chunks of time in my calendar for
“thinking.” I used a calendar code in
the subject line: “ABC” – “Available By
These time slots were not to be
interrupted with impromptu meetings
and I was to be communicated with
by cell for emergencies only. I needed
the freedom to leave the office; the
freedom to think.
A dominant part of an executive’s
role is to think strategically. Leaders
need to think, analyze and access
information as to guide the future for
their staff and the company. Strategic
thinking is one of the most critical
activities for a company.
Stopping and thinking is the best
risk control measure, assuring that
proper decisions can be made.
As Meg Wheatley said, “Without
reflection, we go blindly on our
way, creating more unintended
consequences and often fail to achieve
anything useful.” &
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is a specialist in
innovative enterprise risk management
methods and implementation techniques.
Ihave always seen myself as a good multitasker. I think I enjoy the challenge of taking on more and more; like a
juggler training to beat a world record for how many
Science has proven time and again
that breaks save us from confusion.
Our brains were not designed
for extended focus. Our brains
need a brief interruption to reset,
an opportunity to deactivate then
reactivate. In fact, a break helps us
better retain information, helps
us make better connections with
information received, and forces us to
take a step back and reevaluate what
we are trying to achieve, keeping us
from getting lost in the weeds.
Knowing all this, why do people still
find it hard to take breaks? Is there a
stigma attached to them, making one
feel almost guilty or less productive?
Moreover, why is this attitude more
prevalent at the C-Suite level? Does
the idea of the boss taking a break
make them look weak? Fallible?
Staffers who take a break often
take a walk, exercise at the gym,
get a coffee, or chat with friends or
coworkers. In my experience it is rare
to see senior leaders do this. We tend
to take our breaks in private.
The best advice I got was to first
commandeer my calendar from my
zealous admin and personally schedule
time to work.
Only after staff went home did I
have a chance to do any work. I was
tired and wired. I likely wasn’t making
the best decisions. Quite frankly, I was
poised to become a strategic risk for
the organization. Ironic, of course,
since I was the risk officer.
I knew this juggling act was
unsustainable long term. I sought
counsel and got the simplest advice
from a very seasoned and successful
executive colleague. I was instructed to
boldly “schedule time to think.” Stay
busy, but stay busy in a smart way.
We have all heard that taking
scheduled breaks makes us happier,
more focused and more productive.
balls can be kept in the air at any one
time. My philosophy has always been:
“If you want something done, ask a
Research tells us that busy people
really do accomplish more. Simply
put, being busy reduces our sense of
failure by staying busy.
But I confess, my thinking started
to fall apart when I started working as
a senior executive. My day typically
started just after dawn and didn’t end
until well into the evening.
My days were filled by my eager
admin with back-to-back meetings, all
day, every day.
I rarely took lunch. I never took a
break. So many balls, so little time, no
BY ROBERTO CENICEROS
comorbidities and claims severity
further, SEPTA partners with the
University of Pennsylvania for a
weight-loss program employees can
SEPTA also sponsors a farm-share
program to help employees buy fresh
produce, offers yoga classes at its
headquarters, and placed stationary
bikes in four workplace locations
where bus drivers congregate.
Personal responsibility is also a
huge factor in a worker’s health and
it’s up to the drivers to get on those
bikes and take advantage of SEPTA’s
other health improvement offerings.
SEPTA, meanwhile, does not yet
have outcomes data to definitively
determine the effectiveness of its
Complacency isn’t a risk-management tool. Creativity is. &
ROBERTO CENICEROS is senior editor
at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the
National Workers’ Compensation and
Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Graham has a front row seat for viewing how work roles can influence employee health, even
contributing to differences in physiques after years of
recovering [faster post injury] than the
folks that are not moving.”
It is also easier to engineer
workplace safety measures that
mitigate mechanic injury frequency.
SEPTA adopted many accident-prevention measures for its buses
and drivers. But unlike its ability to
control the mechanics’ environment,
it can’t control the weather or the
other motorists that its bus operators
encounter on crowded city streets.
That caps SEPTA’s ability to mitigate
causes of bus driver injury frequency.
Meanwhile, there is no
replacement for the valuable
experience its bus drivers of many
years bring to the job, Graham
said. SEPTA needs them at work
to provide the public with about
1.1 million daily rides, and do so on
So SEPTA employs a range of
claims strategies like assigning nurse
case managers to help injured workers
with the comorbidities that can
complicate their return to work.
But in hopes of reducing
jobs entail frequent movement
throughout their workdays.
His observation of body differences
isn’t the only factor making Graham
a wellness believer. Claims severity,
and the frequency of comorbidities
impacting injury recovery also
differs substantially between the two
“I’m a believer because I don’t
think you have to look too much
further than the differences in our
workforce,” Graham said. “You start
to see the folks that are on their
feet, moving and doing different
things every day. We know that more
often they are going to get better,
Transportation Authority is a believer
in the wellness services SEPTA offers
in an attempt to help its nearly 10,000
employees improve their health.
The wellness efforts provide an
example of the creativity employers
must reach for when other exposure
mitigation strategies reveal their
SEPTA bus drivers, whose roles
require constant sitting, appear
different after years of service than do
SEPTA’s mechanics, whose physical
BY JOANNA MAKOMASKI