Long hours, disrespectful managers, and office politics aren’t just driving an employment crisis in America—they could be at the heart of a mental and physical health crisis as well.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy has issued guidance on how a toxic workplace can impact the health of workers, noting that the stress those jobs create can disrupt sleep, which makes people more vulnerable to everything from heart disease to infection, and increases the chances of depression.
“Chronic stress leads to overactivation of the “fight or flight” response, among other responses, and can have negative effects on numerous organ systems in the body,” the report reads. “In addition to the many impacts on the health and well-being of workers themselves, workplace well-being can affect productivity and organizational performance. When people feel anxious or depressed, the quality, pace, and performance of their work tends to decline.”
The report from the office that usually targets smoking and COVID-19 urges managers and corporate officials to be attuned to worker needs, increase pay, and only communicate with workers outside of work hours when absolutely necessary. It also strongly supports an emphasis on normalizing and supporting mental health.
“Employers should provide comprehensive health care coverage that includes access to mental health benefits,” it reads. “Organizations can make mental health care more easily accessible while also ensuring confidentiality. This includes supporting access to quality and affordable mental health care services—including telehealth, on- and off-site after-hours care—and encouraging time off for mental health care.”
The study also highlighted the need of workers to feel like they matter at their place of employment. That recognition and respect lowers stress and could lower the risk of depression. The Surgeon General also advised managers to build a culture of gratitude and recognition, while offering opportunities for growth.
“Sustainable change must be driven by committed leaders in continuous collaboration with the valued workers who power each workplace,” it said. “The most important asset in any organization is its people. By choosing to center their voices, we can ensure that everyone has a platform to thrive.”
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