Are you good enough to get to the top – to climb the ladder? Are you good enough - to work until 11pm for 7 days in a row and then pull a few all-nighters? Are you good enough – to work through the stress, the tiredness, the depression and the anxiety to make it? Are you good enough – to neglect your family, important friendships and hobbies to be your best? Are you good enough – not to exercise or eat well for a few years to get the promotion you deserve?
Or have you just had enough of the ridiculously demanding corporate culture – where it is now NORMAL to work very long hours, to suffer with chronic stress/anxiety/depression, to worry about your job-security, to give up your personal life…and to just generally feel like you aren’t good enough most of the time.
A professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Jeffrey Pfeffer, has recently published a book which suggests that our current workplace culture is responsible for a significant proportion of the health issues that we see today. Gone are the days in which infectious diseases were the primary causes of ill health. Now the global burden of disease is largely attributable to chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Jeffrey Pfeffer argues that workplace culture has a large part to play in the epidemic of chronic disease that we are currently experiencing across the developed world.
Jeffrey Pfeffer’s new book is entitled “Dying for a Paycheck” and he believes that we really are dying for our paychecks. He suggests that there is substantial evidence that stress is a major cause of chronic disease, the workplace is a major cause of stress and therefore that our workplace is effectively killing us.
It is of course common to ask someone how they are and for them to report as to “how busy” or “stressful” things are at the moment. It is almost as though we see being “busy” and “stressed” as a measure of success… and yet it is this very stress that is causing us to get both physically and mentally unwell. Very few employees even realise that this chronic stress is what is causing their weight gain, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and general physical-ill health.
Employers are beginning to realise the impact that the demanding working culture is having on employees’ mental health. Deloitte estimates that the annual cost of poor mental health for UK employers is between £33 billion and £42 billion. It is important for employers to be aware however that chronic stress also plays a significant role in the development of physical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. So reducing stress and improving the mental health of a workforce is also extremely important to reduce the risk of individuals developing chronic diseases.
It is time for employers to take action and to make their workplaces safer for their employees’ mental and physical health. Jeffrey Pfeffer suggests that soon individuals will start taking legal action against their employers for jeopardising their well-being and their health. In order to recruit and retain the best talent (and avoid litigation), workplaces will need to become more aware of whether they are compromising the mental and physical health of their staff. Just as employers would not operate from an unsafe building or give their employees broken chairs to sit in all day… maybe organisations should start re-thinking their working culture and what they can do to keep workplace stress at bay.
Are you good enough to get to the top – to climb the ladder? Maybe you are but you just don’t want to go up there only to find yourself, tired, depressed, stressed and obese.