Is your workplace costing you your health?
The internet is abuzz with new terms describing attitudes and practices towards work these days. You might have seen some of them.
躺平 Tǎng píng (Chinese: “lying flat”)
A social protest movement that started in China in 2021. It rejects the culture of overwork and competitiveness, focusing instead on having fewer, simpler desires.
摆烂 Bǎi làn (Chinese: “let it rot”)
Originated in China in 2022; a phrase meaning “to actively embrace a deteriorating situation, rather than trying to turn it around”.
Thought to be inspired by tǎng píng and popularised on TikTok in 2022, it refers to actively resisting the demands of “hustle culture” by only doing what the job requirements demand, but not going above and beyond.
Conversely, this attitude can be adopted by employers as well who are reluctant to fire employees; instead, they passively overlook the employee for things like promotions, feedback, coaching, and recognition.
At the heart of all these movements and new terminology is an unavoidable truth. People everywhere are feeling the increasing stress and pressures of our modern work culture, especially in a post-pandemic world.
In a survey reported by Today Online, 68% of respondents in Singapore said they found 2021, the year immediately following the Circuit Breaker in 2020, to be the most stressful year ever.
Also, according to The Straits Times, a study released in May reported that Singapore was ranked the second most overworked city in the world.
It’s just stress, right?
You might think stress and burnout is a short-term issue, but you’d be wrong.
There are high costs to pay in the long term.
Prolonged and chronic work stress is unsustainable for a healthy life, as it often leads to sleep deprivation and an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
Chronic stress and fatigue can also manifest into physical symptoms like headaches and stomach issues, and at its worst, you may even be at risk of a stroke or a heart attack. According to the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) in Singapore, one in 10 people who have a stroke is under 50 years old.
According to a study from the American Psychological Association, experiencing burnout may increase your likelihood of developing myocardial infarction, ischemic heart disease, stroke and sudden cardiac death, not to mention psychological distress like depression and anxiety.
The costs associated with these critical illnesses can be hefty, which could undercut all the wealth you’ve worked through so much stress to build.
So what can we do to reduce (work) stress?
1. Discuss with your manager/supervisor
If it’s the high volume of work that is causing your chronic stress at work, try speaking to your manager or supervisor to see if some work can be taken off your plate, or to slow the flow of incoming work so that you have some breathing room. If an unsustainable workload is the root of all your work stress, it may be the most effective way to quickly resolve the issue.
2. Talk to your spouse, family, friends, or colleagues
Decompressing by talking to your friends and family can be immensely helpful in making you feel less alone when you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Whether you are commiserating together over dinner or playing board games, doing something together with your loved ones around can be a healthy distraction from the pressures of work and help to alleviate stress.
3. Consider therapy
If talking to your friends and family is just not cutting it, consider speaking to a professional counsellor or therapist who can help you to process your emotions and perhaps teach you more effective stress regulation techniques.
4. Make sure to have regular healthy(-ish) meals
Skipping meals or depending on packaged and processed foods is very common when one is stressed and overwhelmed with work. This habit actually hampers your concentration and effectiveness, and in the long run, will only affect your health for the worse. If you can, carve out at least 30 minutes in the workday to eat a decent meal away from your desk.
5. Sun, water, and movement
Besides eating enough and eating well, there are three more factors that are frequently overlooked in our modern society, and that is to get enough sun, water, and movement in our day-to-day life. Getting enough light from the sky (not your office ceiling lights) for just a while may help tremendously in increasing your energy levels and boosting your mood.
You can easily incorporate all three by walking (that’s movement) to and from the food court that is outside your office building (that’s sun) while drinking water (that’s water). If you’re working from home, consider taking 10 minutes to do a walk around the block, and return home before you work up a sweat.
If all else fails, consider changing your job
Finally, there is only so much you can do to adjust your workload or influence your bosses to change their workplace practices and culture. Sometimes, it might just be easier to find new ones that care about your wellbeing!
These days, many employers are also starting to focus on the mental health and wellness of their employees. According to a new survey, 77% of respondents found that their companies were more concerned about employees’ mental wellness than prior to the pandemic.
If work-life balance is something that you want to prioritise, then jumping ship might be an option worth serious consideration!
After all, work might be able to earn you an income, but everyone knows that true wealth is having your health!
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