‘Work’ and ‘Well-Being’ – Allies or Enemies?

‘Work’ and ‘Well-Being’ – Are they allies that enable us to smoothly balance the domains of work and family or are they enemies that cannot possibly be mentioned in the same breath? In today’s dynamic global work space, is it even possible to attain a state of complete well-being? Do we even have our personal definition of well-being?According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO),

“Workplace well-being refers to all the aspects of working life-like -employees perception of their work, work organization, organizational climate, quality and safety of the physical environment, satisfaction and engagement of employees” (2017)

The increasing use of modern technology at work, fluctuating global economy and slowly disappearing geographical boundaries have given birth to a ’24×7 work culture’- yes, any corporate house worth its salt in the stock market now operates round the clock, catering to the fancies of its multinational customers across varying time zones. And as the lines between work and non- work hours, the boundary between office and home gets increasingly blurred, so has the fine balance between work and life been increasingly complicated. Work no longer is just worship but can be said to be the core religion dictates every aspect of social, political and personal life in modern society.

In current times, there has been a tectonic shift in the workplace demographics. With a greater number of ‘dual earning’ families , greater participation of female at the workforce and implementation of policies ensuring equal rights and opportunities to individuals across various spectrums of caste,color,creed, race, gender and nationality, the contemporary workplace has virtually have had a face-lift. And as all of us are racing towards equal employment opportunities, equal wages, meatier promotions and sealing of plump business deals, we have been acutely ignoring or feigning ignorance of the associated hazards related to poor work life balance.Popular culture and mainstream media champion the cause of individualism, liberation, and autonomy – all of it tightly stapled to a sleek position, fat paycheck and a suave office. However, these ‘always on-line’ work culture is one of the primary factors behind the epidemic rise in the incidences of occupational stress that goes beyond physical injuries and psychological impairments to have the far-reaching impact on the health and well-being of the employees as well as the growth and development of the organizations. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related stress as:

“The adverse by effects on placed on an individual when excessive pressure or other demands are placed on them at work .”(2017)

A certain amount of stress (eustress) is indeed necessary for arousal and activation but when ‘eustress’ slowly progresses to ‘distress’, it can have a long debilitating effect on the employees.Studies have linked occupational stress to higher mortality rates, higher risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), skeletal disorders, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, depressive moods, anxiety, hypertension, slow cognitive functioning amongst others. The World Health Organization (WHO) has termed stress as the ‘health epidemic of the 21st century’ (2016).

Lets look up at some raw data !!!According to a study conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2016), almost one –third of the employees have experienced unmanageable stress or mental health issues at work place but only forty-one per cent of them felt confident about disclosing it to their managers. A research conducted by UK’s leading independent job site CV-Library found that nearly two-thirds of the employees surveyed felt that stressed employees were ‘looked down upon’ by their managers (2016).The Health and Safety Executive (2016) statistics suggest that work-related stress accounted for 37% of work-related ill health and 45% of work days lost in 2015-2016. Work stress has been associated with a range of physical (e.g., sleep deprivation), psychological (e.g., depression), social (e.g., interpersonal conflict) and behavioral (e.g., alcohol and other drug abuse) health problems (Kalimo & Mejman 1987). According to a research conducted by Online Recruitment Source (2017), bad management is the biggest cause of stress at work in the UK (65.8%), followed by heavy workloads (34.1%), long working hours (29.3%), and poor work/life balance (25.5%) An estimated 40 million people in the European Union (EU) are effected by work-related stress (European Working Survey 2007) and an approximate of fifty to sixty per-cent of the total work days lost were due to work-related stress (European Risk Observatory Report Work 2009).Although nearly eighty per cent of managers in Europe were found to be concerned about the impact of work-related stress , less than a third of the organizations were equipped to deal with it (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.

Thus, occupational stress and its associated hazards can no longer be brushed under the fancy carpet of a posh workplace.Policymakers, academicians, and employers must work both individually and collectively to ensure employees face fewer role conflicts and enjoy greater degrees of work life balance.Indeed, the entire idea of what constitutes ‘work’, ‘life’ and ‘balance’ is subjective and open to individual interpretation.However, if we aspire to have a happy household, productive workplaces, and a growing economy, we need to ensure that we master the art of balancing the tightrope!

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