Psychological Impact of Work on Adults

One-third of our adult life is spent at the workplace, which is often recognized by many as their second home. We work in coordination with colleagues, share space, enjoy achievements, and overcome obstacles as part of a healthy work environment.  However, over the last two decades, there have been significant changes in work conditions, no longer guaranteeing our second home to be a safe haven. Work may either have a positive or an adverse effect on the health of the individual.

Under favourable circumstances, work contributes to the achievement of personal and professional objectives and provides satisfaction in terms of life goals. Success at work is occasionally equated with personal and social worth and helps sustain a positive self-identity. The fundamental human need to be respected and appreciated by significant others is often met at the workplace. This has a positive impact on social, psychological and physical well-being. It leads to a sense of economic independence and develops the working skills of individuals.

However, workplaces presently have become more daunting. With the demands and pressures of achieving organizational goals, working long hours and skipping holidays to meet deadlines has become inevitable. Overwork, unrealistic deadlines, lack of decision-making, job insecurity, and isolated working conditions are likely to stretch individuals’ capabilities and resources beyond what is readily available with them. In the race to excel and prove one’s mettle, individuals strive to strike a balance between their work and personal lives, creating potential for stress. 

This stress may manifest in terms of  frequent absences due to ill health or excess worrying, and decreased productivity and increased errors due to poor planning and decision making ability. An unhealthy work environment may create dissatisfaction with the job, and reduce individuals’ commitment to work. They may lack motivation to sustain themselves in the work environment. Relationships with colleagues, superiors  and clients may be negatively impacted as a result of increased conflict and tension among everyone. In extreme cases, work may lead to burnout – a condition characterized by emotional exhaustion, lack of empathy, and reduced accomplishments at work.

A well-organized and healthy work environment seems to be a myth. Let’s break this myth and construe a reality where conditions conducive to one’s development are provided to enable socially and economically productive lives. In order to achieve this reality, we need to inculcate abundant health-promoting practices at the workplace such as continuous assessment of health risks, awareness and training campaigns related to health issues and the availability of health promoting organisational support practices.

By Ms. Asmita Dalvi

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