5 Ways to Keep Work from Making You Sick

Is your job making you sick? A recently published analysis of nearly 80 studies found workplace stress can lead to physical symptoms. Here's how to stay healthy.

By Reader's Digest Editors

5 Ways to Keep Work from Making You Sick© Stockbyte/Thinkstock
Is your job making you sick? According to a recently published analysis of nearly 80 studies, workplace stress can lead to physical symptoms—from gastrointestinal issues to sleep problems and more. To stay physically and emotionally healthy, make sure you follow these steps at the office:

1. Ask for what you need.
Organizational constraints—those things about your job or your workplace that prevent you from successfully carrying out your responsibilities or advancing your career—are the primary cause of work-related physical illnesses. If something’s getting in the way of your doing your job (lack of administrative support, obsolete technology, a counterproductive colleague), don’t keep your frustration bottled up.

Set up a meeting (or regular meetings) with your supervisor to discuss possible solutions to the situation. Likewise, if you feel your responsibilities should be growing, meet with your boss to establish career goals and a clear path to achieving them.

2. Don’t get caught in the middle.
When two supervisors disagree about how to do something, not knowing whose instructions to follow can literally give you a stomachache. Avoid these situations whenever possible by explaining your difficult position to your direct supervisor. Ultimately, your work reflects upon her, so it’s in her best interest to come to your aid. If you’re caught between two immediate supervisors, it may be time to pay a visit to HR.

3. Avoid office politics.
Interpersonal conflict is stressful anywhere, but it can be particularly noxious in the workplace, where most of the time you simply can’t ignore your colleagues. Whenever possible, preserve your piece of mind by steering clear of confrontation and potentially explosive situations. If a co-worker’s behavior is (literally) keeping you up at night, speak to him about it first. If nothing changes, discuss your concerns with your supervisor and, if necessary, your human resources representative.

4. Prioritize your work.
It probably won’t shock you to learn that the studies pointed to a direct connection between a heavy workload and fatigue. While lightening your load may not always be possible, you can lessen your stress by prioritizing your responsibilities and tackling those that are most urgent first. When you have so much to do that you simply can’t accomplish all of it, knowing that the big stuff is taken care of should leave you feeling (slightly) less exhausted at the end of the day.

5. Seek clarity.
Has your position evolved over time? Were your responsibilities never clearly defined? If so, you may be experiencing what’s referred to as “role ambiguity,” and the stress that goes along with not knowing exactly what you should be doing and, often more importantly, what your colleagues and managers think you should be doing. Clear up any confusion by meeting with your supervisor and creating a job description that includes a list of your responsibilities and any expected outcomes.

Sources: PsyBlog, Work & Stress

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