The results are in: about half of the American workforce hates what they do for a living.
But with bills piling up on the kitchen table, they show up to work anyway, toiling at their cubicles while glancing at the slow hands of the clock now and then.
When it comes to wellness at the workplace, feeling unhappy with your job takes a toll on your mental health and personal wellbeing beyond the nine-to-five time frame. It can spill into your personal life, too, causing much stress, depression and anxiety: a cocktail of ailments to keep you up at night.
Sensing the dangers of unhappiness at the office, which can lead to low employee productivity, some companies are promoting wellness by installing sleep pods and popcorn machines on company grounds, as well as giant piano staircases to entice you on a trip up the stairs instead of riding the escalator.
And while these perks can add a bit of cheer to your work-life, they can also paper over the cracks of job burnout.
After all, are these perks really contributing to your wellness at the workplace? Are they promoting unconditional happiness and wellbeing?
Or are they mere razzle-dazzle to squeeze every single ounce of work-juice you’ve got in you so that “sleep deprivation” can no longer be your excuse for failing to meet an important deadline?
“Gee, Billy, I’m sorry that you’re losing sleep over the month-end report,” your employer (let’s call him Gene) says, “but that’s why we’ve got sleep pods on the second floor.”
Billy’s response might go something like this:
“I know, Gene, I know. I’m so sorry. There’s absolutely no excuse.”
When it should go something like this:
“FUCK YOUR SLEEP PODS, GENE!”
And while we’re at it, Fuck your free lunches, Google!
It’s high time employers acknowledge that wellness at the workplace can’t be bought with perks and luxuries.
That said, below are four key questions in Gill Hasson and Donna Butler’s book, “Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace,” that I hope you’ll answer to determine whether or not your employer values wellness at the workplace.
Q1. CAN YOU PERFORM THE DEMANDS OF YOUR JOB?
Allow me to rephrase: can you perform the demands of your job without stressing the fuck out and pounding down a bottle of wine each night to cope with the anxiety you’ve been building up during work hours?
If the answer’s “no,” then you might want to schedule a meeting with Gene and review your list of duties.
Sensing that you’re biting off more than you can chew, a caring manager might encourage you to speak up or ask questions when you’re unclear about a particular task that you’ve been instructed to complete.
But asking for help can be tricky: it takes a positive work environment for employees to feel comfortable to approach their bosses without feeling judged in return.
As these statistics show, a demanding job can certainly compromise wellness at the workplace. And in the same breath, a heavy workload that lacks the support of your supervisor or teammates can cause much stress and burnout.
Q2. ARE YOU IN CONTROL OF YOUR WORK?
Do you have a certain degree of autonomy when it comes to executing your tasks?
Or is Millie the Micromanager constantly breathing down your neck?
A healthy level of autonomy not only means that you’re capable of executing the demands of your job without second-guessing yourself. It also means that your managers trust in your ability to perform these tasks successfully and with minimal supervision.
Not being in control is one thing. But being in control and then having someone make you feel as though you’re not in control is something else entirely. In fact, it’s one of the worst feelings to experience at the workplace.
Not only does this make you doubt your ability to get the job done. It makes you wonder why Gene would task you with something of the utmost importance, only to suggest over and over that he can do it better than you?
This makes as much sense as Christopher Nolan’s film, “Interstellar.” Seven years after its theatrical release, I’m still trying to figure out what the fuck happened?! (It just doesn’t make sense, people.)
So, the next time someone suggests that they can do something better than you, then by all means, pass along the baton. Ask them if they’d prefer to do the work instead, or pull off some mindfuckery to avoid getting fired on the spot.
For instance, you could say something like, “I hope you trust that I can get the job done on time and to your satisfaction.”
Sure, an awkward conversation might ensue, but at least you’re getting things out in the open in an effort to do your work in peace.
(By the way, it’s not always easy to tell when you’re being micro-managed, but these signs can help you figure that out.)
Q3: DO YOU GET ALONG WITH YOUR COWORKERS?
Do you vibe well with your coworkers? Or do you come into constant conflict that would make Kanye West and Taylor Swift’s beef look like child’s play?
Most hiring managers will assess your ability to mesh well with others based on a first impression (ie. the dreaded first interview.)
Are you easy to chat with? They wonder. Do you have a pleasant disposition? Are you “approachable?”
If there are existing conflicts within the team, a hiring manager might ask himself, “Is this someone who can squash the drama and focus on the work to be done? Or is this someone who’ll simply add more fuel to the flame?”
Look, it’s not always easy to get along with your coworkers. Personalities are so diverse and complex, it’s as if they’re destined to clash with each other at some point.
But if you keep your cool and be the badass professional that you are, then you can assure Gene that when it comes to earning the respect and trust of your peers he can safely put all of his chips in your roulette (so to speak.)
Keep in mind that getting along with your coworkers is a revolving door. From new hires to tenured employees, personalities will come and go, dramatically shifting the dynamic of work relationships at various points throughout your career.
So, keep an open mind when facing these changes.
Be mindful of others’ feelings. Practice active listening. Show compassion and empathy.
These qualities will keep you from drowning in the deep waters of a toxic workplace.
Q4: IS YOUR EMPLOYER PROMOTING WELLNESS AT THE WORKPLACE?
It’s a simple question that begs a simple answer: does your boss give a fuck about your wellbeing?
Seriously, though: pay attention; look around.
Is HR circulating a memo on wellness at the workplace with the same bravado as, say, a weekly newsletter on how to stop slacking off and increase your productivity tenfold?
Many employers feel as though the mere act of hiring you shows that they care about you.
After all, they pay you a decent wage, approve your PTO requests and organize one team-building event each year besides the holiday party in December, which is just an excuse to be inappropriate towards your coworkers (thank you, free-flowing booze from the open bar.)
From Gene’s perspective, it’s you who should be grateful to have a job. It’s because of him that you can afford a trip to Thailand to witness little Thai ladies shoot ping pong balls from the private parts in some dank, late-night bar on the island of Ko Phi Phi.
“I mean, the audacity!” says Gene the employer. “If it weren’t for me, you’d be panhandling at some busy intersection off the freeway!”
But believe you me, savvy employers are readily aware of the harsh reality that, without you, there is no business.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all about expressing gratitude for employment. But is your employer grateful to have you onboard?
I can smell Gene’s indignation from a mile away. Why should he be thankful about hiring you when he has the power to make or break your livelihood by either firing you or keeping you on payroll?
“Damn you, Gene!” I say. “Get it through that thick skull of yours! You need your employees more than they need you!”
Those who don’t see it this way are probably afraid of “biting the hand that feeds them.”
But this is misguided loyalty at its best.
In other words, these workers profess their loyalty to Gene, who treats them like shit, simply because Gene can guarantee forty hours of work per week.
Do me a favor, dear reader: don’t just bite the hand. Sever it from the wrist. (Go ahead. You have my permission.)
Because aren’t you also feeding the fat pockets of your employer?
Aren’t you toiling away at your cubicle, taking work home with you, making yourself available after hours to prove to Gene that you’re a tenacious sonuvabitch whose ready for a promotion, even though you’ve never spoken to him about one?
STUCK IN A RUT
It’s always refreshing to hear that so-and-so rises from bed each morning without hating their life and that they’re happy to report to work.
On the other hand, it’s painfully sad to hear that so-and-so rises from bed each morning hating their life because they must report to work.
If you’re in the latter category, it’s time to figure out why you despise your job so much and what you can do to get yourself out of a rut.
Sure, a lack of wellness at the workplace is part of the problem. But there may be something deeper within you that’s creating a resistance to your work environment.
Perhaps you stumbled upon your current role by accident, steamrolled your way up to the top, only to realize that you hate what you’re doing and have no where else to go but down.
As you begin to answer these questions while prioritizing your mental health and personal wellbeing, I hope that you won’t only invoke positive change in your life, but that you’ll inspire others to seek the change they also deserve to be happy at the workplace.
PS. To all the Genes of the world: I hope you’ll find it in your great big hearts to forgive me for sullying your name.