An article in the Wits Business Journal caught my attention. It was entitled “How employee health works for you”.
Its thrust is about the value of employee wellness programs and the value they deliver to the employer.
But before the article addresses the wellness, it bombarded me with tales of the awful toxicity of the modern work place.
“Global industrialisation has changed the nature and importance of employee wellness: work is increasingly sedentary, meaning employee populations are at greater risk of developing chronic diseases; and the workplace is an increasingly stressful environment – whether its job-related anxiety caused by the global economic downturn, or the challenges of maintaining a healthy work-life balance in the age of technology and the expectations of 24-7 availability.”
“The modern workplace is a totally artificial environment. “You ask people to spend eight or nine hours a day at a desk; they have to deal with an unnatural internal hierarchy; and personal reasons are not considered good reasons for missing your performance targets. You have to balance the scale somehow”.
“In the United States, mental health (including stress and depression) and substance abuse are the leading cause of illness and lost productivity in the workplace.”
“In the average American workplace 50% of employees are overweight; 40% worry about debt; 25% are stressed; 12% are depressed; and 10% have relationship problems”.
“Presenteeism (unproductive time) is the most powerful factor at play – between three and ten times more impactful than absenteeism. Presenteeism may account for as much as 15% of working hours”.
So employers encouraged to spend millions on what are now broadly referred to as Employee Assistance Programs or Employee Wellness Programs.
Is this just another classic case of treating the symptoms at great and recurring expense, but ignoring the causes?
The cause of the dreadful toxicity in workplaces is the abuse of positional power. Command and control have gone haywire and there is a pervasive unkindness in human hierarchies. Add excessive competition, greed and bully behaviour and you have a recipe for disaster.
Changing these behaviours (and we know they can be changed) and the awful toll of workplace stress could be alleviated somewhat at source.