Skip to main content
business briefing

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014.

Follow Michael Babad and The Globe's Business Briefing on Twitter.

Before you reach for the phone ...
American researchers have documented a new office health risk: "Workplace telepressure."

That's when you just can't stay away from your work-related e-mail, text messages and voicemail, no matter what you're doing, who you're with, etc.

"So the dad constantly texting coworkers from the sideline of a youth soccer game, the multitasking mom firing off work e-mails over Saturday morning breakfast and the steadfast employee sleeping with his company-issued smartphone by his pillow – these behaviours all point to the psychological state of workplace telepressure," says Northern Illinois University, whose psych professors Larissa Barber and Alecia Santuzzi did the study.

Or, as Ms. Barber told Fortune, which is where I first read about this, some people can't unplug because they believe it can hurt their careers.

Their study, which goes beyond their earlier work and was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, documents what many of already know, that we can't go beyond a few minutes without checking to see if that e-mail on our BlackBerry is something we'd better respond to quickly.

But there's a cost to this beyond losing time with the kids, pausing the movie or putting down the book.

"Workers who indicate they feel high levels of telepressure are more likely to report burnout, a feeling of being unfocused, health-related absenteeism and diminished sleep quality," Ms. Barber, the lead author of the report, says on the university's website.

What to do about it?

Employers should urge "unplugged time," says Ms. Santuzzi, while "managers and workers also could ease telepressure by decreasing the quantity of messages, perhaps holding back information that can wait for future meetings or face-to-face conversations."

Companies can also establish policies, according to the researchers.

The university also cited an American Psychological Association study published last year that reported almost 45 per cent of people check their e-mail daily when they're on holidays, and almost 55 per cent when they're ill.

Markets eye OPEC
Oil prices are hovering at around four-year lows today in the runup to a crucial OPEC meeting in Vienna tomorrow.

"Sideline comments and an ultimate decision on production are likely to have a market impact on an important U.S. holiday long weekend," said chief currency strategist Camilla Sutton of Bank of Nova Scotia.

The speculation now is that the oil-producing nations won't cut production after Saudi Arabia suggested it isn't looking for a change in quotas.

Crude, said Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali al-Naimi, is expected to "stabilize itself eventually," according to reports today.

Tomorrow's decision will, of course, have an impact in the markets, though analyst Jasper Lawler of CMC Markets believes the "most likely" result will be a deal among the OPEC nations to stick to the current ceilings, which means 30 million barrels a day and which would mean a tiny production cut.

"With U.S. stock markets closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving, today is the last day to put on positions in the energy sector including those in Exxon and Chevron ahead of the OPEC meeting," Mr. Lawler said.

"Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Mexico failed to announce they would cut production in a pre-OPEC meeting, with the Saudi oil minister saying the 'oil market will stabilize eventually," he added.

"Some OPEC members like Iran would like to cut production to lift prices but cannot afford to do so and still meet national budget requirements."

Alberta to update
In the run-up to the OPEC meeting comes Alberta's fiscal update today, also, obviously, with the focus on oil prices.

In the provinces first-quarter update, Alberta forecast a surplus of $1.4-billion.

But, BMO Nesbitt Burns points out today, it price assumption for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, was $96.70 (U.S.) a barrel.

And, of course, that assumption was before the plunge.

"If oil holds at recent levels, the fiscal year average would come in at around $87, and Alberta's revenues get hit to the tune of $215 million per dollar change in oil," said BMO senior economist Michael Gregory.

"That leaves about $2-billion in downside from WTI prices, but the weaker Canadian dollar and well-behaved [Western Canada Select] spreads will absorb a good portion of the blow," he added.

Streetwise (for subscribers)

ROB Insight (for subscribers)

Business ticker

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct

Tickers mentioned in this story