Being alive is expensive and so, for most of us, having a job is a necessity to survive. With the nine to five being a common way to make a living, our place of work can become like a second home, and so it stands to reason that the conditions of that environment can have a significant influence on our physical and mental wellbeing. Working in close proximity with like-minded individuals can motivate and inspire us, while working with downright bullies can achieve pretty much the opposite. Now, new research has quantified the effect a toxic work environment can have on our mood, finding that bosses who fail to prioritize their employees' mental health put them at a threefold risk of being diagnosed with depression.
The research, published in the BMJ Open, wanted to investigate the workplace psychosocial safety climate (PSC) – an umbrella term for management practices and systems that set out to conserve workers' mental health and safety. To do so, they reviewed data on workers in Australia that spanned one year to look for associations between management practices and mental health issues.
The review found that poor workplace mental health can be traced back to low PSC, a grading given to workplaces that exhibited poor management practices, priorities, and values – the cumulative effect of which was high job demands and low resources. While long hours were linked to severe cases of depression, they showed a weaker association with moderate cases, and poor management practices were found to pose a greater risk for depression. Management who failed to acknowledge staff mental health were also found to have higher rates of bullying and burnout.
"Evidence shows that companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy, are placing their staff at a much greater risk of depression," said lead author Dr Amy Zadow of the University of South Australia in a statement. "We also found that bullying in a work unit can not only negatively affect the victim, but also the perpetrator and team members who witness that behaviour. It is not uncommon for everyone in the same unit to experience burnout as a result.”
Depression affects over 264 million people around the world. and while treatments are available, the number of documented cases remains strong. It’s possible that insights from research such as this could contribute towards lowering these numbers by informing better management practices to improve workplace PSC.
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