Life and Work
15 Signs Your Job is Bad for Your Health
Feeling overstressed, overworked and underappreciated? An unhealthy workplace could be to blame.
Do you have a toxic work environment?
“The way that employees feel speaks wonders about what their work culture is like,” says occupational therapist Laura Kalef. If you feel happy in your current position, you likely work in a healthy environment. If you’re consistently unhappy, your job could be having a negative effect on your physical and mental health. Here are 15 signs, starting with physical and moving into psychological/emotional, that your job ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
1. You find yourself completing the same motions over and over
Repetitive strain injury is the term for an injury caused by repetitive movement, such as constantly clicking a mouse from a bad angle, which then causes strain on your body. Kalef recommends that office-based companies bring in an expert to assess employee workspaces and set them up so they are ergonomically correct-from the height of the chairs to the location of the computers. Oh, your office didn’t do that? Strike one.
Check out these tips for setting up an ergonomic workspace at home or on the road.
2. You’re a pro at sitting or standing for hours on end
“Any sustained position for a prolonged period of time can be hard on the body,” says Kalef, so it’s your responsibility to change it up. If you have a desk job, you’re at risk for sitting disease. Make sure you stand, stretch and take a brief walk every hour to reset your posture and get your blood flowing. If you stand a lot, make sure you take rest breaks to stretch, sit or lie down. If your employer doesn’t understand your need for frequent, brief refreshers, she’s probably joined Earth from a galaxy far, far away.
3. Your workspace has poor lighting
We all need a little sunlight in our lives to lift our vitamin D levels and our spirits-and you probably don’t get enough if you work in a dark basement, large factory or otherwise windowless room. So take it outside for lunch or coffee breaks and get your daily dose wherever you can.
4. You stare at a computer all the livelong day
It’s a fact of modern living, but it doesn’t mean your eyes have to suffer. Kalef recommends the 20-20-20 rule. “Every 20 minutes, you want to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It can help reduce the strain on the eyes throughout the day and even prevent dryness.”
5. You’ve forgotten what a good leader looks like
An effective leader increases employee morale, resiliency and trust while decreasing frustration, conflict and absenteeism. How does he do that? By ensuring that employees understand their roles and how their work is important to the company. A good leader cares about long-term objectives and gives his employees a sense of vision and purpose. If you’re starting to feel undervalued or like your position is pointless to the company, it could be because your leader isn’t doing his job.
Click here for more information on Clear Leadership & Expectations.
6. You have zero social support
“Companies that foster a good social support network have better environments,” says Kalef. That support can come through in a variety of ways, such as leaders, managers and coworkers that check in with each other and offer kindness and understanding, an employee assistance program (EAP) with free counselling services or even common interest groups such as a book club or a group of people to play cards with every day at lunch. If your company doesn’t have these systems in place, try to schedule coffee breaks with coworkers to foster a sense of community and take time to decompress.
7. You’re in a dead-end role with no room for growth
You’ll ultimately feel more satisfied at your job if you feel challenged and have the opportunity to grow your skills for a future position. If you have a boss that doesn’t care about your goals or developing your skill set, you’ll probably become bored, restless and less able to perform. You could begin to develop your skills through courses and volunteering outside of the workplace, but you may eventually need to move to a new position altogether.
8. You have to expend high effort for little reward
In the ideal work environment, high effort should result in timely acknowledgement and appreciation-whether financial (a raise), professional (a promotion) or verbal (praise at a weekly meeting). “Sometimes a thank you can go a long way,” says Kalef. If you don’t feel valued for the work that you do, you will no longer take pleasure in doing it.
9. You have zero control
Feel like you’re just one of a million cogs in a machine, with no opportunity for input regarding your hours or assignments, your department or your company as a whole? Employees that have no say over how their work is done or how a company makes important decisions can end up feeling helpless or indifferent-which means that they’ll have no pride in the organization or any interest in making an extra effort when required.
10. You’re asked to do too much with too little
According to Guarding Minds @ Work, a useful tool recommended by Kalef, many Canadians claim that their biggest job stressor is a heavy workload without enough time, equipment or financial support to do the work properly. That could mean that you’re consistently forced to work unpaid overtime hours simply to complete the basic tasks that are supposedly part of your job description. Overworked people have “a diminished sense of personal accomplishment and an increased sense of inadequacy,” suggests the website.
11. Your work-life balance is non-existent
Work-life balance is different for everyone, but it basically means that you’re able to effectively manage your responsibilities at work, at home and in your community-and ensure that work doesn’t overflow into your personal life and vice versa. If you feel like your job has taken over your life and you don’t have the time or mental bandwidth to deal with your family, health issues or hobbies, it could lead to higher cholesterol, depression and other health-related symptoms. If you’re thinking, “Uh oh, you’re right!,” it’s time to rethink your current schedule.
12. You never take a day off, even when you’re sick
Give yourself a break! If you honestly believe that you can’t afford to take a day off to regain your health, you’re either a little loopy or there’s something larger going on at your organization-like your company has no back-up plan for tasks you’re responsible for, they’ll overwhelm you with work when you do return or they’ll fire you for taking a much-needed sick day or two because you can’t trust the people you work for.
13. You feel like you can’t speak up without negative consequences
You should feel safe enough in your workplace to “ask questions, seek feedback, report mistakes and problems or propose a new idea,” says Guarding Minds @ Work. If you don’t feel safe enough to speak out and become involved because you fear you may be bullied or lose your job, you’re most definitely in a toxic work environment.
14. Your workplace stigmatizes mental illness
Many people deal with anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illness on a daily basis, and it’s important for a healthy workplace to treat all employees with dignity and respect. If you feel insulted or segregated because of your mental illness, or see other employees being marginalized because of theirs, your company needs to enter the 21st century.
15. You’ve changed
If your productivity goes down, your concentration levels start to wane or your sleep or eating habits change, your job could be having a negative impact on your physical and mental health. “Somebody might have a history of headaches, so they work every day with a headache and it’s just part of who they are. That doesn’t mean they’re not in a safe, healthy working environment,” says Kalef. “But if somebody else who never gets headaches is starting to get headaches every day at a certain time, maybe that’s a sign of stress.” In other words, listen to your body and keep a look out for signs that your job is getting to you.
Check out these tips to help you cope with stress at work.
Disclaimer: These are just general workplace issues, as well as some tips for coping. If you are struggling significantly at work, please reach out to an occupational therapist, psychologist or physiotherapist for support.