Is your work environment making you sick?
Is your work environment making you sick? AndreyPopov

What is our work costing us?

WE RECENTLY caught up with a lovely young friend and while we were sharing news and events it turned out that she had been made redundant a couple of months ago after about four years in her role. While that might be devastating and challenging for some, she let us know that she was quite relieved although it puts pressure on her financially.

And it turns out that it has also brought some unexpected rewards. For her the rewards were physiological in that within a couple of weeks the pain and tension that she had been carrying for a long time in her neck and shoulders diminished significantly. Despite having experimented with physiotherapy, acupuncture and chiropractic, nothing had made a difference until she left her job.

There are a couple of interesting things that come up for me when I hear an experience like this. What is it that caused the physical discomfort in the first place and why was it that nothing seemed to help when any of the approaches she used frequently offer relief to others?

At one level, the cause may partly have been ergonomic. She may have needed a different chair or desk. However, from experience I also recognise there are likely to have been many other contributors and by that I mean psychological rather than physical. I'm talking a generally toxic environment.

Such an environment can develop when people are competing rather than collaborating, where there is relentless pressure to conform and perform to a certain timeframe and budget, where there is gossip, judgment, bullying and harassment, whether overt or covert. Would that be somewhere you could thrive? How is your psychological wellbeing?

Given all that we now know about the mind-body connection, it is less surprising that working in a toxic environment can have an impact on us psychologically and, as a result, that physiological health will also be affected. In fact her body may well have been giving her physical pain before she was consciously aware of being unhappy in her work.

So when our friend was able to leave such an environment and soon feel her neck and shoulder pain lessen, I feel that what she was experiencing was the relief of leaving what had been a stressful time and may have been a toxic place to work.

Having paid employment is necessary for most of us to be able to lead the life we choose, but at what cost? If you recognise that your work environment is toxic and that your job is taking a toll on you then maybe it's time for a change.

Rowena Hardy is a facilitator, performance coach and partner of Minds Aligned:

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