Jeffrey Pfeffer: Is Your Workplace Killing You? | Summary and Q&A

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April 30, 2015
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Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Jeffrey Pfeffer: Is Your Workplace Killing You?

TL;DR

Harmful workplace conditions, such as long hours, stress, and economic insecurity, contribute to 120,000 excess deaths and $200 billion in healthcare costs annually in the US.

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Key Insights

  • 🇨🇷 Harmful workplace conditions contribute to excess deaths and healthcare costs in the US.
  • 💦 Chronic stressors, economic insecurity, and work-family conflict are major contributors to healthcare costs.
  • ☠️ Access to healthcare, including health insurance, plays a crucial role in mortality rates.
  • 💦 Employers have the ability to improve the work environment to reduce healthcare costs.
  • 💁 Social policy interventions may be necessary to address workplace conditions, considering them as a form of social pollution.
  • 🇨🇷 Employers should internalize the costs of their actions to make more informed decisions.
  • 🧑‍⚕️ The connection between mental health and physical health emphasizes the relevance of psychology in overall well-being.

Transcript

[MUSIC] Our workplaces are killing us in several ways. Number one, they are working us to death. Too many hours. Hours have been shown to be related, for instance, to blood pressure in an almost monotonic relationship. Workplaces are killing us because they stress us and absence of job control, work-family conflict economic insecurity is obviously ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What are some examples of harmful workplace conditions?

Harmful workplace conditions include economic insecurity, absence of health insurance, shift work, and work-family conflict. These factors directly affect access to healthcare or place stress and strain on individuals.

Q: What are the biggest contributors to healthcare costs?

Chronic stressors, such as work-family conflict and economic insecurity, are the biggest contributors to healthcare costs. The absence of access to healthcare, resulting from the lack of health insurance, is another significant factor.

Q: How do psychology and mental attitude affect health?

Stress, anxiety, and feelings of being out of control have a significant physiological impact on the body. Mental states and attitudes can impact physical health, demonstrating the connection between mind and body.

Q: What can individuals and employers do to address these issues?

Individuals should consider the impact of workplace conditions on their well-being when selecting a job. Employers should focus on improving the work environment to reduce healthcare costs. Currently, employers tend to focus on individual decisions and social policy issues, neglecting the impact of the work environment.

Summary

In this video, the speaker discusses how workplaces are negatively impacting our health in multiple ways. Excessive working hours, job stress, lack of control, work-family conflict, and economic insecurity are all contributors to poor health outcomes. The speaker presents research findings that estimate 120,000 excess deaths and nearly $200 billion in excess healthcare costs annually in the United States alone due to harmful workplace conditions. The causes of these costs vary, with chronic stressors such as work-family conflict and economic insecurity playing a significant role in healthcare costs, while the absence of health insurance is the biggest factor affecting mortality. The speaker emphasizes the importance of individuals considering these factors when selecting a job and urges employers to prioritize the work environment in order to mitigate healthcare costs.

Questions & Answers

Q: How do workplaces contribute to our demise?

Workplaces are killing us in multiple ways. Firstly, excessively long working hours have been shown to have a relationship with high blood pressure. Additionally, workplaces induce stress, and the absence of job control, work-family conflict, and economic insecurity are all significant stressors. The combination of these factors, working us to the point of exhaustion and causing immense stress, is what ultimately leads to adverse health outcomes.

Q: How does stress affect us physiologically?

The connection between our minds and bodies is well-established, and stress is a mental state that can significantly impact our physical health. It should come as no surprise that feeling stressed, nervous, anxious, or out of control can have substantial physiological consequences. This link between mental well-being and physical health has been documented in epidemiological literature for a considerable time. Stress not only affects our mental health but also takes a toll on our bodies.

Q: What did the research findings reveal about the impact of harmful workplace conditions?

By consolidating various studies on the health effects of workplace stressors and estimating their prevalence, the researchers were able to create a big model that estimated the total effects on population health and healthcare costs. The findings suggest that harmful workplace conditions contribute to approximately 120,000 excess deaths per year in the United States alone. Additionally, these conditions result in close to $200 billion in excess healthcare costs. Factors such as economic insecurity, absence of health insurance, shift work, and work-family conflict directly impact healthcare costs or place significant stress on individuals.

Q: Which workplace stressors have the most significant impact on healthcare costs?

The impact of workplace stressors on healthcare costs varies depending on the outcome being considered. Chronic stressors like work-family conflict and economic insecurity are the primary contributors to healthcare costs. These stressors, although not as influential as the absence of health insurance or work hours, still have considerable effects. It is important to note that psychology also plays a role, indicating that mental well-being can impact the financial burden of healthcare.

Q: What should employees and employers consider regarding workplace conditions?

Employees need to understand that workplace conditions, such as work-family conflicts, shift work, long hours, economic insecurity, and lack of access to health insurance, go beyond mere inconveniences. These factors have a deep and profound impact on their overall well-being and should be taken into account when selecting a job. Meanwhile, employers who are concerned about healthcare costs should prioritize the work environment. Instead of solely focusing on individual decisions like eating habits or exercise, employers should consider how the daily work environment affects their employees. By addressing factors within the work environment, employers can make significant improvements to healthcare costs.

Q: Could public policy help regulate the negative impact of workplaces on health?

It is conceivable that public policy interventions akin to regulating secondhand smoke exposure could be employed to address the negative impact of workplaces on health. The speaker compares this situation to a form of social pollution. Historically, when individuals polluted water or air, they did not bear the costs. Similarly, if companies had to face the costs of not providing economic security, health insurance, flexibility for family obligations, and fairness, they would be incentivized to make more economically rational decisions. However, at present, employers often pass these costs onto society at large, leading to their lack of concern. The speaker advocates for internalizing the costs of employers' actions so that they make more informed decisions, just as with environmental pollution.

Takeaways

Workplaces have a profound impact on our health, leading to excess deaths and healthcare costs. Factors such as long working hours, job stress, and economic insecurity significantly contribute to poor health outcomes. Employers and employees must recognize that these workplace conditions extend beyond inconvenience, affecting well-being on a deep level. Employers should prioritize creating a positive work environment as it plays a substantial role in healthcare costs. Public policy interventions that internalize the costs of employers' actions may prove beneficial in addressing the negative impact of workplaces on health. By taking these steps, both individuals and society as a whole can work towards better health outcomes.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Excessive working hours and stress in the workplace have been shown to have a significant impact on physical health, including blood pressure.

  • The combination of stress and overworking leads to detrimental effects on both mental and physical health.

  • A study estimates that harmful workplace conditions result in 120,000 excess deaths and close to $200 billion in excess healthcare costs in the US.

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