(Story by Dr. Laura Hamill originally appeared in U.S. News & World Report)
Hate your job? You’re not alone. Long hours, stress and a bad manager are all contributing factors that play a role in how you feel about your job. Even worse, when your job begins to take a toll on you physically and mentally, it can actually be bad for your health.
Great organizations know that the well-being of their people is crucial, especially when it comes to the person’s ability to thrive at work. Overworked employees are more likely to feel lower levels of well-being when they don’t feel supported by their managers, team, leadership, culture and even their physical work environment. Without support and well-being at work, your health will suffer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Studies show that stressful working conditions are actually associated with increased absenteeism, tardiness and intentions by workers to quit their jobs – all of which have a negative effect on the bottom line.” For some, stress is exhilarating and motivating. And working hard with some amount of stress is not necessarily a bad thing. But before you put in that extra 10 to 20 hours next week, consider these reasons why your job might be bad for your health and what you can do about it:
1. Long hours are actually hurting your body.
Putting in extra hours at the office might get you that raise you’ve been waiting for, but it’s also really bad for your health. When you work late, you might skip your workout and grab take-out for dinner, which results in weight gain and bad eating habits. Workaholics are also prone to insomnia. When you’re constantly working or even just thinking about work, it leaves less time to rest and recharge. You might also start feeling it in your back and neck – a study in the Occupational & Environmental Medicine journal found that the number of hours spent on repeated activities at work – even bending, reaching or twisting – is associated with back pain.
What you can do:
Try saying no for a change so you don’t overcommit. Prioritize your work, family and social life activities that matter most. Put yourself first on your to-do list – making time for yourself allows you to be more creative, a better problem solver and have more control over your day. This may include protecting weekly time on your calendar, so you can prioritize your well-being. Focus on your physical and emotional well-being to support a healthy lifestyle. When you have more control of your work and your body, your engagement at work will increase.
2. Unfulfillment and disinterest in your work makes you sick.
A sense of unfulfillment and lack of interest in your daily work can be detrimental to your health. Feeling engaged in your work relates to various aspects of your job – whether you find your job interesting, have good relationships with coworkers and your manager, or have opportunities to grow. When interest and passion in your job suffer, your risk of illness increases.
Staying at a job where you constantly feel unfulfilled and stressed can make you physically ill. Studies show that job strain is associated with a 45 percent increased risk to develop Type 2 diabetes. Without balance and fulfillment, you’re more susceptible to illness, which means more sick days, more doctor visits and more work to make up while you’re out.
What you can do:
Connect to your purpose. Employees who have a real and honest connection to their role and feel a greater sense of purpose within their company are less likely to burn out. Focus on intrinsic motivation – engaging in an activity because it’s personally rewarding. Professor and top TED speaker, Dr. Barry Schwartz recommends connecting the dots to the bigger picture and believing what you’re doing is valuable and appreciated – it’s about both the journey and the destination.
3. Sedentary lifestyles are linked to poor health.
A recent study found that people who perform any kind of movement throughout the day are physically healthier. And physical activity such as walking, standing or even simply fidgeting throughout the day can affect the way a person feels. That’s bad news for the 9-to-5 office workers. The good news is, all it takes to boost your energy is a simple stretch or lap around the office – but your work has to support it.
Too much sitting in front of a computer screen causes strain on your health and can be linked to chronic pain, obesity and risk of diseases. While plenty of research links sitting for long periods of time to numerous physical health concerns, a study examining associations between sitting and psychological distress proved mental health concerns are just as prominent. The results found employed male adults who sat for more than six hours at work had increased psychological distress than those who sat for less than three hours per day.
What you can do: Skip the conference room and take your meetings outside. A walking meetingis a simple solution to get moving while staying productive. You can also hold stand up meetings, provide standing desks, block time on your calendar to take a ten-minute walk or stretch break. Making time for little movements throughout the day can have a huge impact on your health.
4. A toxic boss can damage your mental strength.
Managers matter. A lot. In fact, most employees say their immediate managers matter more than C-suite leadership when it comes to well-being support. A bad manager isn’t just someone you don’t jive with; it’s someone who rarely communicates, sets unrealistic expectations, intentionally micromanages and only looks out for his or her own success. Research by Hogan Assessments found that 75 percent of people say their immediate supervisor is the most stressful part of their job. Bad managers can cause a huge mental strain on employees – they don’t only decrease happiness and engagement; they also drain employees’ mental strength.
What you can do:
Don’t let your manager take you down with her. Set boundaries to distance yourself from the toxic behavior, raise your voice to leadership, a mentor or your HR department to bring awareness to the issue, and take the high road. If you think it’s time to part ways with your existing manager, seek advice from other leaders on how to best approach a manager reassignment. Perhaps you need a new management style or there are too many daily conflicts; whatever the issue is, do your best to resolve it before moving on.
5. Your work environment can work against or in support of your health.
Research suggests that when you improve environmental elements like cleanliness, lighting and air circulation, it can actually boost productivity, improve sleep and reduce absenteeism from fewer people taking sick days. Workplace environment – where you actually do your work – plays a major role in performance and productivity. Noisy, open work spaces, overcrowded offices, poor air quality and frequent interruptions can negatively impact workers and cause your stress levels to spike.
What you can do:
If you feel your work environment is stressful, take action. Create your own safe space to work, away from any noise or distractions. Try pushing back when something doesn’t feel right or creating social networks or groups with teams and peers for support. Simply improve your office quality by taking initiative on easy fixes like opening up the blinds, turning on lights, posting notes of encouragement or cleaning up a work space.
Working at a job that’s physically and emotionally draining can cause serious long-term health consequences – and even burnout. When you’re overworked, unfulfilled and working in a toxic environment, there are big consequences. Take control of your work to improve your health by providing recovery time, fostering a well-being mindset, building relationships and connecting to a greater purpose – your body and your mind will thank you.