Work is fundamental to our well-being. Most of us depend on work for the economic survival of ourselves and our family. Work can contribute to our sense of purpose, belonging, self-esteem, and health.
Work is a place we can develop and apply our skills, engage in a collective mission to produce or provide something of value, and be supported by the people around us. Having a ‘say’ or ‘voice’ at work in how that mission might best be accomplished, or how processes could be improved based on our experience and skill, is essential. Work ought to be a place where we are safe, treated with respect and dignity, and are rewarded fairly for our skills and time, both financially and in terms of advancement and growth. This is what we call ‘healthy work’.
The following five categories describe the main factors that need to be considered in promoting healthy work in the workplace.
A healthy work environment should be free of physical hazards. These include safety and mechanical hazards, toxic chemicals, noise, radiation, infectious diseases, extreme heat or cold, ergonomic design hazards (e.g. heavy lifting, prolonged standing and computer work without adjustable equipment).
Job-related work stressors can affect your mental and physical health and contribute to chronic illnesses such as depression, which is a leading cause of disability, cardiovascular disease, loss of productivity, increased healthcare costs, and even death and decreased life expectancy.
Organizational Culture and Climate
All organizations have a ‘culture’ that reflects the values and practices of its leaders and supervisors. A workplace’s ‘climate’ reflects how managers and workers relate to each other, the organization’s policies and practices, and how respectfully and fairly workers are treated. A positive work climate can reduce work stressors and improve your health and well-being.
How management organizes tasks and work includes many things. It can cover employment arrangements (i.e., full/part-time, contractor/temp worker); staffing decisions or practices; downsizing and restructuring practices; and work hours, shifts, and schedules (i.e. On-call, irregular scheduled, forced overtime). Psychosocial work stressors are a consequence of how work is organized and are linked to poor mental and physical health.
Rewards and Benefits
Rewards are the economic and other benefits (i.e., promotions, seniority status, job security, support, and respect) that are the expected outcome of work. When rewards do not match the required effort or responsibility of a job, this is a major stressor, or effort reward imbalance. Fair pay and living wages, paid time off, sick days, leave to take care of family, and adequate health insurance and retirement benefits are all are necessary to reducing work stressors. Rewards and benefits are beneficial to the health of working people and will lead to lower risk of illness, disease, and early death.
Remember, these principles are meant to help you understand what healthy work is. Still, you should continue to grow your own personal resources to help you achieve healthy work. These can include:
- Getting sufficient sleep, eating healthy foods, and being physically active.
- Taking care of your health conditions.
- Learning strategies to manage symptoms of stress.
- Sharing your work experiences with co-workers to learn how they may be having similar experiences.
- Getting support from co-workers, family, friends, or professionals.