As an experienced health care provider, I can safely say that, from a public health perspective, stress is one of the most important challenges we collectively face. Lost time from work, lost productivity or absenteeism is a huge issue in the workplace today and accounts for a big loss in our economy. If you consider stress as a health issue, one of the most relevant places to look for is the workplace. Work stress is also one of the leading causes of stress in a person’s life.
New research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine indicates that poor working conditions, little control over work tasks, and a lack of appreciation from employers is responsible for a great deal of depression in middle-aged adults. Researchers found that workers who reported negative working conditions were more likely to score higher for symptoms of depression.
“These findings add to the growing body of evidence that employment is an important source of divergence in mental health across midlife,” said lead author of the study, Dr. S. Burgard.
The study looked at data gathered over a period of 15 years, in a total of 1,889 workers living in the U.S. who were over the age of 25. The researchers created a survey questionnaire based upon numerous work conditions including job satisfaction, conflicting demands, work/life balance, and level of employer appreciation. The results indicated that the workers who had the highest total negative working condition scores also had the highest scores for depressive symptoms. In this group of subjects, the effect of negative working conditions had the greatest effect on depressive symptoms.
From my own professional perspective, a large part of my interest in health promotion has been centered on corporate health. Today, work stress is the number one reason why employees are off work, unproductive, or unengaged with work-related tasks. This costs millions of dollars in lost productivity, medical treatment, and lost time. It also takes a great toll on people’s lives and the lives of their families. What is the reason for this issue in the workplace?
In my opinion, there are several. Firstly, most organizations do not have an employee health promotional program which is part and parcel of their corporate business plan. Secondly, they do not have a workplace mental health policy which is known, recognized, utilized, and promoted in-house. Some organizations provide benefits packages, wellness initiatives, or employee assistance programs that they sub-contract out to various organizations.
But many organizations provide no recognizable health promotional strategies to their workforce,which is surprising given the fact that there is ample evidence that worksite health and wellness programs are cost effective and have an attractive return on investment. Organizations who have instituted such programs are realizing the great benefits to themselves, their employees, and their families with less absenteeism, better productivity, fewer compensation claims, and less employee turnover. These organizations understand that their level of success is directly related to the health status of their employees. It is these companies which place these programs at the heart of their budgets and operational plans.
I believe that organizations must have a recognized mental health policy in place that removes any stigma associated with job stress, mental health, and any fear of repercussions arising from its recognition. If you look at the study I just mentioned, you will see that negative working conditions are the number one reason why people feel stressed and depressed regarding their respective jobs. Negative working conditions are usually attributed to low levels of employee involvement in their work tasks, poor people management skills, lack of employee feedback, and lack of employee advancement.
If you own a business and you want it to run optimally, consider instituting a workplace health and wellness program into your workplace. Your employees will appreciate it and you will see real, tangible results.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Cassells, C., “Job Stress Blamed for Sizeable Proportion of Depression,” Medscape web site, September 17, 2013.
Burgard, S., et al.,“Working Conditions and Depressive Symptoms: A Prospective Study of US Adults,”Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine.September 2013; 55(9): 1,007–1,014.