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The Cost of Multi Tasking

Think all your devices boost productivity? Think again.
We’ve all done it… checking emails on our phones while signing school permission slips, and at the same time scrolling through our tablets checking tomorrow’s weather—as well as  preparing a nutritious dinner for the family. Our devices simplify and expedite life’s mundane tasks to free us to engage in more meaningful things, right? As it turns out, all of your digitally-aided multitasking may be actually slowing your productivity.

In the book, The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High Tech World, by Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, and Larry Rosen, a research psychologist and professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, we learn why the brain can't multitask, and why any of our efforts to keep up with email are likely lowering productive output.

For example, “our tendency to respond immediately to emails and texts gets in the way of high-level thinking,” Dr. Grazzaley explains. Some studies suggest if you're in the middle of a project and stop to answer somebody's email or text, it could take almost a half-hour for you to get back on task.

How the digital age zaps productivity
How to Boost Productivity
Dr. Gazzaley recommends these tricks to boost your productivity.
  • Clear your workspace. Remove mobile devices and extraneous papers.
  • Use one computer screen. Shut down all unnecessary programs and apps.
  • Open one browser, and use only one tab.
  • Turn off email. I know—just try it.
  • Set expectations. Tell your boss you're going offline for a while. Or, set an auto response for texts and emails, explaining that you'll be offline for a set period of time.
  • Work in a quiet environment. If you must work with clamor, use noise-canceling headphones.
  • Display a "no interruption zone" sign at your desk or on your office door.
  • Check out helpful apps like SelfControl, Freedom, or FocusMe. 
"The prefrontal cortex is the area most challenged," said Dr. Gazzaley, referring to the area of the brain responsible for things such as planning, complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision-making, and moderating social behavior. "And then visual areas, auditory areas, and the hippocampus—these networks are really what's challenged when we are constantly switching between multiple tasks that our technological world might throw at us."

Dr.Gazzaley uses an example of checking your email while also listening in on a conference call. "Doing that makes it so incredibly obvious how you can't really parallel process, two attention-demanding tasks," he said. "You either have to catch up, and ask what happened in the conversation, or you have to read over the email before you send it."

When you engage in one task at a time, the prefrontal cortex works in harmony with other parts of the brain, he explains, but when you attempt to multitask, it forces the left and right sides of the brain to work independently, not as intended.

"When a focused stream of thought is interrupted, it needs to be reset," says Dr. Gazzaley. "You can't just press a button and switch back to it. You have to re-engage those thought processes, and re-create all the elements of what you were engaged in. That takes time, and frequently one interruption leads to another."

If you need to focus, there are some great tips from Dr. Gazzaley for turning off distractions in the sidebar above. Then, get back to work!
From the article, Don’t Look Now! How Your Devices Hurt Your Productivity by Lesley McClurg, NPR Shots


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Want to Prevent the flu?

During flu season we see advertisements promoting juices and vitamin supplements claiming to boost immunity or support immune function. Unfortunately, those are only marketing terms, not scientifically supported claims.

When you are exposed to a virus like the influenza, several factors determine whether you actually get sick or the severity if you do get sick.  Kathy Knight, RN, EMHS director of the Center for Emergency Preparedness warns, “The unusually low fuel costs during the holiday season has resulted in a notable increase in ground and air travel. Increased holiday travel brings greater opportunity to be inadvertently exposed to a number of illnesses, including the flu.  Participating in the employee influenza vaccination program is the single greatest defense against contracting the flu during this busy time.”

While immune system status and age are other important factors, what you eat really matters. "We know for a healthy immune system, you need a healthy diet," says Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian nutritionist and clinical associate professor at Boston University. “You need protein, as well as micronutrients including vitamins C, A, and E and zinc.” According to Blake, the best way to get those nutrients is to eat a healthy varied diet which includes sufficient protein and a variety of fruits and vegetables, not through supplements.

Taking mega-doses of vitamins is not going to supercharge your immune system or prevent you from catching the flu or other respiratory viruses. Vitamin C, often thought to keep you healthy in the winter, doesn't seem to reduce the incidence of colds. Although there is evidence, according to a 2013 Cochrane review, that consuming Vitamin C may decrease the duration of the illness when it does occur.

Juices chock-full of vitamins sound attractive–after all, they are made from real foods. But Salge Blake says the best way to get the nutrients supplied by fruits and vegetables is to actually eat the fruits and vegetables themselves. That way you get the fiber, which slows the absorption of natural sugars and carries its own health benefits. Drinking juices also makes it easy for extra calories to sneak into your diet and obesity suppresses immune function.

What can the average person do who wants to make sure their immune system is as healthy as possible? In addition to a healthful diet and sufficient sleep, Poland recommends exercise, staying up to date on flu and pertussis vaccinations, staying away from people who are obviously sick, and washing your hands. Knight adds, “By obtaining our influenza vaccination and practicing good hand hygiene, healthcare employees can take a necessary step to protect their patients, visitors, co-workers and families from a potentially very serious illness."

From the article, Want To Prevent The Flu? Skip The Supplements, Eat Your Veggies by Katherine Hobson, NPR Shots.

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New EMHS Workshop

The EMHS Talent and Diversity team wants to wish everyone a happy holiday season! We have a lot to be thankful for as this year comes to an end thanks to you. Since we began systemwide professional development training, our team has grown our catalog of choices from five original workshops to eleven workshops. Thus far nearly two thousand participants have taken varied workshops with the same foundational goal: to equip employees with valuable tools and resources to help them grow professionally. We continue to add workshop content relevant to our employees based on your suggestions from our recent Needs Assessment Survey. Our newest workshop, Change Management, will be unveiled in February—stay tuned for additional information.

See what your peers are saying about our workshops:

“I really enjoyed participating in the Effective Time and Energy Management Workshop with Danielle. I was unsure where I would carve time out time in my day to attend, but I’m so glad I did! I appreciated the focus on both personal and professional time and energy management. It can be overwhelming at times navigating parenting two young children and leading a department at work. From the workshop, I learned how to prioritize my emotional, mental, and spiritual energy. Hearing tips for managing emails and discussing common communication challenges was helpful. Learning from the tools given to me, I created an action plan to manage my time and energy which involved booking a vacation! Having that downtime to look forward to has had a very positive affect on me. I also enjoyed the mix of participants within my class and being able to see situations from other people’s perspective.” - Barb Haskell, Blue Hill Memorial Hospital

“I love these workshops. Whether I learn new material or it’s just a refresher of skills I already have, I always walk away feeling like I can use the information to make a difference. Thanks for continuing to offer these.” - Jennifer Sewell, Eastern Maine Medical Center

“In regards to both Art of Difficult Conversations and Conflict Resolution, it is nearly impossible, in my opinion, to work to the best of your ability while under stress. If that stress is the result of conflict within the work environment, these workshops will help you. You can read every book there is and know as much as there is to know regarding your particular vocation, but if you lack the knowledge of how to work with different personalities, and lack the skills necessary to pull those personalities together toward a common goal, you’re going nowhere. Great workshop, great information, and techniques that work.” - Sherry Powell-Wilson, Inland Hospital

Remember, the workshop schedule is posted on the Talent Management Portal through March leaving plenty of time to plan.

We look forward to seeing you at the next workshop!
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Decorate The Halls!

Deck the Halls with Values

What are EMHS’ “Values” and why do we need them? Well, our core values are EMHS’ version of the Golden Rule, the tenet of how we treat one another and interact with our customers and others. Values help guide the basic elements of how we go about our work and guide us in decision making—something we all have in common. Our values underlie our work, how interact with each other, and guide which strategies we employ to fulfill our mission.
It all begins with our mission: EMHS partners with individuals and communities to improve health and well-being by providing high quality, cost effective services. Well, that all sounds nice, but what does that have to do with you and values? At the Home Office, we tend to be a few degrees removed from direct patient care and may lose sight of how much our members rely on support services to ensure our patients receive the best, most affordable care.
The EMHS Values Team’s purpose is be a steward of the EMHS values of Passion, Innovation, Integrity, Respect, Accountability, and Partnership, to promote Service Excellence in all that we do. We are always in search of ways to personify the values, bring them to life, and make them part of our daily conversation.   
New this year, the Values Team is inviting employees and their families to participate in the first annual “Decorate the Halls” event. In lieu of our traditional holiday window paintings of previous years, in which participation was a challenge due in part to employees’ demanding schedules, we are trying something new. This is a poster contest encouraging employees and their families to submit drawings that show all or any of our six values—get creative and colorful! All artwork will be displayed in the Cianchette atrium.

For more information, please visit our Values Team portal page

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Welcome Tony!

It is a good omen if employees walk right by cake and make their way to you to firmly shake your hand. On November 21, Tony Filer, our new EMHS senior vice president and chief financial officer, was warmly greeted by a steady stream of employees at his meet-and-greet event held at the Home Office.

"It was a pleasure to meet the great team members here at the Home Office,” Tony reflects. “It was very affirming to me that joining EMHS was a wise choice, and I am very excited about serving this organization and its mission as EMHS’ chief financial officer."  Tony’s first official day on the job was November 14.

A native of Pennsylvania, Tony comes to EMHS most recently from Presence Health based in Chicago, having served as their chief operations officer and most recently as their chief financial officer. With more than thirty years of healthcare experience, Tony is highly skilled in financial and operational leadership. He is a graduate of Susquehanna University, is a certified public accountant, and a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Welcome Tony!


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Federal Overtime Rules Put on Hold

This week you were updated on the Fair Labor Standards Act, specifically a ruling on overtime wages. On November 22, a federal judge in Texas granted a preliminary injunction, a temporary blocking of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) new overtime (OT) regulations from taking effect nationwide on December 1 as originally scheduled. EMHS, along with employers across the country, had been prepared for the December 1 deadline and will respond to this injunction by not moving exempt (salaried) employees who would have been made non-exempt (hourly) as a result of the rule change–this represented about two percent of our workforce systemwide.
Judge Amos L. Mazzant III of the Eastern District of Texas ruled the Obama administration exceeded its authority by more than doubling the OT threshold in one fell swoop. Mazzant’s stated the December 1 deadline did not allow enough time to “render a meaningful decision on the merits” of the DOL’s arguments in favor of the new OT rule or the counter-arguments put forward by the 21 states (including Maine) that sought the temporary injunction.
The regulations had been slated to expand by millions nationwide the number of workers who would be eligible for time-and-a-half overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours by raising the salary threshold for determining eligibility for overtime pay from $23,660 per year, or $455 per week, to $47,476, or $913 per week. Like other employers nationwide, EMHS will wait on the final determination by the courts.
The court will now proceed to conduct a hearing on the motion for a permanent injunction and issue a further ruling. That process could take several months. The U.S. Department of Labor could seek an early appeal to the U.S. District Court for the Fifth Circuit, which would likely be a lengthy process.
We will keep you informed as more information is made available. Please reach out to your regional Human Resources leaders should you have questions.

Source: Federal judge puts brakes on new OT rules slated to take effect Dec. 1 by James McCarthy, MaineBiz.