On average, most employed adult individuals spend the bulk of their wake hours in a workplace setting. By nature, the environment in which this work takes place has a direct impact on the health of the said individual. This will then influence the person’s ability to effectively perform, thereby reducing productivity and possibly even leading to worse outcomes such as permanent injury, illness, or death. The conversation around the work environment needs to involve both employees and employers so that both parties may be informed of what is at risk and how to seek a remedy. So, if you are employed, or you employ others, or perhaps you have past work and health-related experience, let’s explore how this relationship works.
A place of work is where most adult individuals spend a large percentage of their time. Research tells us that the global workforce makes up approximately 60% of the world population, and the average person works roughly 40 hours per week. For many workers, work is a way to earn an income that allows one to afford to live and effectively survive in modern-day society. More than that, engaging in work as an occupation contributes to a person’s sense of meaning and purpose in the world. Therefore, we know that employees expend much of themselves in the form of time and effort in the workplace, but what about the impact that this work has on them and their health?
Physical Health In the Work Environment
When discussing health, we will further break it down into physical and mental health. A person’s physical health in the work environment is what most often comes to mind when we consider injury and illness, especially in jobs where there is an increased element of risk. The attorneys over at https://www.kentuckycourage.com/ encounter many incidents of this nature, often in the form of vehicle-related work accidents and injuries by truck, car, or motorcycle accidents. We know a large portion of the global workforce engage in manual labor tasks of a repetitive nature, often load-bearing or operating heavy-duty machinery and vehicles. If we acknowledge that many individuals are suffering injury and possibly loss of life as a result of these types of unsafe work environment regulations, then we can see that more needs to be done to ensure safer working conditions for these groups.
Mental Health In The Work Environment
Work-related poor health is not only a result of physical environmental conditions. An abusive colleague or superior may be contributing to a person’s poor mental health and, possibly physical health too. Unrealistic job expectations or unfair treatment of an employee would also likely lead to sustained stress and possibly burnout. In work settings where the policies and structures do not protect employees from such situations, individuals are left vulnerable. Consider an employee with a pre-existing mental health condition that requires awareness and accommodations within the workplace, for him or her to perform effectively. If not supported, the condition could become further exacerbated and productivity would decrease.
An Unhealthy Picture
Just as there are different types of health, so there are different elements making up the work environment. For instance, imagine a scenario of a factory where the environment is unsupportive. Think about the lighting, noise, ergonomic layout, and how that might affect an employee. Try to picture a factory worker that spends his or her workday standing, lifting, twisting, and bending, positioned next to a whirring machine, under fluorescent lights with poor room ventilation. In this scenario, the products that the workers handle might be harmful or poisonous in nature. Perhaps the workers have not been provided with adequate protective gear to shield their eyes, hands, and lungs. Possibly the way in which the workday is structured does not allow for enough breaks, leading to increased fatigue, stress, and possibly dangerous errors.
What To Do?
The above scenario illustrates an obviously unhealthy picture, and we can see how this could potentially have several negative effects on an employee’s physical and mental health. We can also see the room for simple steps employers can take to better support their workers in this environment. Earplugs, seating, mandatory regular breaks, task rotation, surface-level adjustments, correct protective wear, and open windows would be some improvements to name a few. These changes would likely have a positive impact on productivity, as well as reduce the staff turnover rate which is a win-win for all involved.
There is much emphasis placed on the impact of the work environment on an employee’s productivity. However, what is often overlooked is the impact of the employee’s work environment on his or her health. Employers need to realize that this, in turn, will have a direct and positive impact on productivity and thus make the necessary adaptations. Employees need to hold this awareness too, so that they may advocate for their own health rights within the work environment.