Toxic workplaces could damage mental health, Surgeon General warns


Long hours and cutthroat work conditions are harmful to workers’ mental and physical health, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned in a groundbreaking report on Thursday, the first time the surgeon general’s office has weighed in on potentially destructive effects of a toxic workplace as Americans reconsider their positions in mass numbers amid the so-called great resignation and phenomenon of quiet quitting.

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Roughly three in four respondents in an American Psychological Association survey said they have experienced at least one symptom of a mental health condition—17% more than two year ago. Of those people, 84% said their workplace contributed to at least one mental health condition and 81% said they will be looking for a new place to work that’s more supportive of mental health issues.

Recent reports indicate many employees are leaning in on a trend called “quiet quitting,” where they’re performing necessary tasks but not overloading their schedules by going above and beyond in an effort to prevent their job from consuming their life.

It also comes amid a phenomenon economists refer to as the “great resignation,” where employees are leaving their jobs in mass numbers, having developed new expectations on what a job schedule should entail, and as a result, taking more personal time for themselves.

Employers, in turn, have considered broad-sweeping changes to work schedules and environments, including more remote days, even as Covid-19 cases fall, as well as a four-day work week, giving employees a routine three-day weekend in return for higher expectations during the working days.

The Big Number: US$575 billion. That’s how much U.S. employers lose in lost productivity from injuries and chronic diseases in the workforce each year, according to research from the Integrated Benefits Institute cited by the CDC and the surgeon general’s report.

The pandemic has given employers the “opportunity to rethink how we work,” Murthy said in the report, cautioning the changes may not be easy but “will be worth it” for both workers and organizations in the long run.

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