In 2017, the World Health Day theme centered around mental health in the workplace. The choice of the theme may have been prompted by the results of a recent WHO-led study which found that an estimated $1 trillion in global productivity is lost every year due to depression and anxiety disorders.
According to Mental Health America, less than one in three Americans are happy with their job and 18% are not satisfied with their current position. Indeed, in many developed countries, workplace mental health is gaining more focus. The reason is simple, it’s bad for business to have unhappy or unhealthy employees and an unhealthy work environment is detrimental to the employees. But how exactly does an unhealthy work environment affect you?
Mental health is affected by many factors including environmental factors. For adults who spend eight or more hours at work, the workplace environment contributes significantly to one’s mental health. Unfortunately, an unhealthy work environment can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and many other mental health problems.
Excessive workload, poor working conditions, poor relationships with colleagues and superiors can contribute to making the workplace a toxic environment. The more toxic it gets, the more stressed an employee becomes. Such high levels of stress over a prolonged period can lead to more serious mental health issues.
Getting burnt out is just an example. Depression, substance use, and anxiety are just some of the few that’s been regularly researched in relation to workplace environment.
Studies on workplace environment effects are not just limited to employees’ mental health. There have also been many studies associating poor working environments with various medical conditions, the most common being cardiovascular diseases.
There have also been studies that investigated the effects of work environment on weight change. One study found that when superiors at worked exhibited high-quality leadership, it predicted weight loss for men. However, high levels of work role conflicts were found to be predictive of weight gain in women.
Weight gain is the least serious among the many medical conditions associated with poor working environments. When people say that their jobs are giving them heart attacks, there’s usually a grain of truth in there. Even if you didn’t originally have a poor heart condition, you may develop signs of high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol levels.
This is especially true when your work environment is the type where they give you excessive workloads, and yet, you have little to no control over your work. Note that men are particularly at risk for this, according to a dissertation.
Poor working conditions also often lead to chronic illnesses. One such condition that you may develop because of work is repetitive stress injury or RSI. It’s a work-related condition that is now slowly gaining more focus.
RSI is also sometimes referred to as repetitive motion disorder (RMD). It may also be called overuse syndrome or repetitive motion injury. RSI can be caused by repetitive physical work, workspaces that are not ergonomically designed, working in cold temperatures, and vibrating equipment.
Aside from mental and physical health impacts, an unhealthy working environment can also negatively affect one’s interpersonal relationships. According to Mental Health America, 80% of the more than 17,000 employees included in the Workplace Health Survey said that their personal relationships were affected by workplace stress.
This sentiment was felt across the board with 50% of frontline employees saying relationships with friends or family were affected because of stress from work. Fifty-six percent of mid-level employees felt the same, while the number was even higher for executives, at 57%.
The World Health Organization, on the one hand, states that family and social interactions are also negatively impacted by work-related stress, especially stress caused by bullying and psychological harassment at work. The latter is so common, the term workplace mobbing was even coined for it.
Workplace mobbing, a phenomenon wherein an office bully, usually a superior, enlists the aid of co-workers to psychologically terrorize a target, can lead to severe consequences for the target. Collective aggression from co-workers and superiors alike not only threaten the target’s job, but it may also cost him his reputation, professional identity, and career.
Dealing With Workplace Stress And Anxiety
Although it’s often challenging, work-related stress and anxiety are not totally insurmountable. Here are some tips from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America to help you manage your work life.
Plan a vacation and actually go. Instead of just missing work or incurring absences at work, go on a planned vacation. In fact, even just planning your trip can already serve to relieve your stress. But it would be even better if you actually go and take a vacation.
Set your boundaries.
Leave work at the office and don’t bring it home with you. Just ask yourself, if your work is stressful enough at the office, why would you carry the stress with you when you’re at home or having dinner outside already? Just like you would respect other’s space, respect your own space, too.
Give yourself a break.
Short breaks can help make the day more manageable. When you go on break at the office, don’t just go for coffee or a smoke. Take a walk, meditate, or just sit in a quiet place and take deep breaths. You’ll be surprised at how reinvigorated this will make you feel. And it’s a good habit to practice for decluttering your mind.
Whether it’s a minor achievement or a huge success, celebrate it. Studies show that being recognized and commended for efforts at work positively affects the employees’ well-being. Well, if your superiors are stingy about their compliments and commendations, there’s no rule that you can’t pat yourself on the back, right?
Keep away from toxic coworkers.
If the workplace environment is already toxic enough, you certainly don’t need to keep toxic coworkers near you. They’re easy to spot since they stand out with their negativity, hostility, aggression, and so on. It may be absolutely impossible to physically avoid them, but at least, you can stop yourself from encouraging their negative behaviors.