Is work good for your health?

An extract from THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HEALTH AND WORK 3 Acas Health Work & Wellbeing Text: Acas Health Work & Wellbeing Text 17/5/12 16:11 Page 4

Yes, studies show that work is generally good for your health. As well as a financial reward it gives many of us self-esteem, companionship and status. The Macleod Review on employee engagement, published in July 2009, has revealed how this “feel good” factor is strongly influenced by:

  • leaders who help employees see where they fit into the bigger organisational picture
  • effective line managers who respect, develop and reward their staff
  • consultation that values the voice of employees and listens to their views and concerns
  • relationships based on trust and shared values.

But while the benefits of work greatly outweigh any disadvantages, work can also be bad for your health.

According to Government figures, two million people suffer an illness they believe has been caused or made worse by their work (‘Choosing Health’ White Paper).

This can take the form of stress, anxiety, back pain, depression and increased risk of coronary heart disease.

People in high status jobs are often thought to be more at risk of heart disease due to stress. Research by the Cabinet Office dispels this myth.

The Whitehall II study of public sector workers, published in 2004, found that men in the lowest employment grades were more likely to die prematurely than men in the highest grades. In contrast, higher rates of absence – and illness – were associated with low levels of work demands, control and support.

According to research by the Confederation of British Industry, non-work related mental ill health is the most significant cause of long-term absence in the UK – and musculoskeletal problems the second most significant cause.

An unhealthy workplace is usually quite easy to recognise. It often has:

  • poor management
  • a bullying culture
  • poor customer service
  • high levels of absence
  • reduced productivity
  • unreasonably high work demands.

You may have experienced these kinds of workplaces – either as an employee or a customer. Sickness absence is often rife when there is little commitment to the organisation.