perfect people to express concerns to. It is their job to be considerate and be understanding of the problems a student may have. It is also a healthy way to release that bottled up anger or frustration.

Being a teenager can be challenging and frustrating, but there are many ways to manage those negative emotions. Every day we learn and grow, and soon we will learn not to sweat the small stuff and find other healthy ways to deal with our anger.

Halston Belcastro is a student at Millard West High School.

Stress

September 24, 2013 by

Over the years, I’ve accepted that stress is a part of life—especially for a high-school student. Balancing work and play isn’t an easy task and will be something that I will have to do for the rest of my life.

There have been countless times where I’ve wanted to pull out my hair over an assignment or just give up on a late night study session and go to sleep. There have also been times where I’ve felt overwhelmed with homework and projects and figuring out where I can fit in eating, sleeping, and socializing. The one thing I’ve learned is that running away isn’t going to finish that assignment or project. The only choice you have to deplete that stress is to get it done and off your plate.

It’s weird to think that stress can be rewarding. After I complete an assignment that was stressing me out, I always feel a little proud and relieved. It’s a little weight off my shoulders and makes my steps a little lighter as I go about the rest of my day. The small successes of finishing that math homework or reading those assigned pages should be celebrated to keep up that positivity. Stress can take a toll on me, and without recognizing those small victories, there is no break from the constant stress of life’s hard moments.

Stress, whether we like it or not, is an inevitable part of life. A little positivity never hurt anyone and can go a long way when stress eats away at us. Celebrating those small wins over stress, no matter how unimportant they seem, can truly make a difference.

Halston Belcastro is a student at Millard West High School.

Feeling the Heat

June 20, 2013 by

Everyone loves a little fun in the sun, but when people linger in the sun’s rays a little too long, it can have harmful effects on their health, especially for seniors.

Heat-related illnesses, collectively known as hyperthermia, occur when the body overheats and does not have the sufficient means to cool itself down. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the elderly are more prone to the sun’s harmful rays because they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition or take medication that inhibits normal body responses to heat.

“People who work in high heat develop a certain degree of tolerance. With the elderly, their ability to adapt to extreme temperatures is limited, and the body’s ability to maintain status quo is much more at risk,” says Kris Stapp, vice president of community and public health at Omaha’s Visiting Nurse Association.

Heat exhaustion is a mild form of heat stress. Continuous exposure to high temperatures, combined with high humidity and physical exertion, can lead to dehydration. If you develop heavy sweating, a pale complexion, muscle cramps, and a sense of tiredness, you may be suffering from heat exhaustion. If not controlled, heat exhaustion can escalate to heat stroke, which can cause permanent brain and organ damage.

Stapp stresses the importance of taking into account the timing of outdoor activities, especially strenuous ones such as gardening or walking. Older folks may need to adapt their outdoor plans in times of extreme heat.

“What is dangerous about any heat-related illness is, it comes on so subtly that people don’t realize it’s happening until the symptoms really set in,” Stapp says. “When people get to the point where they are confused, it can lead to unconsciousness.”

To combat heat stress, the CDC advises drinking plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. Make sure to get plenty of rest and try to stay in air-conditioned environments during the heat of the day. Also, make sure to wear lightweight clothing if venturing outdoors.

“Be smart,” Stapp says. “It’s about turning all this information around, and not only knowing the warning signs, but also how to prevent it from happening.”

Dogs at Work

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For millennia, humans have used dogs for a myriad of purposes—as guides, as friends, even as surrogate children, which is increasingly common in 21st-century America.

But coworker? Office buddy? Cubicle K9?

“I’ve heard of companies letting you bring your dogs to work in other parts of the country,” says Nicholle Reisdorff, owner of the full-service doggie boarding house and playground, Dogtopia. “In Omaha? I bring my dogs to work. Many of the vet clinics allow it. But not much beyond animal-centric businesses as far as I know.”

Apparently, Omaha is behind the curve compared to the coasts regarding the increasingly common company policy of allowing employees to bring their dogs to work.

The biggest employer in the greater metro area to allow pets is Google, which allows dogs at its Council Bluffs data center, as well as its other facilities across the country.

Google allows dogs at work, Google spokeswoman Katelin Todhunter-Gerberg says, because the company recognizes that dogs in the workplace can often enhance the quality of employees’ work lives.

“I totally agree with the concept that having your dog is a stress reliever and likely something that makes you happier at work.” – Katelin Todhunter-Gerberg, Google spokeswoman

The presence of dogs has been a “unique and treasured” part of the company’s culture, she explains.

Yes, there are restrictions. The company’s dog policy rests on respect for other employees and visitors at Google facilities, she says. Dogs must be properly licensed, vaccinated, supervised, and leashed at all times.

Although Google has been able to pull off the dogs-at-work concept for years (as have numerous Silicon Valley companies among others), Reisdorff says she can imagine problems in some workplaces with certain types of dogs.

“I totally agree with the concept that having your dog is a stress reliever and likely something that makes you happier at work,” she says. “But I wonder about those potential impacts on those around you.”

Such a “dogs-at-work” program is part of the broader trend of humans increasingly treating their pets as “basically their children,” she says.

You’ve seen those couples who talk to their dogs as if they were little offspring and take them to nice doggy daycares like, say, Dogtopia.

Why the growing attachment to dogs in our society?

“I think with people getting married later, with people having children later, you more and more have the pets playing the role of children in peoples’ lives,” she says. “And there’s just the simple fact that dogs are such super-social beings, so full of love. Once you love a dog, it’s hard not to want to pamper them and be with them as much as possible.”