You can take 10,000 steps per day and eat a whole lot of kale at your stand-up desk for lunch, and you can still die early because of the stress of a bad job. And how do we define a bad job? The wrong one for you. The one that causes so much distress that your loved ones regularly hint that maybe you need to do something about it.
Does our concern seem dire? It should.
Recent research found that engaged workers are less likely to be obese and have chronic diseases. This is true after controlling for respondents’ health conditions and key demographics like age, gender, race, income, education and marital status. Yep, liking your job is tied to more than just happiness.
In another report, researchers found employees who were actively disengaged — those who feel least connected to or motivated by their work — have more days when their activity is limited by their health issues, or what the researchers called “unhealthy days.”
In both reports, the research teams are clear that higher engagement does not cause better health, but there is a strong relationship between the two.
Not surprisingly, recent research showed that engaged workers more often reported being happy and had fewer moments of stress and sadness at work. The less engaged workers had more stress during the day as measured by elevated levels of cortisol in their system, and their cortisol levels did not come down on the weekends. This indicates that if you’re unhappy at work, your workday stress can stay with you (literally in your blood) long after you’ve gone home.
*As a quick reminder from that undergrad neuro-psych class you didn’t really love, cortisol is a hormone released in our bodies as a response to stress. Having too much cortisol in your system for prolonged periods of time can have a degenerating effect (read as it’s bad for you, trust me).
The jig is up, people. Workplace stress does, in fact, follow you home (something I am sure your spouse/roommate/best friend/cat could have already told you).
You may be thinking, but wait, what about all the other “wellness stuff” I do (i.e. Whole 30, Soul Cycle, exercise regularly, FitBit tracking, Headspace app, matcha instead of coffee, etc.)? Doesn’t that protect me? Shouldn’t exercise and a good diet take care of my stress levels or at least keep me from getting fat? If I take care of myself after of work, shouldn’t my wellness quotient be met?
Maybe. Really, the jury is still out. It certainly doesn’t hurt. Taking care of yourself physically and mentally are important no matter what. But think about it. Exercising for 30 minutes can help you burn off some of the stress from your nine-hour day from hell, but all of it? Maybe we should just think of the right career as an and, not an either. Doesn’t it make sense to manage your wellness by taking care of yourself with a career that makes your whole life better?
We have learned to eat better and exercise more and meditate in the mornings. It didn’t come naturally, we had to work for it.
This is what we are advocating for your career. Same deal. You take the intentionality from wellness and apply that to your career. Don’t let your career happen to you because then you’re letting that stress happen to you too. Decide how you are going to live. Decide who you are going to be and how the pieces of your life are going to fit together.
You had to break some bad habits to build better ones to be well, and now it’s time to apply this same energy to the 9-5 part of your life. Work shouldn’t exempt from the rules of your life. Think about how much better everything would be if you got this work thing right. And if you are not sure where to start, we’re a quick email or phone call away.
Article by Nora Philbin and John Philbin.
John is a co-founder of Happy Work Spectacular Life who, if he wasn't helping people with their careers, would consider himself a ghost researcher. His claim to fame is that he is a champion race walker (he actually came in second place).