Toxic workplaces can harm your physical and mental health, says Surgeon General

Toxic workplaces can harm your physical and mental health, says Surgeon General

Bad bosses and a hard work culture can have a huge impact on employees’ mental and physical health, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has said in a new report.

The findings, which may not surprise many workers, are significant in that they are the first time the Surgeon General has explicitly linked employment factors such as low pay, discrimination, harassment, overwork, long journeys and other factors to chronic physical health conditions. such as heart disease and cancer. According to the report, work-related stress can also lead to mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

The report comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance in sharper focus.

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Perceptions “changed” by the pandemic

The increased public focus on employee well-being has been spurred in part by the switch to remote work during the pandemicwhich many Americans say has allowed them to better juggle work responsibilities and demands at home.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the nature of work and the relationship many workers have with their work. The connection between our work and our health has become even more evident,” Dr Murthy said in a statement.

In fact, the Surgeon General’s report concluded that when work and personal demands conflict, negative health outcomes ensue.

“These role conflicts can amplify psychological stress, increase the risk of health-related behaviors such as smoking, unhealthy eating habits, alcohol and substance use, and drug overuse, and disrupt relationships in the workplace. work and home,” the report said.

There are five components of a healthy workplace that support worker well-being. They include what the Surgeon General calls:

  • protection from evil
  • Connection and community
  • Work-life balance
  • counting at work
  • Growth opportunity

According to the office of the Surgeon General, emphasizing these principles can help promote inclusion, fair wages and opportunities for advancement, among other benefits.

Embedding these values ​​into a company’s culture “will force organizations to rethink how they protect workers from harm, foster a sense of connection among workers, show them they matter, make room for their lives outside of work and support their long-term professional growth,” said Dr Murthy. “It may not be easy. But it will be worth it, as the benefits will accrue to both workers and organizations. A healthy workforce is the foundation of thriving organizations and a healthy community.

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good for business

The bottom line for companies is that an emotionally and physically healthy workforce leads to better business results.

“In addition to the many impacts on the health and well-being of workers themselves, workplace well-being can affect productivity and organizational performance,” the report concludes. “When people feel anxious or depressed, the quality, pace and performance of their work tends to decline.”

Supporting worker health is also good for business, said Gabriella Kellerman, product manager at BetterUp, a business coaching platform.

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“These days, given the nature of work, there is enormous uncertainty from businesses and the external environment which is inherently a challenge to our mental well-being and our role, and businesses have a role to play to support their employees for moral reasons, but also because it’s good for the bottom line of their companies,” Kellerman said.

The Surgeon General’s requirements for healthy workplace design that employers must follow.

“The fact that this is actually recommended by the Surgeon General is hugely important as a statement,” she added. “They give employers actionable recommendations on what matters most to support employee well-being. Getting that level of detail and prescription is a new level of engagement and focus, which is new.”

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