For too many workers today, unhealthy work environments are prevalent. Employees are far more likely to experience a slew of mental and physical health problems including stress, anxiety, depression, alcoholism, hypertension and many other negative outcomes than come home feeling energized and happy. The result for organizations-other than a workplace brimming with sad, stressed-out and sickly people-includes costlier insurance premiums, reduced innovation, a negative employer brand, increased absenteeism, lower worker productivity, and more.
While physical health has been in the spotlight for years, mental health is finally getting the attention that it deserves. The truth is that physical and mental health go hand-in-hand and and both must be present for true wellness to be achieved. But this isn’t news to many of you. There has been a lot of research conducted on employees that have little control over their work. The negative affects of work are particularly acute for employees in high-pressure jobs with little control over their workdays. British epidemiologist Michael Marmot and his team examined employees within the British Civil Service. Controlling for other factors, it turned out that differences in job control, which were correlated with job rank, most accounted for this phenomenon. Higher-ranked British employees, like higher-ranked employees in most organizations, enjoyed more control over their jobs and had more discretion over what they did, how they did it, and when—even though they often faced greater job demands.
Performance is not positively related to work hours. In fact, according to the book, the greater the work hours, the lower the productivity per hour worked. According to Pfeffer, long work hours are associated with adverse health, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, disability. Employers need to acknowledge this fact and encourage workers to leave after their work day is done to enjoy time with family and friends, without the stigma often associated with ‘leaving early.
Pfeffer’s research shows that social support—family and friends you can count on, as well as close relationships—can have a direct effect on health and buffers the effects of various psycho-social stresses, including workplace stress, that can compromise health. Unfortunately, workplaces sometimes have characteristics that make it harder to build relationships and provide support. Consider, for example, practices that foster internal competition such as forced curve ranking, which reduces collaboration and teamwork. In fact, anything that pits people against one another weakens social ties among employees and reduces the social support that produces healthier workplaces. Equally destructive are transactional workplace approaches in which people are seen as factors of production and where the emphasis is on trading money for work, without much emotional connection between people and their place of work.
Many people have to make hard trade-offs every day about work and family commitments. School talent shows should be enjoyed by all parents, not just those that stay home. You shouldn’t have to feel guilty for taking your child or aging parent to the doctor, yet for many people these events are stress-producing because they feel they are always letting down either their family or their manager/team. People need to choose their employer not just for salary and promotion opportunities but on the basis of whether the job will be good for their psychological and physical health. Ensure that your employees know that family and other personal commitments are a part of life and give them the flexibility to not miss out on important moments with family. If employees are happy at home they will bring their best selves to work every day.
Community involvement refers to the ways in which a workplace goes above and beyond to involve itself within the community in which it operates, offering expertise and resources (beyond its day-to-day offerings) to support the social and physical well being of the community. Activities that positively influence the physical and mental health, safety, and well-being of workers and their families offer the greatest advantage. Examples include spearheading a community project and volunteering in community initiatives to benefit those in need.