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Are you always fighting over the office temperature?

Are you always fighting over the office temperature?

What’s the perfect office temperature? Everyone you ask will have a different answer.

For some people, an office climate bordering on frosty is ideal; for others, anything below subtropical necessitates a blanket, fingerless gloves and an illicit space heater.

There’s no one thermostat setting that will make everyone happy. But in a new study, University of Southern California (USC) researchers in the United States offer the temperature that facilitates optimal productivity.

In a study published in the journal Plos One in June 2019, Tom Y. Chang, an associate professor of finance and business economics at the USC Marshall School of Business, and his team looked at how male and female students performed on math, verbal and cognitive tasks at temperatures ranging from 61°F (16ºC) to 91°F (33ºC).

The findings: Women performed better at temperatures between 70°F (21ºC) and 80°F (27ºC), whereas men performed better at temperatures below 70°F (21ºC).

However, women were more negatively impacted by colder temperatures than men were by warmer ones.

So, if an office manager is looking to maximise workplace productivity, where should the thermostat needle land?

“I’m cringing a little bit to say this,” Assoc Prof Chang said. “Seventy-five degrees (Fahrenheit, 24ºC) to me is boiling. That’s hot. I’m very warm at 75.

“But in a gender-balanced office environment, our results suggest that something like 75 degrees might be the optimal temperature to have for optimal productivity.”

This is not the first time the office thermostat battle has made headlines.

A 2015 study published in the journal Nature indicated office temperatures are generally set based on an empirical thermal comfort model from the 1960s, when the workforce was much more predominantly male.

In other words: Offices tend to be climate-controlled to men’s preferences, which we now know comes at the expense of women’s comfort and productivity.

A rash of articles about how the office AC is sexist followed, along with a College Humor video cataloging the very real ordeal of “women’s winter” in workplaces across America.

In rebuttals, the argument was made that this was a dress-code issue, not a thermostat one: Men traditionally wear suits to work, while women’s workwear tends to be lighter and more adaptable to the weather.

But without meaning to, this new study controlled for that – Assoc Prof Chang said that study participants were students, the vast majority of whom were dressed in weather-appropriate casual clothing.

So, even when you control for the dress code, men and women still have different temperature preferences.

The results came as a surprise to Alison Green, author of the advice site Ask a Manager, who’s received a number of letters over the years asking her to weigh in on the thermostat wars.

She said in the past, her advice has been to err on the side of chilly: It’s easier to put more clothes on and warm up than it is to remove them and cool down in a professional environment.

But hearing the results of the USC study, “now I’m questioning my advice,” she said, “especially given the gender divide on this.”

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have a firm ruling on office temperatures: It advises workplaces to be between 68°F (20ºC) and 76°F (24ºC), a fairly wide range.

Assuming your workplace isn’t dangerously hot or cold – if your employees are risking frostbite or heat stroke, then obviously, changes need to be made – Green said managers have some options for helping people acclimate to the indoor climate.

Try to allow space heaters or fans if it’s safe to do so, she said, and loosen up on the dress code when people are trying to stay comfortable at work.

Another option is to rearrange seating, so that the coldest person in the office isn’t positioned directly under a roaring AC vent, and the warmest isn’t baking next to your sunniest window.

In general, she said, as offices across the workforce relax dress-code standards, more people should be able to find clothing options so that they can focus more on work and less on the mercury wars.

In the meantime, science says to set the thermostat in the mid-70s (around 24ºC). – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service

These VSOPs (Very Strong Old Persons) are ageing gracefully by keeping active

These VSOPs (Very Strong Old Persons) are ageing gracefully by keeping active


I would like to honour fathers and grandfathers who, despite their advanced age, are still active and continue to make every day an adventure.

They may be a little slower, stiffer and more forgetful, yet they have made adjustments to their lifestyles to keep up with the changing times. From learning new skills to starting new activities, to developing new hobbies, these men just do whatever it takes to get on in life and live life to the fullest.

Foong Yoke Thong (born 1926)
A month shy of his 93rd birthday, my dad is still going strong and has full control of his mental facilities. Living in the city centre, he walks at least 2km each day to nearby malls for meals, shopping and daily essentials.

Highly methodical, he believes that there is a proper way to do everything, taking his time to do things well. He is blessed with infinite patience and that, I believe, is the key to his longevity. He continues to impart this teaching to his four daughters, even today.

Old man

Foong Yoke Thong is still going strong and has full control of his mental facilities.

Indulging in his hobbies is another contributing factor. His lifelong passion for First Day Covers involves going to the Post Office to first buy the Covers, and then carefully stamping them. Though he has retired from working life, he has not been “pensioned off” as the home handyman and pest controller.

Mentally, he is still active, reading newspapers and doing crossword puzzles. He also diligently cuts out interesting or funny stories to share with his four grandkids. For their birthdays, he would go to Chinatown in search of creative toys as presents, much to the children’s delight.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Foong Yoke Mun (born 1935)

My dad’s younger brother, 84, also leads an active life of mountain climbing, hashing, road running and Towerthon races.

When he was 71, he took just eight minutes to climb 22 floors of Menara MPBJ as part of the 24-hour Towerthon event. He did the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk at 73, white water rafting at 74, and sky diving just before he turned 80.

For his 80th birthday, he had wanted to conquer Mount Kinabalu for the third time, but the earthquake struck. Another disappointment was a hike to Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal in December, which he had to abandon due to extreme cold.

In between checking items off his bucket list, he keeps busy pottering around the garden and rearing fish, starting each day with a 5km walk. He has four children and two grandchildren.

Hashing grandpas

Teh Kan Tong (born 1937)

Fondly known as Uncle Teh, this self-employed professional electrical engineer has been a member of RLC Harriers for the last 20 years. He makes it a point to attend the weekly Tuesday hash runs, never takes shortcuts and completes the full course at walking pace, with his wife Margaret.

Old man

Big stride for Teh Kan Tong, a self-employed professional electrical engineer who has been a member of RLC Harriers for the last 20 years.

For Uncle Teh, life is about enjoying what he does, at his own pace. A typical day for this 82-year old starts with Qi Gong before attending to business matters from 10am.

Twice a year, he joins hiking tours overseas, which includes half-day hikes, in addition to the usual sightseeing.
Uncle Teh is blessed with two sons and a granddaughter.

Bob Yong (born 1938)

Old man

A retired Chartered Insurer, Bob Yong is a member of two hash chapters.

A retired Chartered Insurer, Bob Yong is a member of two hash chapters that run on Tuesdays and Fridays. Armed with a camcorder, Bob does a live recording of the trail and his fellow hashers, posting the videos on FB, YouTube and his personal blog.

For a non-millennial, Bob boldly embraced and successfully navigated the not-so-scary waters of digital technology, 11 years ago. Self-taught via online tutorials, he spends hours letting his creativity and imagination run wild when editing videos and doing song recordings.

Living by the motto “Passion conquers everything”, Bob’s zest for life saw him putting on a pirate costume for a themed event. His other passions include badminton, swimming, ballroom dancing and karaoke. Since 2003, he has been participating in karaoke competitions at inter-club and in-house levels.

He has two daughters and three grandchildren.

Tim Moey (born 1939)

He may have started hashing only at 60, but Tim Moey has definitely made up for lost time.

While in government service as a tax practitioner, he played mostly golf. Later, while attached to the private sector, he took up tennis and ballroom dancing.

Since joining hash, Tim has been enjoying nature while discovering off-the-beaten-track run sites in and around KL. As his fitness improved, running and hiking were added to the mix, opening up more newer and richer experiences.

Now 80, Tim is living testament that it’s never too late to start a new activity. To keep his mind active, he plays Sudoku on his iPad.

He has a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

Old man

Since joining hash 20 years ago, Tim Moey, now 80, has been enjoying nature while discovering off-the-beaten-track run sites in and around KL.

One in three imitate images of self-harm on Instagram

One in three imitate images of self-harm on Instagram

Young people who see images of cutting on Instagram are more likely to hurt themselves by imitating the act, and are also at higher risk for suicide, a new study suggests.

The research, led by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center in the United States, the University of Vienna in Austria, and the University of Leuven in Belgium, was published on May 27, 2019, in the journal New Media & Society.

It’s difficult to track how many youth harm themselves, but several studies suggest it’s more common than people think.

Researchers say about 18% of teenagers intentionally harm themselves and cutting is the most common form of self-injury.

Although those people are not necessarily suicidal in that moment, self-injury is one of the most powerful predictors of future suicidal thoughts.

The issue of cutting has gotten particular attention on Instagram, where images of mild to moderate cutting injuries can be seen frequently.

Researchers have found some images also show bleeding flesh wounds, with those images getting more comments.

Many people have raised concerns that such images will inspire copycats.

Decades of research on suicide has shown that certain types of news coverage can lead to an increase in suicides.

But little research has been done to see if the same effect exists for self-harm, especially on social media outlets.

As the conversation around social media’s effect on mental health continues, this is an area of increasing interest.

The study is based on 729 Americans, ages 18 to 29, who were recruited from internet gaming sites. Over 80% were women.

They were surveyed at two points a month apart, in May and June 2018.

They answered a host of questions, including several about suicide and the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, which led to a separate study published earlier in 2019.

The questions used in this study had to do with how often users came across images of self-harm on Instagram, whether they sought them out or found them accidentally, and whether they engaged in self-harm themselves.

More than 40% of the survey participants had seen a post of self-harm on Instagram at least once, and more than half of those had seen more than one.

Eighty percent of individuals who saw such posts said they encountered them by accident.

This can happen when certain hashtags overlap. For example, #cutting is sometimes used with images of self-harm, but it can also appear with #cat, to reference scratching or clawing.

Instagram users who click on #cutting from a cat post might then be led to self-harm images.

Nearly a third of the participants who saw self-harm posts at the first interview said that they had performed the same or very similar self-harming behaviour as a result.

They were more likely than people who didn’t see any self-harm content to report their own cutting at the second interview.

The finding persisted after researchers took into account other sources of self-harm or suicidal content users might be exposed to, as well as their past histories of self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

While the study cannot establish causation, authors say these types of images can normalise the act of self-harm for young people.

“The findings suggest that whether the Instagram posts instigate self-harm on their own or not, they do reach vulnerable young people and may play a role in encouraging similar behaviour in those who are exposed to them,” co-author and Annenberg Public Policy Center research director Dan Romer said in a statement.

Although the study found a correlation between seeing self-harm images on Instagram and individuals cutting themselves, it does not indicate if one causes the other.

It’s possible that people who are at higher risk of self-harm are more likely to run into this type of content.

It’s also hard to generalise the results, as the sample of participants was not representative of the general public.

Although they were not highly vulnerable individuals with mental illness, the group might have over-represented people concerned with suicide as that was disclosed as one purpose of the survey.

The sample was also largely female, and only included adults 18 and older.

Given the large number of teens of both genders that use Instagram, future studies may need to look at how that population is affected.

In February, Instagram announced that it would no longer allow graphic images of cutting, and will take steps to get more resources to people posting and searching for self-harm related content.

However, research has shown that self-harm images continue to appear on the platform.

With over 500 million daily active users, Instagram is struggling to monitor all the content.

The platform still allows non-graphic images of self-harm, such as scars. The company says this allows people to share stories of recovery and build a community without stigmatising them.

Researchers say the effect of non-graphic images need to be studied to determine if they are helpful or harmful. – The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service

There are dangerous levels of drugs in our rivers

There are dangerous levels of drugs in our rivers

Rivers worldwide are polluted with antibiotics that exceed environmental safety thresholds by up to 300 times, according to research unveiled at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’s annual meeting on May 28, 2019.

Scientists found one or more common antibiotics in two-thirds of 711 samples taken from rivers in 72 countries, they told the meeting in Helsinki, Finland.

In dozens of locations, concentrations of the drugs – used to fight off bacterial infection in people and livestock – exceeded safety levels set by the AMR Industry Alliance, a grouping of more than 100 biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

Ciprofloxacin, a frontline treatment for intestinal and urinary tract infections, surpassed the industry threshold at 51 of the sites tested.

At one location in Bangladesh, concentrations of another widely-used antibiotic, metronidazole, were 300 times above the limit, the researchers said.

“The results are quite eye-opening and worrying, demonstrating the widespread contamination of river systems around the world with antibiotic compounds,” Alistair Boxall, the study lead and a scientist at the York Environmental Sustainability Institute, University of York, in the United Kingdom, said in a statement.

The widespread presence of antibiotics not only impacts wildlife, but also likely contributes to the problem of antimicrobial resistance.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the world is running out of antibiotics that still work, and has called on industry and governments to urgently develop a new generation of drugs.

Discovered in the 1920s, antibiotics have saved tens of millions of lives from pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis and a host of other deadly bacterial infections.

Overuse and misuse of the drugs are thought to be the main causes of antimicrobial resistance.

But the growing presence of antibiotics in the environment may be a key factor too, the new research suggests.

Boxall and his team looked for 14 common antibiotics across six continents.

Safety limits were most frequently exceeded in Asia and Africa, but samples from Europe and the Americas showed that the problem is global in scope.

The countries with the highest levels of antibiotic river pollution were Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Within Europe, one site in Austria had the biggest concentrations anywhere on the continent.

Frozen water samples were collected from the Danube, Mekong, Seine, Thames, Tigris, Chao Phraya and dozens of other rivers.

“Until now, the majority of environmental monitoring work for antibiotics has been done in Europe, North America and China,” said co-author John Wilkinson, also from the University of York, where the samples were examined.

“Our study helps fill this know-ledge gap with data from countries that had never been monitored before.”

River systems around world are coursing with over-the-counter and prescription drugs of all kinds, according to another study from last year.

On current trends, it estimated, the amount of pharmaceutical effluence leaching into waterways could increase by two-thirds before mid-century.

A large number of drugs found in the environment – analgesics, antibiotics, anti-platelet agents, hormones, psychiatric drugs, anti-histamines – have been detected in nature at levels dangerous for wildlife.

Endocrine disruptors, for examples, have notoriously induced sex changes in fish and amphibians. – AFP Relaxnews

Burn-out is not a disease after all, says WHO

Burn-out is not a disease after all, says WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on May 28, 2019, that “burn-out” remains an “occupational phenomenon” that could lead someone to seek care, but it is not considered a medical condition.

The clarification came a day after the organisation mistakenly said it had listed burn-out in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) for the first time.

The World Health Assembly, the WHO’s main annual meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 20-28, 2019, approved the latest catalogue of diseases and injuries, collectively known as the ICD-11, during the meeting.

While burn-out was listed in the previous version, the ICD-10, its definition has been changed in the latest edition of the text.

“The definition has been modified based on existing research,” a WHO spokesperson said in an email.

WHO has now defined burn-out as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

It said the syndrome was characterised by: “1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy.”

“Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life”, according to the definition.

The updated ICD list was drafted last year following recommendations from health experts around the world.

The ICD-11, which is to take effect in January 2022, contains several other additions, including classification of “compulsive sexual behaviour” as a mental disorder, although it stops short of lumping the condition together with addictive behaviours.

It does however, for the first time, recognise video gaming as an addiction, listing it alongside gambling and drugs like cocaine.

The updated list removes transgenderism from its list of mental disorders, listing it instead under the chapter on “conditions related to sexual health”. – AFP Relaxnews

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