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Science at Work

Broadcast: September 1, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.  

It’s Labor Day, which means we’re celebrating the hard-working people who keep the engines of productivity humming. This special fexplores how science and technology are changing work and workplaces, and what we are learning about the pitfalls of different work environments. Our current healthcare conundrum certainly stems in part from the coupling of work and insurance benefits — so we’ll look at the past and future of this union. We’ll meet a woman who used science to prove that ladies should be part of the work force. Also: The psychology of snarky office emails, and the case for mandatory vacation days.

Thank a truck driver on Labor Day
Think about the new ways we shop. From Amazon Prime to those direct-to-your door meal kits, lots of the stuff we love comes on a truck. But tech companies are working to replace some human drivers with self-driving trucks, so now’s the time to acknowledge your favorite long-haul trucker. Alan Yu takes a ride.


Mental health days are encouraged here
When you get the flu, it’s a no brainer to tell the boss and call out sick. But what do you do when your depression medicine has stopped working and you can’t get out of bed? Managing a serious mental health illness — and keeping up with your job — can be tricky. Madalyn Parker found some unexpected support at work when she told a supervisor she was struggling. Elana Gordon brings us Madalyn’s story ... and the Twitter love that followed.


No job? No health insurance.
How did we end up with this system where millions of us get our health coverage through work? Tying insurance to employment has side effects for your pocketbook and the overall economy. Marketplace’s Dan Gorenstein leads the history lesson.


I love my job
While many spend Labor Day tending the grill or sunning poolside, in hospitals across the country, it’s just another work day. WESA’s Margaret J. Krauss brings us the story of a night-shift emergency doctor who handles lots of tough stuff and still loves his job.


Scientists say vacations make you a better worker
Here in the United States, we suck at taking time off, at least compared to the rest of the developed world. That’s bad for worker health and workforce productivity. Tell your boss that, the next time she gives you side eye for using all your vacation days. In California, Shuka Kalantari visits a company where everyone takes a mandatory vacation at the same time every year.



Women were thought of as too “fragile” for work
If ladies do intellectual work, they won’t have enough energy left for reproduction. Women need to rest during menstruation … that was the thinking in the Victorian Era — until Mary Putnam Jacobi came along. History Professor Carla Bittel says Jacobi was the first physician to gather data about women’s periods, offering proof that women are just as physically capable as men to be doctors and scientists.


On Labor Day, we celebrate all of the hard-working people who keep the engines of productivity humming..and a lot of American workers spend their days in cubicles, hidden behind drab fabric-covered walls. How did this little box become the place to work? Maiken talks with Nikil Saval, a Philadelphia writer and author of Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace. Then she speaks with psychiatrist Jody Foster on how working together in tight spaces - cubicle walls or not - also creates a hotbed of tensions.


End of summer sadness
Our favorite psychologist Dan Gottlieb says “end of summer sadness” is a real thing. But there’s good news: you can also find joy while wearing a fall sweater.


Produced by: The Pulse Specials / WHYY

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