Serious Health Risks in the American Work Culture
Ever have that feeling that the rest of your life is getting pushed to the side so that your work life can prosper or your company’s profits can increase? Are you afraid to take a vacation because you will get too behind at work? Do you see unicorns outside your office window? If you answered yes to 2 out of the 3 questions — it’s time to seriously discuss why you are putting your job before your health and your life.
My understanding of the work-life model evolved from my parents. The idea that if you work hard, your company will reward you and take care of you. Most important, your employer has your best interests at heart… Fast forward to today and it’s very clear that this model just doesn’t exist as it once did. I am not saying we all work for Gordon Gecko, but the American work environment has dramatically changed in the last 10–20 years. The gig based economy is growing and shows no signs of slowing down, in fact, it seems to be spreading out across industries. Within the next four years, 40% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers. While this creates more worker flexibility, this allows for companies to focus more on short-term results that impact your mental and physical well being.
Like so many of you, I found myself in this position — working in an environment that cages creativity while expecting increased results. It’s like trying to swim with your hands tied behind your back — long hours, poor management and disconnected company vision. I found the biggest frustration was the increased want to be creative as more and more days were filled with mundane execution — stuck in a system that pulls you farther down each day and loathing yourself for not leaving. It’s like being in a bad relationship but being more afraid to be alone. I left work exhausted but utterly unfulfilled. I left the office with my body tied in knots, my head thick and my mind cluttered. I would awake sluggish like I forgot to fall asleep. Advil for the pain, and coffee for the mind. Then, I would repeat the process the next day. I was unhappy.
We all need some help. Let’s remove some common misconnects out there so you can figure out if your job is killing your mental and physical health.
- Melissa Mayer’s 130 work week will kill you. I am not joking. Anyone sleeping under their desk has to seriously reconsider their relationship with their job. And here is the kicker, it will make you less intelligent and productive along the way.That’s right — there is ample evidence of serious diminishing returns once you pass 40 hrs in a work week which means you are less productive in every hour thereafter. And it only gets worse, as you try to grind through those late night hours with gallons and gallons of coffee.
- Stress is worse than 2nd hand smoke. So, it’s no surprise that stress costs over $190 billion dollars annually in US healthcare costs and these numbers don’t account for wasted productivity costs which could account for hundreds of billions more. When you feel that tightness in your body, take a moment to think how much money it’s really worth to force your health into this state.
- Weekends are really “work from home” days. Taking a break from work is needed to help rest your mind. People who work more than 60hrs each week are 230% more likely to burnout. What becomes clear is that increased work hours decrease the longevity at your current job. It might feel like you are helping yourself and your company, but really it’s lose-lose for everyone. If your employer is pushing you in this direction, they have lost sight of their and your long-term goals.
- You can’t remember the last time you took a vacation. You are getting worse at your job and are more likely to get sick. The most important feature of vacations are to help remove stress, which is crucial to resist infection, maintain vital functions, and even the ability to avoid injury. Vacations provide a great opportunity to change your routine and come back to work even healthier than before, check out our recent post, so see how to get started.
So with all of these obvious contradictions to the current state of the work life balance, why are companies so stuck in a stubborn pattern that is costing them production and crushing employees health? John Nash is shaking his head at us right now. Everyone is losing.
Taking care of yourself first might seem like a selfish act, but it’s what will make you a more productive long-term employee. Managerial decisions that contradict this belief are based on misinformed ideas. It would be like having a captain that still thinks the earth is flat. I am not suggesting an all out mutiny against companies whose beliefs are still this archaic, but when you find yourself in situations that contradict your personal health, you need to determine why you work. Is it to provide for your life or is it all of your life? If it’s the former, make sure you clearly set your work boundaries and make your health a top priority. Then steer the ship for the horizon without pause.
- Office chairs are a chronic disease — they are trying to kill you.
- Sunshine is not something you see through a window.
- Your boss might not have your health interests in mind.
- Work needs to end everyday, pick a time and embrace it.
- Waking up feeling refreshed during the week is achievable.
- Your body should not feel like Mike Tyson has been punching you in the chest over and over when you leave work.
- Stress and work aren’t binary — you can have one without the other.
- FOMO is real! Don’t only see your friends and family in your newsfeed.
- Health is a more important currency than money.
- Life > Work