Is Your Job Bad for Your Health?


Wellness has become something of a buzzword these days. It’s gone from a sort of spiritualist term to something you hear corporate types in three-piece suits say on cable news when talking about employee morale. That’s because, like most things, the cold hard facts have started to clearly spell out that wellness is not just better for people, it’s better for companies and the economy. Employees who are in good physical, emotional, and mental condition will probably perform better and likely have fewer sick days. With one survey reporting 61% employee burnout, stress and wellness are taking center stage in discussions of employee wellbeing.

Wellness means a lot of things when it’s used in social media jargon, but it certainly means physical health. Just listen to the little piece of life wisdom from The Princess Bride’s Count Rugen (aka the six-fingered man). He might have been a nasty villain, but he was right about one thing, “if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” Mental and emotional health are also part of this discussion.

So is your workplace doing a good job of taking care of employee wellness? One of the first benchmarks to check is whether or not your employer has physical wellness programs. Do they offer low or reduced gym rates, or even have an employee gym in the building? Does the cafeteria or break room offer good, healthy snacks? How is your company health insurance, does it offer comprehensive wellness care? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then it may be a good time to evaluate exactly how your workplace does affect your health.

Beyond the physical health of employees is mental and emotional health. Some jobs certainly take more of an emotional toll than others. Those who work in healthcare, particularly high-stress environments like emergency rooms or operating rooms, often need emotional and mental health support systems in place. The same is true for law enforcement, firefighters, social workers, and a whole host of other high stakes, high-stress jobs. If your employer doesn’t offer on-site, or at least easy access, mental health professionals or help, that may be a sign that they’re not taking employees’ mental and emotional health seriously.

Stress takes a toll not just on individuals, but on companies and the economy as a whole. By some estimates, as much as $300 billion is lost to poor productivity due to stress. Long term stress can take a real physical toll over time, affecting everything from your immune system to your cardiovascular systems to even your reproductive systems. If your job is a source of great stress and your employer does not offer programs or resources to help you mitigate that stress, it may very well be true that your job is bad for your health.