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Stuart White

To say that workers in sedentary jobs are liable to put on weight seems so obvious, doesn’t it?  After all, sitting down all day shuffling a few papers, pressing buttons on the copier or tapping keys on the keyboard is hardly likely to burn many calories, compared to a lumberjack, say, swinging his axe or yielding his chainsaw, striding about in vast forests and straddling great tree trunks as they float down the river towards the saw mill. 

The latter, like Desperate Dan, should dine on huge cow pies for supper, washed down with a crate of ale whilst the former should nibble on a small dinner salad with a glass of low calorie white wine.

But a study by researcher in Adelaide, Australia, has discovered that it may not  just   be inactivity alone which is piling on the pounds and contributing to the spreading waistline, not if you’re clawing your way up the corporate ladder, that is.  

According to the study it’s the fact of gaining authority at work which can make you put on weight.  The research revealed that those people whose positions involved making a lot of decisions tended to have a bigger waist size compared to those without such responsibility. 

Led by psychologists in the University of Adelaide, the team interviewed 450 middle-aged men and women who worked in a variety of jobs, both blue and white-collar.  Using what is known as the Job-Demand-Control-Support model, they were able to work out not only whether the individual had control at work, but what form this control took. 

Control in a job can be broadly separated into two types: skill discretion – having the opportunity to learn and use skills and low levels of repetitiveness and decision authority, which is about making decisions and being more autonomous.

The researchers used a 36-unit scale to measure the amount of these two types of control that an individual had in their job.  And they found that, while skill discretion was linked to a smaller waist size, decision authority was linked to a bigger waist size. Specifically, a one-unit increase in skill discretion was associated with a 0.5cm decrease in waist size, while a one-unit increase in decision authority was associated with a 0.28cm increase in waist circumference.

In their conclusions, the psychologists suggested that the pressure of making too many decisions, ‘the tyrannies of choice’, can lead to stress-eating. This in itself was not exactly new, but their second discovery, in that it may even trigger a change in the way the body handles food was unexpected.  “Employees with high decision authority may feel overwhelmed by the number of decisions required of them, or poorly defined choices in their work,” the academics wrote in the journal Social Science & Medicine. 

“Excessive choice has been suggested to cause negative emotions,” they wrote, adding that having a lot of responsibility “can be perceived as a burden”.  “The perception of too much decision authority may lead to increased stress, resulting in increased food consumption and changes in the way the body processes food, leading to excess fat accumulation…the findings challenge the long-held assumption that higher job control can mitigate adverse effects of high job demands”, the researchers concluded.

That last statement refers back to  famous research carried out in the 1970s, first by Richard Hackman and Greg Oldham who in 1976 stated that control (in terms of job-provided autonomy) enhanced motivation and growth in blue collar, white collar and professional positions. 

Two years later, in 1979, Robert Karasek found that workers whose jobs rated high in job demands yet low in employee control (as measured by latitude over decisions) reported significantly more exhaustion after work, trouble awakening in the morning, depression, nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia or disturbed sleep over other workers. When workers facing high demands had more control, their stress was lower.

Karasek's findings revealed to employers that they could reduce job strain by increasing employee control or decision latitude, without reducing actual workload. What's more, the Hackman and Oldham research showed how control influences feelings about work more broadly. And in fact, a 2002 survey of 604 employees by the Society for Human Resource Management and USA Today revealed that some 94 percent of those polled consider autonomy and independence "very important" or "important" to job satisfaction.

Following this research many organisations increased employee control to make jobs better for employees, often redesigning their processes or flipping around the chain of command, something made much easier in recent years with e-working, embracing a wide range of alternative workplace arrangements such as telecommuting and virtual, mobile or satellite offices. Enabled by widespread Internet access and allowing companies to reduce overheads, this also allows employees to control where, and to some extent when they do their work.

Organisations such as American Express, AT&T, IBM and Merrill Lynch had a significant number of employees who took advantage of this form of employee control. To determine its success, AT&T surveyed managers in 1999 and found that 68 percent said that their productivity increased while telecommuting. Moreover, 76 percent were happier with their jobs and 79 percent were happier with their careers in general, while 79 percent reported higher satisfaction with their personal and family lives.

Of course, the AT&T survey didn’t measure waistlines or weight and the Adelaide study does not appear to have considered whether the weight gain per se held any sway in overall personal dissatisfaction. And with a 16-year gap between the two a lot has changed in the workplace, most obviously the 24-hour nature of work today, a direct result of the increased technology of smartphones, laptops, tablets and wireless connectivity, some of which, ironically will have been influenced by R & D at AT&T.  So the really interesting question would be, how’s all that tele-commuting working for you now, guys?  I bet you didn’t see that one coming.

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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