Are Your People Dying for a Paycheck?

By Perry Landers
Stressed man at computer desk might be dying for a paycheck - Vitality

Worker stress costs American businesses 300 billion dollars every year due to productivity loss and employee turnover. And according to Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer, employers might be the problem.

In his book Dying for a Paycheck, the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) argues that workplace environments are destroying the American worker. On a micro level, they’re “hurting engagement, increasing turnover, and destroying physical and emotional health.” On a macro scale, the workplace may be responsible for the high costs of healthcare in the United States and at least 120,000 excess deaths per year—half of which might be preventable. This makes the workplace the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

In his book, Pfeffer takes a look at a number of modern workplace factors that are harming employees, including:

  • Working more than 40 hours on a weekly basis
  • Having irregular work shifts
  • High job demands
  • Not having health insurance
  • Low levels of social support at work

These factors, among others, are backed up by in-depth research and analysis. For example, Pfeffer cites a 2002 study that found that employees who do highly demanding work but have very little control over that work died from cardiovascular disease at a rate double to those not in that situation.

The factors are indeed complex, but Pfeffer says employers who don’t attempt to address their contribution to their employees’ poor health are missing the mark. Health and wellness plans that offer programs such as counseling and discounted gym memberships, among others, are merely bandages on a self-inflicted wound. So, what exactly can employers do to address the health crisis in the American workplace?

Learn More at SXSW

On March 12, Vitality CEO Tal Gilbert will speak at the SXSW Conference and Festival in Austin, TX and host a discussion with Dr. Pfeffer about how employers can address this growing concern. In their session, “Next Great Awakening in Healthcare: The Workplace,” Gilbert and Pfeffer will reveal new research on the misalignment between the workplace and wellness initiatives, along with strategies to improve it. If you plan to be at SXSW, make sure you don’t miss this critical session. If you can’t make it, don’t worry. Revisit our blog next week where we’ll dive into the discussion points and solutions.

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