How Your Office's Social Culture Can Affect Your Health


Anyone who’s ever worked in an office can tell you that liking your cubicle-mates can make going to work a significantly more enjoyable experience, but new research says identifying with and feeling a strong connection to the people you work with has actually been shown to improve your overall health and sense of well-being. According to an international meta-analysis of 58 studies involving more than 19,000 people published in the academic journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, feeling like you and your colleagues are on the same team, and, maybe more importantly, feeling like your colleagues feel the same way, isn’t just good for workplace productivity, it’s good for workers’ mental and physiological states, too.

Niklas Steffens, the analysis’s University of Queensland-based lead researcher, says his team’s key findings suggest that when people are particularly invested in their social relationships at work, there’s more evidence of health benefits and lower levels of burnout.

“When we identify with our workgroup and organization, this provides us with a sense of ‘we-ness’— which is a basis for a sense of belonging, agency and social support, and a sense of meaning and purpose,” Steffens told mental_floss in an email.

To make their conclusions, Steffens and his team (which included researchers from China, Germany, and Norway as well as Australia) carefully reviewed dozens of previous studies from the past two decades that examined the relationship between group social identification and health within organizations. Overall, the team found that workplaces that allow workers to feel “at home” and that facilitate lower-level workgroups that employees can identify with socially are the most likely to create a workforce that feels invigorated instead of burned out. This kind of staff in turn tends to be more successful and satisfied with their work, and less likely to experience physical symptoms like back problems or poor cortisol levels. The sharing aspect, or knowing that fellow colleagues also feel the same sense of office unity, is particularly important, the research showed.

Surprisingly, the analysis found that these benefits tend to be stronger when more of the participants in the studies were men, a counterintuitive piece of information considering women tend to have stronger social networks. Steffens and his team hypothesized that this might be because many workplaces are still stereotypically masculine, leaving women to feel left out of the organization’s inner circle.

Another area the study points out may need more examination is how much of an impact it can have when an employee actively distances him or herself from an office social group. “It is conceivable,” the study says, “that increasing levels of disidentification … are more strongly related to the presence of unease, discomfort, and stress than to the absence of ease, comfort, and well-being.”

Josselyne Herman Saccio, a communication expert who was not involved in the study, but who leads seminars for personal and professional growth firm Landmark, says that feeling of “we-ness” among office social groups can also feed a poor mental state if those groups indulge in negative behaviors like complaining and gossip.

“When you’re in complaint mode at work and other people agree with you, you end up getting stuck,” Saccio said. The beefs you have seem more real, she said, when others you identify with reinforce them. This can lead to bad feelings, poor work performance, and burnout as you internalize each complaint. Instead, Saccio recommends reframing complaints in the form of requests so things actually get done and channeling that social connection with colleagues through a more positive filter. Talking with work friends about the aspects of your job or organization that originally attracted you to it can shift those mentalities.

“You might end up reigniting other people’s passions,” she says.

From a hiring manager’s point of view, deciding that a candidate is the right fit for your workforce social culture should be a matter of whether that person is one the other workers can identify with, Steffens said. (The same can be said of a prospective employee trying to gauge whether he will fit in with a new company.) Based on his team’s research, Steffens said that a shared social bond is a crucial factor in someone’s overall sense of satisfaction and contentment.

“Hiring managers may want to look out for individuals who are likely to actively undermine a sense of unity in a team or organization and to jeopardize other members’ social identification with the workplace,” Steffens said. “Moreover, managers may also want to look out for individuals who are likely to place their own personal interests above the interests of other members of the team and the organization that they will be part of. Instead, hiring managers may want to seek individuals who are likely to be able and willing to contribute to a meaningful and healthy group life at work.”

All in all, feeling a sense of belonging with the people you work with matters. So maybe think about that the next time you’re deciding whether to attend that office happy hour.

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
job secrets
9 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Hollywood Body Doubles
Hugh Jackman and his Real Steel body double, Taris Tyler
Hugh Jackman and his Real Steel body double, Taris Tyler
Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

When you see the back of an actor’s head in a movie, it may not be the actor you think it is. In addition to stunt performers, most movies employ body doubles (or photo doubles) with a passing resemblance to the principal actors. While some body doubles are brought on set for specific skills—like helping an actor pass as a professional athlete—the job can often involve just being a body, whether that means being nude on camera, having photogenic hands, or appearing in place of actors who can’t be on set for some reason. Here are nine secrets of the job:


Body double Danielle Sepulveres has played the hands of other actors in plenty of roles in her career, on TV and in beauty commercials featuring close-up shots of her holding moisturizer or makeup. She’s drizzled dressing on salad in place of Brooke Shields. She regularly slides files across tables, makes lists, and pours wine in the place of actresses on The Good Wife. (She has also played Jill Flint's butt on the show.) “I knew only glimpses of my hands might make it into a shot, or part of my shoulder along with a wisp of hair,” she wrote of one of her jobs in Good Housekeeping in 2016. But she overheard the director complaining that her wrists looked “vastly different” than those of the principal actress in the movie, 2015’s Mania Days. “Luckily, I didn't get fired in spite of my wrists, but I wouldn't have been surprised had it happened.”


Yes, body doubles are often brought in if an actor doesn’t want to bare it all on camera. But they are hired for other reasons, too. For one thing, union rules mandate the actors get 12 hours off between when they leave set for the day and their next call time, so if the shoots are running long, the crew might employ someone else to stand in. Other times, it's a matter of particular talents. Most actors may be able to sing, dance, and cry on camera, but few also have the athletic skills to allow them to pass as a sports legend. In Battle of the Sexes (2017), Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King, one of the best tennis players of all time. To realistically represent King’s skills on the court, the movie makers brought in tennis doubles to play in place of Stone and her co-star, Steve Carell. Stone’s double was chosen for her playing style, which resembled King’s, and worked with King on-set to perfect her imitation. The effort was, according to The Wall Street Journal, a huge success. “Not only is the tennis believable, it’s a meticulous representation of the type of tennis played in that era: serve and volley, chipping and charging to the net, touch volleys and soft hands.”


When you are tasked with choosing a celebrity doppelgänger, you’ve got to keep egos in mind. “The choice reflects on the principal actor,” DeeDee Ricketts, the casting director for Titanic, told Vanity Fair in 2016. “We have to take into consideration that they can’t be too thin, or more beautiful, or too heavy, or too old, or else the principal actor will think, That’s how they see me?” Actors often get to give input on who will be their double, and sometimes have final approval rights written into their contracts. When she was being considered for the job of Janet Leigh's body double in Psycho's iconic shower scene, model and Playboy covergirl Marli Renfro had to strip down for both Alfred Hitchcock and Leigh herself so that they could make sure her body looked enough like Leigh's, as Renfro recently revealed at a Brooklyn screening of the documentary 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene. In the case of nude scenes, actors might even have final approval on what physical moves their doubles are allowed to make.


If you’re working as an actor’s double, by definition, you’re not going to have scenes with them, and so some body doubles never meet the stars they’re pretending to be. Danish actor Elvira Friis, who worked as a body double for Charlotte Gainsbourg (and her character’s younger self, played by Stacy Martin) during the racier scenes of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2013), never met the actor. “The closest I got to Charlotte Gainsbourg was that I was wearing her dress,” Friis told The Wall Street Journal.


But how much time an actor spends with their doppelgänger really depends on the role. Some actors spend plenty of time with their doubles on set helping them get into the role. In What Happened to Monday (2017), Noomi Rapace plays the roles of seven identical sisters, making body doubles a necessity on set. Rapace helped direct her doubles during filming, “as they needed to know how the star would play the scene for each character so that it would sync up when she performed the part herself,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Game of Thrones star Lena Headey (who plays Cersei) worked closely with her double Rebecca Van Cleave for a nude scene in the show’s fifth season finale. Headey walked Van Cleave through her character’s thinking and movements for each shot. Then, Headey did the same performance herself, wearing a beige dress that could later be edited out. In the final product, Headey’s facial expressions were merged with Van Cleave’s nude body.


Because body doubles are often only seen from the back or side, they may not look quite as much like their acting counterpart as you’d think. Brett Baker, who worked as Leonardo DiCaprio’s body double for Titanic, is several inches shorter than DiCaprio and seven years older. From the front, you wouldn’t peg him as a Jack Dawson lookalike. But with the same clothes and haircut, shot from above and behind, he passed easily as DiCaprio. Once Leo’s closeups were done, according to Vanity Fair, Baker was often brought in to stand opposite Kate Winslet as she played through her half of the scene. In some cases, he didn’t make it into the final shot at all, but still had to be on set for those 14-hour days.


With the help of technology, filmmakers can put their leading actor’s face on a body double’s torso, so they don’t have to limit their body doubles to just back-of-the-head or partial shots. This allows them to seamlessly meld both the main actor and the body double’s performances in post-production. That can allow directors to get exactly the scene they want in shows like Orphan Black, which features Tatiana Maslany playing multiple roles, or in cases where actors don't want to get totally naked on-camera. In rare cases, it can also be used to bring actors back from the dead. When Paul Walker died in a car crash midway through filming Furious 7 (2015), the filmmakers used his brothers and another actor as body doubles, superimposing computer-generated images of Walker’s face on their performances. Around 260 shots featuring Walker’s doubles appeared in the final cut.


When Matt Damon was filming The Martian (2015), he wanted to lose 30 to 40 pounds to portray astronaut Mark Watney after he had been surviving on meager rations for years. But the filming schedule made that impossible, so a body double had to be brought in for some shots. “I was going to lose a bunch of weight in the third act of the movie, then put the weight back on,” Damon told Maclean’s. However, as the schedule shook out, they filmed the NASA interiors in Hungary, then immediately went to Jordan, which doubled as the Red Planet for the film’s purposes, and shot all the exterior shots from the beginning, middle, and end of the movie, with no time for Damon to lose a significant amount of weight. The skinny body double isn’t on screen for long. “It was, like, two shots,” Damon describes. (Still, fans noticed.)


When it comes to nude scenes, sometimes body doubles are hired but never used. Veteran body double Laura Grady was cast as Robin Wright’s lookalike for State of Play (2009), but didn’t shoot a single scene. “I just sat in my trailer, ready to go, and then at the end, [Wright] decided to do her own scenes,” Grady told Vulture in 2014. “That happens sometimes. Sometimes they just get a body double because they think they might need one, and then all of a sudden the actress is comfortable and she’s like, ‘No, I’ll just do it.’ Or they change a scene and they don’t make it as risqué.” Don’t worry, though—the double still gets paid.

Visual Capitalist
Live Smarter
Looking for a Job? Here's the Largest Employer in Each State
Visual Capitalist
Visual Capitalist

Whether you love or hate Walmart stores, they're a vital component of America’s economy. The big box store is the top employer in nearly half of America’s 50 states, according to a new map spotted by Thrillist.

Created by Visual Capitalist, a Canadian media and news firm, the graphic below breaks down the nation’s largest private employers, state by state. Based on data collected by the website, it excludes state governments and military bases but includes public universities, hospitals, and airports, in addition to other businesses.

Walmart reigned supreme across the South and Midwest, with presences in states ranging from Alabama to Wyoming. Together, the map’s data suggests, Walmart hires over 1.5 million Americans, including nearly 172,000 employees in Florida alone.

Health care was also big business, with hospital services making up the brunt of the local economy in states including Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, and Minnesota. In Washington state, the airplane manufacturer Boeing dominated the local market, while MGM Resorts International employed 55,200 people in Nevada. And in both Maine and New Jersey, regional grocery chains like Hannaford Supermarkets and Wakefern Food Corporation helped locals pay the bills.

Check out the full map below.

A map of the top employers in each state, created by Visual Capitalist
Visual Capitalist

[h/t Thrillist]


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