Sunday, September 05, 2004

NYT Explores Anxiety in the Workplace: "Sick at Work"

Nice article by John Schwartz, in honor of Labor Day. Until I figure out how to link to the article, (which is on a registration-only site,) I will have to quote directly:

"Decades of research have linked stress to everything from heart attacks and strokes to diabetes and a weakened immune system. Now, however, researchers are connecting the dots, finding that the growing stress and uncertainty of the office have a measurable impact on workers' health and, by extension, on companies' bottom lines." They describe some driven employees who ultimately discovered the "hollowness" of their hefty paychecks, and calculated the huge personal costs exacted by perpetual "on-call" productivity.

I applaud their emphasis on workers taking responsibility for their health, but I do think some employers are being let off the hook too easily. The attitude seems to be, "Cope with the stress, adapt, or find something else to do." (One employee even ended up on disability when her multiple sclerosis flared up, during a period of intense job stress.)

Don't employers need to address the causes of workplace stress, and not permit stress to reach unreasonable, illness-inducing levels? (The article suggests that speed of business expansion makes a difference, as well as better-known issues like friction with coworkers, and overbearing bosses.) Unfortunately, fear of stigma and reprisals may have prevented employees from speaking out to change working conditions. How many prescriptions for antidepressants or tranquilizers might never be written, if employers only listened to their workers?

4 Comments:

Blogger OldFan said...

Any and all inquiries into my private affairs, mental state and personal opinions on non-work issues from my employer would be met with brilliantly effective obfuscation [trust me, I have 26 years experience in government service]. They would hear exactly what they wanted to hear: that I am in need of ZERO assistance to cope with the 'sub-minimal' on-the-job stress that I handle with ease. This assures my continued employment [seasoned veterans are hard to find] - unless I take umbrage at such an inquisition and take my talented self elsewhere.

You well-intentioned musings display a stunning lack of experience in the realities of the workplace: if it become too hard or too costly to employ somebody, then they will do without that person or the company will simply fold [or move to Taiwan]. In addition, the more stringent the demands for such interventions as you contemplate, the less likely that anybody other that empty suits with a good line of BS [no, I am not in Marketing - I am an Engineer] will get hired.

OTOH, any reasonable enforcement [or even tracking] mechanism MUST create a great many low-stress low-results [standard] government positions for people with the right credentials . . . [hmmmmmm] . . .

Maybe I need another Masters' [compared to EE, MGMNT is a laughably easy subject, both in the civilian and the miltary world] to set me up for a cushy 3rd career.

All kidding aside, I am quite skeptical about this entire train of thought: the devil is in the details.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a quick FYI on linking to NYT articles.

When you're viewing the article, go to this URL:

javascript:(function(){var%20x,t,i,j;t=location.href.replace(/[%]3A/ig,':').replace(/[%]2f/ig,'/');i=t.lastIndexOf('http://');if(i>0){t=t.substring(i);j=t.indexOf('&');if(j>0)t=t.substring(0,j)}window.location='http://nytimes.blogspace.com/genlink?q='+t})();

You'll get a page from userland that gives a non-expiring link to the NYT article.

12:42 PM  
Blogger shrinkette said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:52 PM  
Blogger shrinkette said...

Sunday, September 05, 2004


NYT Explores Anxiety in the Workplace: "Sick at Work"
Nice article by John Schwartz, in honor of Labor Day. Until I figure out how to link to the article, (which is on a registration-only site,) I will have to quote directly:
"Decades of research have linked stress to everything from heart attacks and strokes to diabetes and a weakened immune system. Now, however, researchers are connecting the dots, finding that the growing stress and uncertainty of the office have a measurable impact on workers' health and, by extension, on companies' bottom lines." They describe some driven employees who ultimately discovered the "hollowness" of their hefty paychecks, and calculated the huge personal costs exacted by perpetual "on-call" productivity.
I applaud their emphasis on workers taking responsibility for their health, but I do think some employers are being let off the hook too easily. The attitude seems to be, "Cope with the stress, adapt, or find something else to do." (One employee even ended up on disability when her multiple sclerosis flared up, during a period of intense job stress.)
Don't employers need to address the causes of workplace stress, and not permit stress to reach unreasonable, illness-inducing levels? (The article suggests that speed of business expansion makes a difference, as well as better-known issues like friction with coworkers, and overbearing bosses.) Unfortunately, fear of stigma and reprisals may have prevented employees from speaking out to change working conditions. How many prescriptions for antidepressants or tranquilizers might never be written, if employers only listened to their workers?

posted by shrinkette at 7:06 PM   


3 Comments:


OldFan said...

Any and all inquiries into my private affairs, mental state and personal opinions on non-work issues from my employer would be met with brilliantly effective obfuscation [trust me, I have 26 years experience in government service]. They would hear exactly what they wanted to hear: that I am in need of ZERO assistance to cope with the 'sub-minimal' on-the-job stress that I handle with ease. This assures my continued employment [seasoned veterans are hard to find] - unless I take umbrage at such an inquisition and take my talented self elsewhere.
You well-intentioned musings display a stunning lack of experience in the realities of the workplace: if it become too hard or too costly to employ somebody, then they will do without that person or the company will simply fold [or move to Taiwan]. In addition, the more stringent the demands for such interventions as you contemplate, the less likely that anybody other that empty suits with a good line of BS [no, I am not in Marketing - I am an Engineer] will get hired.
OTOH, any reasonable enforcement [or even tracking] mechanism MUST create a great many low-stress low-results [standard] government positions for people with the right credentials . . . [hmmmmmm] . . .
Maybe I need another Masters' [compared to EE, MGMNT is a laughably easy subject, both in the civilian and the miltary world] to set me up for a cushy 3rd career.
All kidding aside, I am quite skeptical about this entire train of thought: the devil is in the details.

12:00 PM  

Anonymous said...

Just a quick FYI on linking to NYT articles.
When you're viewing the article, go to this URL:
javascript:(function(){var%20x,t,i,j;t=location.href.replace(/[%]3A/ig,':').replace(/[%]2f/ig,'/');i=t.lastIndexOf('http://');if(i>0){t=t.substring(i);j=t.indexOf('&');if(j>0)t=t.substring(0,j)}window.location='http://nytimes.blogspace.com/genlink?q='+t})();
You'll get a page from userland that gives a non-expiring link to the NYT article.

12:42 PM  

shrinkette said...

Hello to Oldfan and Anonymous....Oldfan, I agree with you. (Including the part about my naivete!) Psychiatrists tend to meet workers who are not functioning on the job, who are unable to disguise that fact, and are no longer able to avoid encounters with psychiatry. For them, the unthinkable has already happened. But sometimes workers are surprised by the willingness of their organizations to modify work schedules, address sources of conflict, and to provide time off for recovery. No doubt, no doubt, that is not always the case, and it's tragic. If employees can't speak out about their working conditions, then maybe doctors can....we need more studies showing how working condtions affect productivity.

4:55 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Click for Eugene, Oregon Forecast