Your Job, Your Health
Jobs often provide security, nurture a sense of purpose and feed a professional hunger in workers. If you're in the right position in your preferred industry, you'll likely reap these benefits. But that's not always the full story.
The wrong job can be toxic, but even your dream career can cause serious strain. You might enjoy what you do, but you need to be careful of the risks and impacts on your health, both mental and physical. Here are six ways your job may be bad for you.
With an "always-on" mentality, many workers struggle to balance their work life with their personal life, causing unnecessary strain not only on themselves, but on their relationships.
Sure, it's great to love your job, be engaged in your work, and enjoy the hours you put in; but you need to be aware of how it's affecting other areas of your life. Is it hurting your marriage? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you feel compelled, rather than inspired, to go above and beyond? Is your health being compromised? Understand how to achieve a healthy work-life balance, and stick to that plan.
It's common that employees don't work the same shifts every day; Monday might be an 8-to-4 while Thursday is a 12-to-8. However, this shiftwork is unhealthy if it happens too often.
"Rotational shifts disrupt the body clock, leading to issues such as insomnia, dizziness and sleep deprivation," said Ketan Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of Mettl. "When a person works in a different shift every month or worse, every week, they are unable to follow a routine or exercise regimen, [which] worsens their health and well-being."
If your job is inflexible, at least try to incorporate some type of structure that allows you to get enough exercise and sleep.
Neck strain, stiff joints and headaches are just a few of many physical side effects of an inactive work life. You also might experience more brain fog and lethargy. To combat this, make sure you're getting up for a walk every hour, even if it's just to the kitchen for a glass of water.
Also, your job should require you to take at least one major break per workday, and allow for smaller breaks throughout the course of the day as well. This encourages physical activity while helping the mind recharge before returning to work.
Poor eating habits
Strange work hours, busy schedules and taxing projects can interfere with eating patterns, creating unhealthy habits like mindless snacking and skipping meals.
"Stress at work can lead to stress eating, which may significantly be indicative of overeating and usually not of nutrient-dense foods," said Gisela Bouvier, MBA, RDN, LDN, and owner of Mindfully Intuitive Nutrition. "Rather, snack foods or comfort foods can be mindlessly grazed on to help deal with stress or stay alert. However, eating during moments of stress can hinder satiety and when we have had enough."
On the other hand, when you're overwhelmed with your work or distracted by meetings and projects, you might feel like you can't find the time to eat, or even forget to do so. Bouvier said that during her corporate wellness programs, many of clients confess that they're so engulfed in their work, they sometimes don't even realize they're hungry, going the entire day without eating.
"Lack of nutrition can significantly affect mood and overall productivity … [and] a combination of not eating and then overeating can happen," Bouvier said. "If work is stressful, hunger can be blocked. By the time we realize we are hungry, we are famished and are unable to think about what we truly desire. Instead, we want to eat anything and very quickly, which impairs how much nutrition we truly need."
Bouvier suggested setting an alarm as a reminder to eat, stocking the break room with nutritious snacks and scheduling a regular lunch break.
The average commute in America is nearly a half hour, but extreme commutes of 90 minutes or more are on the rise, according to a Gallup poll. Going to and from work is often not an enjoyable task, especially if it takes longer than an hour. Whether it's traffic on the highway, a delayed train, a long walk in poor weather or even an expensive parking deck, the details of your commute might even make you resent your job.
Many employees, especially those who commute to large cities, must wake up three hours before they're expected in the office. This often leads to lack of sleep, which can cause numerous other issues, like low immunity, trouble focusing and increased irritation. Not to mention, at the end of a stressful shift, all you want is to get home. But the classic 9-to-5 can become a 12-hour day for many commuters.
A positive company culture is crucial to employee satisfaction, but it isn't always guaranteed. If you show up to work each day to a team of aggressive employees and a micromanaging boss, odds are you won't feel comfortable or motivated.
"The workplace can make or mar a person's health as an average person spends more than eight hours there every day," said Kapoor. "Spending a considerable time under stress and pressure can trigger excessive production of stress hormone called cortisol, leading to health issues in the long run."
Additionally, you might feel discouraged, anxious and even depressed, trapped in a company you don't feel comfortable working for. If this is the case, it's best to speak up or look elsewhere. No job is worth your health.