Now more than ever people are buzzing about health matters in such a highly examined way. So much so, that there has been a massive push to comb through the everyday contributors to identify the biggest culprits of poor health. While discovery raises its head to the surface for its explorers, the question then soon becomes a matter of acknowledgement and choice. Meaning, once a person knows the cause of something will they then accept it and do something to change their course of action?
One such predominant cause and effect relationship that has been declared, is in the work to personal health dynamic. The evidence of this relationship has surpassed the questions of whether or not the jobs we work cause an adverse effect on our health, but have escalated to questions of how much are we willing to ignore and put up with the detrimental effects that our jobs are causing on our health?
Genetics Loads the Gun Environment Pulls the Trigger
While evidence has shown direct negative causation between work and health, it is true, however, that not all jobs are the sole cause of disease. Despite this balanced acknowledgement, many jobs do in fact facilitate environments that promote it. From 0-30 minute lunches (if even taken) to fast-paced demanding environments, with no breaks, it’s no wonder people have been experiencing unfavorable health-related issues. Issues largely effecting the digestive system and skin such as sporadic rashes and episodic eczema. These topical annoyances, which are some of the most common stress-induced manifestations, are often signs of a bigger picture that our bodies are alerting and forewarning us about.
While it has been argued that we all carry an innate predisposition to the spectrum of disease, what has not been largely opposed is the effect environment has on drawing out/activating those predispositions. Long work hours, overtime and working while “off” create stressful lifestyles that leave little time for proper sleep, nutritious meal preparation, and joyous time spent with friends and family.
So why, knowing all these affects do we continue keeping this harmful hamster wheel in motion?
The “Golden Ticket” Lie Corporate America Sold You
One such reason we resume on this course is due to the persuasive impact of the mainstream workplace arena. Corporate America has double downed on ticket sales for both the desperate and the greedy. Those in desperate need of provision to take care of the basic necessities of life have purchased their season passes to ride the main attraction as this procurement, in some ways, seems to be the best ticket in town. For others, basic needs are not a major deficiency yet the lure for greater material possessions and additional financial “security” are the draw for them.
But is the cost of the golden ticket to enter this world actually leading it’s buyers to the blissful entrance of the chocolate factory?
In essence, is the time, effort and energy invested really paying off?
As more and more cases of stress-induced work related disease is on the rise, the answer to this previously posed question becomes a resounding no. As what often becomes the story of workers around America (and other countries who have a similar toxic work system) is that the means to the end often lead to the end before the means. Meaning, many individuals do not even make it to the finish line of a lifelong career as they are sidelined by stress-related/work-induced disease. For those who do make it to “retirement” many have often spoken about health issues they currently face as a result of a stressful job they carried for years. Many have even confessed that they knew their job was “killing” them but that they had no choice but to just deal with it.
A copious amount of people over the past century have worked themselves into disease just as recklessly as a squirrel trying to cross the street. If people truly saw the link to their work patterns as paths leading them to destructive health-related ends how then would efforts for change be provoked? Would more workers seek to petition for a shorter work week? Would collective voices arise to challenge corporate leadership and cultures to structure a better way?
Many millennials are being called “entitled” for doing this very thing. Pushing back. Seeing the early signs of what the previous generation experienced is what leads them to seek opportunities in less toxic settings.
Karoshi: Death by Overwork
Many of us are familiar with workplace terms such as “occupational health” and “workers compensation.” In fact, we often joke about the latter in hopes of “cashing in” while being excused from having to show up to work. Yet, if we were truthful, it would be hard pressed to find anyone who would choose to experience a painful injury for the sake of a temporary payday. As there is recognition that the road to recovery for those seriously injured most often is long and has the likelihood of permanent lifelong disability.
Outside of worker’s compensation, the most recognized work-related illnesses or occupational diseases are those who have been exposed to hazardous conditions or substances at work. Many of these particular conditions or health problems are often considered “work-related,” as workers have been able to evidentially show a link to job causation. Yet, there is another large pool of workers who are experiencing the same level of occupational disease; but because the condition is not as a result of an external hazard (i.e. chemical, pollution, etc) there has been little responsibility or repercussions given to the employer. Because of this lack of established culture in the workplace, many today fear reporting direct causation of stress-induced illnesses to their employers; so as to not look like they “cannot handle stress.” Thus many often suffer in silence and merely accept the “cost of doing business.”
With the pace of business only accelerating and the demands of worker productivity matching its speed, how then do we address this issue? How many cancer cases and deaths will it take for the culture of business to change? How many people are willing to stand up for their health and mental wellness at the potential risk of their income?
This is more than a push for employers to add a few more PTO days or imploring companies to put in a few more office perks to “make it a great place to work.” This is truly about changing the work culture that has led many to the place of illness.
We Are More Than Our Work
We Are More Than Our Work.
Albert Einstein said it best: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Thus, we must then take a different view if we are to shift the workplace culture. One such mindset that workers must change is the view that “the job needs me.” Please know the company will be okay if you choose to have healthy work boundaries and balance in your life. While many companies tout themselves as a family, the truth of the matter is everyone is replaceable. If not now…later. With this in mind, how can we restructure our level of engagement so as to reclaim our identities outside of work?
While many people fear what will happen to them if they use their personal time off (PTO), unplugging from work throughout the year is one of the best ways to counter stress-induced work-based disease. It has been reported by the US Travel Association that each year, more than half of Americans leave vacation time on the table. In 2018, a staggering total of 768 million days were recorded as unused PTO. Take time to actively plan your time off, because before you know it you will be indirectly adding to this total in the years to come.
It is not being a poor team player for taking care of yourself. Self care is not only for yourself but it is for the collective. When you are truly refreshed and refueled you are a better you. Not just for productivity sake but for health of the interpersonal interactions we all engage in everyday. Being on edge, stressed, having to call out all the time due to perpetual minor illnesses (cold, flu, headache, etc) is no way to live. Truly examine the cost of the quality of life you are willingly choosing to sacrifice for the sake of holding on to that position.
Ask yourself – is it worth it?