How are employers faring in their efforts to make the workplace better for its employees? Well, according to a joint survey conducted for National Public Radio (NPR), the Robert Wood Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, not very well.
Titled “The Workplace and Health”, the telephone survey queried over 1600 people across a range of industries and demographics. While almost eight in ten say their workplace is supportive of them taking steps to improve their personal health, and almost half say they are provided with such opportunities, an alarming percentage (88%) decry the efforts of their company to reduce stress levels on the job. Stress factors identified included income, hours worked, dangerous conditions, availability of paid sick days or vacations, and caring for a family member. Stress has been shown to exacerbate or cause: headaches, acne, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression among other long-term health issues.
The study also revealed that pay structure created a sharp divide regarding health and the workplace. Those in lower-paying jobs, in seasonal employment, or performing shift work, were more likely to deliver negative marks on stress, health initiatives, paid sick leave, and exposure to dangerous situations than those in average or high-paying jobs. Workers with documented disabilities also responded with less than satisfactory opinions of company efforts on workers’ health issues.
On other key points:
- 43% overall said their job has a negative effect on their stress
- Only 53% of those in low-paying jobs said they were offered benefits such as paid sick days or vacation
- 55% of all workers say they go to work while sick
- Two-thirds of workers in low-paying jobs show up to work sick
- Slightly more than half of those in average paying jobs go to work while sick
- 48% of those in high-paying jobs work when sick
Reasons for working while sick often centered on the paycheck. Those in low-paying jobs who went to work while sick did so because they could not afford to miss work, while those with better paying jobs cited indispensability or not feeling sick enough to miss as reasons for showing up.
While health initiatives by companies and businesses are to be lauded, there is still plenty to be done when it comes to protecting workers’ health and wellbeing, especially when it comes to identifying and reducing stress-inducing elements in the workplace.