Employer's role in preventing tragedies: A macro-level approach

21 Nov 2023 12:00pm
Addressing stress, sleep and routine changes can help reduce the phenomenon of infant deaths in cars.
Addressing stress, sleep and routine changes can help reduce the phenomenon of infant deaths in cars.

EXPLORING the commonality between forgetting to mail a letter, leaving keys in the car and the tragic act of leaving a baby in a car, all attributed to the conflict between memory systems in the brain resulting in false memories.

Memory-focused solutions:

  • Creating reminders for child location.
  • Placing personal items in the backseat.
  • Daycare notifications for late arrivals

This is a micro-level solution from the perspective of cognitive psychology.

However, three more factors can contribute to this syndrome: stress, lack of sleep and routine changes.

As an organisational psychologist, I would like to propose a macro-level solution that can be implemented by employers to prevent this tragedy.

Reducing Workplace Stress:

Sending employees to attend stress management courses can be helpful. However, if the root cause of stress persists within and beyond the employees' control, the effectiveness of employees' stress management skills is limited to a certain extent.

Example causes of stress that employers can control:

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  • Overtime work.
  • High workload.
  • Organisational changes.
  • Tight deadlines.
  • Sudden task changes.
  • Job insecurity.
  • Lack of autonomy.
  • Monotonous tasks.
  • Insufficient training.
  • Micro-management.
  • Unsupportive physical work environment.
  • Insufficient resources to perform work efficiently.
  • Limited opportunities for career advancement.
  • Disturbances, bullying, and discrimination.
  • Poor relationships with supervisors and colleagues.

Managing factors that cause employees to lack sleep:

Insufficient sleep can result from employees' own attitudes such as lifestyle and medical conditions.

However, it can also be caused by workplace factors such as overtime work, bringing work home and completing it late at night, no opportunities for regular breaks, jobs requiring frequent vehicle travel, and virtual communication outside office hours.

Reducing frequent routine changes among employees:

If employers are required to assign work that causes frequent routine changes for employees, establish work-family integration practices such as:

  • Creating childcare facilities near the workplace.
  • Establishing a system to remind employees about the presence of their children when routine changes occur.
  • Creating a safe space for employees to share information if their partners have commitments that change their work routine.
  • Permitting late entry to work on days of routine changes so employees do not rush to leave their cars in the parking lot.
  • Offering flexible hours or work-from-home options on days of routine changes.
  • Cultivating mindfulness training in the workplace (including religious practices such as dhikr for Muslim employees) so that employees remain calm and aware of their surroundings during crucial times, such as when exiting the car in the parking lot.

When employers can practice these three things, it is hoped that not only the phenomenon of infant deaths in cars can be reduced, but also various other implications caused by stress, lack of sleep, and routine changes can be controlled.

May the words of Prophet Muhammad SAW inspire employers to care for the welfare and well-being of their employees:

"Whoever relieves a person from the hardship of this world, Allah will relieve him from the hardships of the Day of Judgment. Whoever makes it easy for a person in difficulty, Allah will make it easy for him in this world and the Hereafter. Whoever conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and the Hereafter. Allah helps His servant as long as he helps his brother." (Hadith narrated by Muslim)

Dr Alizi Alias is a Consultant in Organisational Psychology, a Member of the Council of the Malaysian Psychological Association (PSIMA), Chairman of Psikospiritual IKRAM (P.S.I) and Advisor to Soul Fitness WUIF.