The invisible shapes in which your workplace “is killing you”

The invisible shapes in which your workplace “is killing you”

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Work stress is a public health issue.

A Uber software engineer who made a lot of money committed suicide in 2016. His family blamed work stress.

A 21-year-old Merrill Lynch fellow collapsed and died in London after working 72 hours in a row.

When the ArcelorMittal company closed a steel plant it had acquired, a 56-year-old employee died of a heart attack three weeks later. His family said it was due to the shock.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has reported that more than half of the 550 million workdays lost annually due to absenteeism “are related to stress.”

In 2015, an analysis of almost 300 studies found that workplace malpractices had a significant effect on mortality and probably lead to a diagnosed illness, such as secondhand smoke, a known and regulated carcinogen.

Detrimental work practices include long hours of work , conflicts between work and family, economic insecurity resulting from job loss, not having regular hours, absence of work control and, in the US, not having health insurance.

The workplace is making people sick and even killing them , and that should worry us.

With the rising costs of medical care around the world, the workplace has become a major public health problem .

“According to the Mayo Clinic, your supervisor is more important to your health than your family doctor,” says Bob Chapman, executive director of the Barry-Wehmiller manufacturing firm.

A stressed woman
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Image caption Long hours of work affect the health of employees.

The World Economic Forum estimates that approximately three quarters of health care expenditures worldwide correspond to chronic diseases and non-communicable diseases that account for 63% of all deaths.

Chronic diseases come from stress and unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking, consuming drugs and overeating because of the same stress.

Numerous surveys show that the workplace is one of the main causes of stress and, therefore, is a major cause of the health system crisis .

The American Institute of Stress claims that stress in the workplace costs the US economy about $ 300 billion each year. An article I wrote in a scientific journal estimated that there were 120,000 additional annual deaths in the USA. due to harmful management practices , and that the additional costs of health care were US $ 190,000 million each year.

A man eating
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Image caption Bad work practices generate bad eating habits.

That makes the workplace the fifth cause of death , worse than kidney disease or Alzheimer’s.

In the United Kingdom, the health and safety office reported that between 2016 and 2017, 12.5 million work days were lost due to stress, depression or anxiety related to work.

None of this is necessary, because work practices that are bad for people do not help the company either. The long days of work are negatively related to productivity.

Although it may seem contradictory, layoffs do not improve organizational performance and often lead to the loss of the best employees.

A woman with a baby
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Image caption People must have a balance between their family and work life.

Due to direct costs such as layoffs, and indirect costs, such as losing people who have strong relationships with customers, you do not even save money. For decades, research has shown that giving people more control over how and when they do their work increases motivation and commitment.

It is not surprising that stressed employees are more likely to quit and turnover is expensive. Systematic research demonstrates what should be obvious: sick and stressed employees are not as competent or productive in their work as those who are healthier.

Everything indicates that the work is getting worse. Job cuts, which used to happen only in difficult economic times, are now routine.

When 3G Capital joined food giants Heinz and Kraft, 20% of employees were left out as the company merged processes and eliminated overlapping charges.

A man marking an ascending line
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Image caption The welfare of employees benefits the productivity of the company.

The “temporary work economy” means that economic insecurity is higher, since people do not know what their income will be from one week to the next.

Programs that allow retailers and other businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, to have only the people that the analyzes predict will be needed, often cause workers to face fluctuating incomes and not have much capacity to cope with family responsibilities. .

In the 1950s and 1960s, executive directors viewed their work as a balancebetween their obligations to shareholders, customers, employees and the community, the so-called “stakeholder capitalism”.

Now the interests of the shareholders dominate. Few leaders seem to understand that when people work for them, these people put their physical and psychological well-being on their hands.

Two people on the beach.
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Image caption Directors should be clear about the importance of vacations for their employees.

But some leaders are taking another path. Companies like Patagonia, Collective Health, SAS Institute, Google, John Lewis Partnership, which is owned by employees, and Zillow give an example of what could be an alternative.

People are paid time off and are expected to use it. Managers do not send emails or text messages at all times. People work, go home and have time to relax and rest.

These organizations offer amenities so that people can have a job and a family life. People are treated as adults and have control over what they do and how they do it to fulfill their work responsibilities, without micro-management.

And what is more important, companies are run by people who take their obligations to their people seriously .

SAS Institute has a director of health whose job is not only to control costs, but also to ensure that employees are as healthy as possible. Bob Chapman recognizes that everyone who comes to work at Barry-Wehmiller is the “precious child of someone” or member of a family.

two people walked
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Image caption No one should be dying for a salary.

The founder of Patagonia wrote a famous book entitled “Let people go surfing”. In such a competitive industry, all Patagonia employees get health insurance from the first day of work and every two weekends is a three-day weekend for people to enjoy outdoor activities .

People must choose their employer not only to get a good salary and promotion opportunities, but on the basis of whether the work will be good for their psychological and physical health .

Business leaders must measure the health of their workforce, not just profits . And governments concerned about the crisis of health care costs must focus on the workplace, because stress in the workplace is clearly making people sick .

None of this is necessary. No one should be dying for a salary.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.

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